Are you thriving in lockdown? Doing OK? Could be better? Here are three thoughts on how to make the most of it.
Thriving in lockdown: tame your time online
Are you worried you spend too much time online? Do you flit from news site to news site, check your social media, chortle at a comic video (“I’m not a cat!”), post something, and find thirty, sixty or more minutes have passed? Me, too.
I recently developed a new trick.
Take your phone; go to your “clock” app, and choose “timer”. Set it for three hours. Unmute your phone, in case anyone calls. Answering the phone is fine – it is usually a human being.
Put the phone in another room and try not to touch it until the alarm goes off. Each time you think “I’ll just check X on my phone”, tell yourself you will wait until the timer goes off. Start with once a day and see how it goes. You may even find that you don’t need to carry your phone around with you all the time.
It’s a liberation.
Thriving in lockdown: enjoy isolation
I was struck by a BBC story, The benefits isolation can have on your work. Its thesis, based on research at the University of Boston in 2015, is that too much communication leads to bad decisions and “groupthink”.
You kind of knew that, right? But it’s great to see it confirmed in a scientific study.
The experiment also explored what happened to problem-solving in groups with constant interaction; moderate interaction; and no interaction at all, ie people working by themselves. They measured both the average performance of teams, and the performance of the top performer in each team. They found that the “moderate” teams performed best.
A further study, at Carnegie Mellon University, also found that teams that communicated in “short bursts of communication”, rather than less intense conversations spread out over a longer time, got the best results.
The key finding? “We probably don’t need to be connected to each other all the time, and sometimes our interactions with others are best taken in small doses.”
Sounds right to me.
Elif Shafak on staying sane
Elif Shafak, who I have had the privilege of meeting, is one of my favourite writers. Like Joseph Conrad, she is someone who originally wrote in one language (in her case, Turkish) and then began writing in English – an astonishing feat for anyone who has learned languages but would hesitate to write more than a sentence or two in any of them.
Her “Forty Rules of Love”, “The Bastard of Istanbul”, “Honour”, and “The Architect’s Apprentice” are all great reads.
I once met Elif and saw that she had annotated the book she was reading, in English, with copious notes. I found the fact that this successful writer was constantly working, applying herself, and learning new skills, inspiring – a lesson for us all.
Elif Shafak was born in France, lived in Turkey, Spain and Jordan, and has now settled in the UK. In her recent book “How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division”, she explores what it means to belong in many places at once. She describes how “the city that always pursues me is Istanbul”, and yet how she is also deeply attached to the Balkans, the Middle East – or London, Britain and Europe. Multiple belongings, she argues, are not about stamps in your passport but about thinking fluidly about yourself and other people.
“A human being,” she says, “every human being, is boundless and contains multitudes.”
The polarisation of social media
This is great stuff and worth pondering in lockdown. So, too, is her examination of the polarisation of social media, and the disappointments it has left in its wake. Participants, she says, “are not there to listen and they are not there to learn. They are there … to fulminate.”
“Be afraid of people who promise an easy shortcut to simplicity”, she writes.
I’ve written about this myself, less elegantly, in my pieces The Internet is dangerous and What is Cambridge Analytica? My piece Things are getting better not worse also quotes research showing why the media publish more bad news than good. It’s because that’s what we click on.
You can read a review of Elif Safak’s How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division in the Guardian.
Thriving in lockdown: other resources
See my blog posts:
- How to cope with uncertainty during the Coronavirus pandemic
- Coronavirus Vienna (with 36 pictures you never saw before) – includes my “Corona mane” from the first lockdown
- Hans Rosling DON’T PANIC – why things are much better than we think, proved by a Swedish mathematician. Includes an hour-long video I strongly recommend or, as I say, “a compulsive communications masterclass”.