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  • The Unmistakables

Five ways to be unproductive during lockdown

Since the pandemic struck the UK, we’ve been trying to make self-isolating a little bit better for everyone. We call it ‘Nicerlation.’ In the first week, we talked about how we were bringing our whole shelves to work, in week two we organised a little quiz and last week we took a break as we - like many others - were starting to feel screen fatigue.

This week we’re taking it one step further as we’ve been caught in between two debates. The first - this is the time to finish that book, learn to do a headstand, take up knitting, and sourdough for your life. The second - we’re not just working from home during a difficult time, we’re actually trying to work during a global pandemic, and it just so happens that we’re stuck at home.

We’re more in favour of the latter. We think rather than trying to outdo whoever you don’t care about on social media with a new bout of pandemic productivity, now is the perfect time to be unproductive. As we’re the folks that talk about the minorities, we wanted to dedicate this week’s Nicerlation to those of you without any outdoor space. Back in 2009, it was estimated that 2.6m homes in Britain wouldn’t have a garden by 2020 - we can’t verify the data today - but that’s about 10% of all UK homes by our estimations.

So if you’re stuck indoors this week, with the sun shining through the window and your dose of vitamin D being blocked by double glazing, step away from the hustle-porn and those feelings of regret at not knowing how to make choux pastry. Instead, feast your eyes on our top tips on how to be unproductive during COVID-19. In the spirit of starting how we mean to go on - if you don’t want to read this, then don’t. You do (self-isolation) you:

Simone's top tip: Create an unproductive playlist

Music is one of the best mood promoters I know. I love that you can lose yourself completely in a song. Some have the power to transport you back in time, others can lift your mood in an instant. My guilty pleasure for moments where I need a boost… Kaoma’s Lambada! Yes, I said it.

In fact, I have a whole playlist of feel-good songs for this very purpose. And when I want to induce calm and can’t quite muster the feeling on my own - I’ve got a playlist for that too.

Today I'm turning to Destiny's Child, Usher and Missy Elliot to take me back to times gone by, via my old skool R&B nostalgia playlist.

What’s your unproductive playlist going to be today?

Laiqa's top tip: Cook up a TV feast

I am a baker by nature and usually try to bake “healthy” snacks & nibbles for the family instead of buying stuff at the supermarket. However, now there is a shortage of eggs, and they are an essential to baking... To get over my baking bug, I have turned to vicariously living my baking dreams through the telly - The Great British Bake Off is a classic, and available on All 4 and Netflix too now.

I have to also recommend Mashama Bailey’s and Asma Khan’s episodes on Netflix’s ‘Chef Table’ - trust me you will cry.* ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ and ‘Cooked,’ are so beautifully filmed, they are literally visual ‘food porn,’ that will make you want to start cooking asap. They all have this overwhelming sense of nostalgia, pulling me back to my grandma’s house at Eid. Watching my aunti cook a massive pot of ‘Kheer’ (rice pudding) while sitting next to her on the countertop helping her stir the pot. Sometimes all you need is to watch someone make some beautiful food to feel a bit better.

(*crying whilst watching sad films/tv is a productive unproductive tip too)

Chris' top tip: Feel your way through it

Don’t make a point of doing nothing for the entirety of this strange period, but at the same time don’t try and do everything. In the absence of work or school, it feels like to avoid ‘wasting’ that time, everything we do should teach us something and make us ‘better’. Set days to allow yourself to switch off and set others to be more involved. Doing anything for days on end without breaking it up will soon get boring - even baking banana bread.

With that, realise that Sheryl Crow was right all along - if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad. Let yourself have off days, recluse into your favourite series and pretend everything is normal for a little while if that’s what you feel like doing (and have the freedom to).

Practice a bit of mindful mindlessness. That doesn’t mean you have to awaken inner peace every day before breakfast/lunch/snack #9. Just get into the habit of feeling what you need from your day and then establishing what will help you get there, even if your goal is to maintain a feeling of apathy - a win's a win. Reward yourself with another episode.

Ben's top tip: Make it nap time

How many times have you wished there was a nap room or sleep pod in the office? I for one have been so exhausted at work in the past that I’ve felt my eyelids grow worryingly heavy during a long meeting in a poorly ventilated room. Well now we’re all at home, why not find out if napping is productive for you?

Dr. Sara Mednick, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, says naps are good for most people. Her research shows a nap - defined as daytime sleeping that lasts between 15 and 90 minutes - can improve brain functions ranging from memory to focus and creativity. “For some people, naps are as restorative as a whole night of sleep,” she adds.

More research shows a quick nap can lower stress and recharge your willpower (I wonder if this might also make dreaded boredom-snacking less likely). And napping has also been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease and inflammation.

So, if you can’t reach me at lunchtime this Wednesday, I’m taking some quiet time to do some research. I am still working, I just have my eyes closed.

Asad's top tip: Rearrange some furniture

If the world outside isn’t moving, why not move the world inside? Rearranging furniture around the house is a great way to keep your mind sharp and to change up your environment. Think about it - unless you had amazing foresight or you’re full-time freelance and working from home, you didn’t set up your abode to live, work and play in for 24 hours every day (23 if you include your government-mandated exercise and trip to the shop).

Refreshing the layout or reframing things (perhaps quite literally) will help you feel like things are moving, even if your social life is stagnant. I did some isolation feng shui over the weekend and it made me feel fresh and brought about some much-needed feelings of renewal.

Don’t just take my word for it - here’s more on how rearranging furniture can reduce anxiety.


So there you have it - five tips to slow it down this week. What are you doing to be unproductive? Tweet us at @_unmistakables.

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