There’s No “Later” Anymore, Only “Now”. That Realisation Has Done Wonders For My Productivity During the Pandemic


There’s No “Later” Anymore, Only “Now”. That Realisation Has Done Wonders For My Productivity During the Pandemic

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Friday the 13th is supposed to be an ominous, unlucky day. I can vouch for that, because in March 2020, my calendar came to an end on Friday the 13th (and a calendar coming to a stop can’t possibly be a good thing – just ask the Mayans about 2012). The reason behind this is that March’s Friday the 13th was the last time I bothered checking what date or day of the week it was, before going into a self-imposed quarantine, which soon bled into an enforced one. Since then, I haven’t left the house for anything other than essential supplies, haven’t touched any of my office clothes, or even bothered checking what time I wake up or go to bed.

In the little bubble that I inhabit with my girlfriend in our apartment, time seems to have stopped, yet the signs of its inexorable march are evident if you know where to look: The bed needs to be made because it’s been slept in another night, the beard on my face grows longer and longer, and potatoes need to be cooked before they sprout spores that make them look eerily close to the coronavirus molecules we’ve been seeing on news channels. But despite these markers of the passage of time, every day feels like it’s the same one, copied and pasted ad infinitum. It’s like life is imitating art, and by art I specifically mean the movie Groundhog Day.

There are some people who have taken this quarantine period as a gift – a gift of unlimited time that can be used on any number of personal projects or self-improvement schemes. But, as I’ve already explained, I cannot see the quarantine as a gift of time, because time for me has come to a grinding halt. With nothing to differentiate yesterday from tomorrow, my mind finds thinking in the long-term to be an unfathomable exercise. All I’m aware of, all I can focus on, is today. And being forced to focus only on the present has had the unintended side-effect of making me more productive.

Before the lockdown started, I had turned procrastination into an Olympic-level sport. Starting a workout regimen? Let’s wait until a Monday, and to be sure, let’s wait for a Monday that falls on the first day of a month. Learn a new language? I have the rest of my life to plan a holiday to the country where they speak it, so let’s just wait until that is on the cards. Try a new, time-consuming recipe instead of ordering a pizza? Pizza arrives in 30 minutes; I can always learn how to make it later.

But now, there is no “later”. There is only “now”. And now is a very weird time for us all. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, the likes of which none of us have seen in our lifetime. Friends and family have transformed from people whose company would brighten our day to mere pixels on a screen. The news, when you’re brave enough to check what’s on, is full of depressing, bleak headlines that do nothing but dash your notions of an exciting, Mad Max-inspired apocalypse and replace them with a boring-but-still-scary dystopia. How could being in such an environment help productivity?

The pandemic hasn’t helped my productivity, but shutting it out of my mind definitely has.

The pandemic hasn’t helped my productivity, but shutting it out of my mind definitely has. I’m one of the lucky ones, with a roof over my head and food in my fridge, who can afford to sit at home, switch off from the outside world, and just focus on getting through the day; or rather, the same day, over and over again. The best way for me to do that is by filling my time with activities that bring me happiness, and funnily enough, they are the same activities I was so keen on putting off when I thought I had more time to enjoy them. I’m cooking more, I’m actually exercising daily, and I’m trying to learn a new language through an app. Possibly for the first time since I moved out, my mother doesn’t have to text me “Maa ko bhool gaye kya?” before I give her a call, because hearing from family is no longer just about touching base but also an act of self-care that lifts my spirits when I hear their voices.

The nationwide lockdown went on for months and even now many of us still spend most of the time at home. Thankfully, I’ve found a way to cope. I’ve stopped worrying about when this will end, because there are no more dates in my calendar. There is only today, and that’s how I’m going to get through quarantine. One day at a time.