With four weeks of self-isolation and physical distancing under my belt, I like to think that I’ve become something of an expert at finding things to do with my time. Since I’m no longer commuting to the office — or going anywhere, for that matter — I have several more hours during each day to find things to occupy myself.
While it would certainly be easy to just spend the extra time I now have watching Netflix and scrolling through Twitter reading all the horrible news about the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve found those things not to be the best uses of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely watch more Netflix and scroll through more tweets than before, but I’ve been investing my new time in other areas as well.
Hopefully, some of the areas I list below will serve as inspiration for ways you can spend your time while physical distancing.
Each member of the MobileSyrup team is writing their own guide regarding what they’re doing to get through quarantine. You’ll see these stories appear on the site over the next few days.
Solace on my virtual farm
One effective way I’ve found to distance myself from what’s going on and also relax is through video games. For the most part, that means playing Stardew Valley. While certainly not a new game, Stardew has seen a resurgence this year at the MobileSyrup office and I’ve carried it with me into the pandemic.
Most of the world is taken with Nintendo’s excellent new Animal Crossing game, but for those who don’t have a Switch — or don’t want to spring $80 like me — Stardew offers a similar experience at arguably a fraction of the cost.
If you’re unfamiliar with Stardew Valley, it’s a country life sim that sees your in-game character tasked with restoring their grandfather’s farm and getting to know the people that live in the titular village. There are plenty of activities to do, from farming to fishing to mining, and a loose story to follow as well.
Much of what makes Stardew so appealing is that players can take time to get to know all the residents of the valley, learn their goals and hopes as well as their flaws.
On the whole, it’s also an incredibly relaxing game. For myself, I found Stardew was at its best when I had my farmland organized and a variety of crops planted. As you progress through the game, you can expand your capabilities and tailor your farming to go beyond just planting and harvesting crops. For example, I found myself taken with the wine-making aspects of the game. That meant planting crops that could be transformed into wine, harvesting them and placing them in kegs to make the wine and then finally ageing the wine in the cellar on my farm.
While Stardew may not be for everyone, it’s definitely a relaxing game. The simple gameplay and mellow pace help me disconnect from the craziness of the daily news cycle.
On the other hand, I’ve recently found myself playing the new Call of Duty: Warzone with my friends. It’s on the complete opposite spectrum of Stardew — chaotic, fast-paced and not at all relaxing. But, it’s also a bunch of fun, especially if you have some mates to enjoy it with.
Finding ways to virtually connect
Speaking of enjoying things with friends, I’ve also spent several evenings playing virtual games with a bunch of people.
I’ve primarily been using Discord and some of the excellent Jackbox games to host virtual game nights. However, there are plenty of other tools to use out there, and many other games you can play virtually.
For my part, I set up a Discord server and invited friends to participate in an audio chat with me. Then, I used Discord’s streaming tools to share my screen with my friends.
If you’re unfamiliar with Jackbox games, they’re typically couch co-op experiences that use smartphones as the controller. In a traditional setting, you’d have the game playing on your TV and all your friends gathered around it participating with their phones. Since we can’t physically be with each other, the Discord audio chat and screen-sharing features stand-in for crowding around the living room TV.
There are a variety of Jackbox games to enjoy. For example, Fibbage has players guess the answer to obscure trivia questions in hopes of fooling others into thinking their answer is the right one. On the other hand, one of my personal favourites, Drawful 2, prompts players to draw odd things and everyone has to guess what others drew.
Plus, Drawful 2 is actually free at the moment and will be until April 11th. So if you haven’t picked it up and want to give it a try, now’s the time to do it.
Tinkering with Linux
Another way I’ve been keeping myself busy is by tinkering. I’ve always enjoyed tinkering with software, whether that’s installing beta apps or Android developer previews, or even playing around with custom ROMs.
This time around, I thought I’d dive into Linux a little bit, and have installed a few different Linux distributions — think of these as different ‘flavours’ of the operating system — on my laptop.
Currently, I’ve settled on using the Manjaro distribution, which allowed me to spend a lot of time tweaking and customizing the look and feel of everything to my liking. Full disclosure, my own design was inspired by another Manjaro user’s customizations, which you can see here.
While messing around with Linux isn’t for everyone, finding something to tinker with can definitely take your mind off of everything else. When I really got into the customization part of my Manjaro install, hours melted away without me noticing as I tinkered with every small detail.
Those who aren’t as technically inclined can find similar experiences in things like model making, painting and other creative works. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to disappear into something for hours — you just need to be interested in it.
Taking a break from screens
Finally, getting away from screens for even a short time can pay dividends in mood and overall attitude. For myself, working from home and self-isolating quickly revealed that many of my hobbies involve technology. Before this, I had the buffer of commuting to break up my screen time.
Without that, I often found myself spending the majority of my day at my desk since both work and play involved my computer.
So, I made a point to break up my screen time for an hour or two every evening. What that looks like will differ for everyone, but for me I make sure to go for a walk around my neighbourhood if the weather is nice, and I try to read.
Walking, with appropriate physical distancing measures taken into consideration, helps me disconnect for a little bit while also getting some exercise. Plus, we’ve had some excellent spring weather here in the GTA over the last few weeks so it feels like a waste not to enjoy it.
Reading, on the other hand, is something I’ve always enjoyed but often find I don’t have as much time for. I’m hoping that I can use this time to make reading more of a priority in my day so that when things eventually return to normal, I can maintain the discipline of reading.
Plus, books are great! You should read books. Books are good.
So, that’s how I’ve been spending my time during the pandemic. If nothing else, I would encourage you to find a hobby or activity that you’re really interested in or passionate about. When you invest your time in something like that, it can help pass the time really well. Further, don’t feel obligated to do something productive or accomplish a giant project. Living through the pandemic can be incredibly stressful, so focusing on things that help you relax are just as valuable.
Image credit: Activision