What does “getting shit done” even mean in 2020? One writer shares the guilt she feels around not “doing enough” in lockdown.
Right before we entered lockdown 2.0 a few weeks ago, I reflected on what I had learned about taking control of my own happiness since the first lockdown. Those few months stuck indoors when the pandemic broke out were all about survival: comfort eating, drinking more alcohol, spending money on anything that might distract me and saying yes to every single video call.
It all temporarily worked – I did survive. But I also came out of it feeling like I’d lost control of myself a bit. All those things that I did to get through weren’t good for me longterm and I’d lost any routine I once had. That’s why I took a new approach to the lockdown we’re currently navigating.
I let myself relax and I felt OK about spending four weeks in lockdown. My anxieties and concerns were quieter because I knew what to expect. I knew how important it was to make the most of exercising outdoors, to be able to say no to phone calls, to put proper clothes on for a day of work and to not get too carried away with takeaways and wine in the evenings (apart from at the weekend, obviously). I focused on doing the things that make me feel good and used these to create a new routine.
I was ready to accept a slower pace of life and was actually looking forward to an autumn hibernation. So far, everything has been going pretty smoothly… but there’s a bump in the mid-lockdown road.
Although my physical and mental health are undoubtedly in a much better place than they were the first time round, I’m starting to get twinges of restlessness and anxiety. It’s because all these things in my new hibernation routine – the morning runs, reading a book from my lockdown reading pile every week, writing a page every night for my own pleasure outside of work, meeting friends for walks in the park (partly to hit that 10k step count) – are starting to feel like yet another ongoing “to-do” list. I’m absolutely knackered most evenings.
Realising there are only two weeks of lockdown left, I’ve started to feel guilty about not getting enough shit done – even if that just means finishing a damn book. It’s like I can’t even keep on top of “not doing much”.
Don’t get me wrong: I am doing most of the things I set out to do. I’ve been keeping up with my Couch to 5K runs, I’ve made a start on a creative writing project, I’ve been cooking things like Nigella’s fish finger bhorta and I did a big clear out in my flat. But it just doesn’t feel like I’m making use of this time at home enough.
Why have I only finished one book out of a pile of ten? Why did I only walk 8,000 steps instead of 10,000 yesterday? Why do I feel too tired to watch episode two of The Queen’s Gambit all week? Why haven’t I written six chapters of this mythical novel? When will I get the spare time to do all this again? Why am I not making the most of it? Why am I out walking the streets of Hackney when I could be back indoors doing something productive?
But I’m taking a step back to look at it all in another way and realise the reality.
The first thing to remember is that I’m still working a full-time job. Sure, I’m doing it from home – but remote working is definitely not part-time working. And like it is for most people, work is tiring. I also need to recognise that going out to get that sweet vitamin D, switch off my brain, use my legs and burn some energy is “doing something” for my body and mind. It doesn’t need to be a run each time I leave the flat to be worthwhile. Also, just because I am spending time indoors doesn’t mean that I’ve magicked up some “extra time” from somewhere. There are the same amount of hours in the day in lockdown as there are out of lockdown.
And if I’m too tired at the end of the day to read another chapter, write another page, vacuum my room or push myself outside for a quick nighttime jog around the block, I know it’s because I’ve spent the day doing things to tire me out – I have been, in fact, getting shit done without even realising.
Perhaps I’ve tried to take a bit too much control in lockdown 2.0, desperate not to fall into the same bad habits I experienced in the last one? Taking a moment to sit and think about how much more together I feel in this one, I know I need to give myself a break. Because the fact that I’ve pushed to the back of my mind up until now is actually still the most important one: we’re still in a pandemic.
Getting up, doing my work, getting my exercise and managing to see a friend most days is more than enough. That’s what “getting shit done” is for most of us in 2020.