2 August 2020

Back to busyness

Today, I came across this interesting blog post by Carl Barenbrug, titled Saved Time. He writes:

In recent months, you might have found yourself with an abundance of time that has come to you unexpectedly. Time saved by working from home instead of commuting. A pared down social life instead of filling up your calendar with events. Fewer commitments. Less chaos. But how are you spending all this saved time? With all this time you have back, as temporary as it may be, will you choose to spend it on things that are truly important to you?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last couple of days: the lockdown in France, the end of it, the new rules, the new behaviours: How did I spend my saved time?

During the first few weeks of lockdown, mid-March to end of April, I have been very busy. My work days were full1, the wife and I took the time to cook a lot of delicious meals, I watched a lot of new shows and movies I hadn’t seen before, and I tweaked a lot of things on this blog. We could hear all the birds sing in the air-pollution-free Paris, and Twitter felt exciting again. Times were in many ways interesting, and lockdown felt a little like an adventure. A sad, boring, dull adventure, but an adventure nonetheless.

The only true casualties among my habits were music and podcasts. Without a commute to wear my earphones, I felt that time — one hour per day — was actually taken away from me, rather that given back. Not that I enjoyed commuting everyday in the Parisian métro, but I think podcasts in particular were designed for this moment of the day, in length, format, concept. Without commute, podcasts feel like pretentious on-demand radio don’t they?

Since May, the interesting part of this abnormal situation has vanished. The related sense of adventure too. During this new normal period, I became less and less productive. My work load was the same, but my energy levels were empty at the end of the day and I stopped writing, stopped reading. I only watched things I’ve already seen before, looking for comfort and reassuring familiarities.

As the lockdown ended, and we were able to walk around again, I could finally listen to music again properly. Not new music, but the music I missed the most, the music I was already familiar with. I didn’t miss podcasts so much. Meanwhile, traffic jams were back in Paris, we couldn’t hear the birds from our windows anymore, and Twitter felt like an empty space again.

Today, I look at all the books I didn’t read. I browse through all the shows I didn’t watch, and I haven’t opened my podcast app in weeks. I subscribed to Skillshare back in March thinking it would be a good use of my extra time: I haven’t watched one minute of it.

What did I do with all this time given to me this year? Like Carl writes:

There’s no correct way to spend your time. Or more specifically—free time. You might choose to read, write, exercise, explore nature, volunteer, watch TV, listen to music, listen to podcasts, learn about topics that interest you, cook, clean, repair things, build things, or maybe you choose to slow down and simply do nothing.

Exactly. I did nothing special, but I don’t feel like this time was wasted at all. All this saved time was not spent right away on something else, but saved for later, sort of.2

2020 has gave me a lot of time to do things, but it also has given me a chance to not do things, it has given me the opportunity to think, and in many ways it gave me space to know myself better.

While doing nothing, I never felt so busy.


  1. Since March, I’ve been working from home, and I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

  2. Unlike money, time cannot be saved for later, it has to be spent right away. So much for the Time is money bullcrap.


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