Time has always been a scarcity. Before the COVID-19 pandemic when we followed rigid routines that left us exhausted at the end of each day, all we yearned for was more time. More time to pick up an extra hobby, more time to learn a new language, more time to start a side business, more time to explore new places. Fast forward to present day, four months into shelter in place with social interactions still limited to a minimum, how many of us can confidently say we’ve achieved what we wanted to do with all the extra time we have now?
I, for sure, cannot. I’ve attempted to, but what I realized is that the potential of being able to do something is more attractive than the act of actually do it. Maybe this is me getting cold feet (or just lazy) or fearing the unknown. It’s easy to say, ‘We’re in quarantine until 2021, I can do it next week,’ but I think it’s important to at least start somewhere even if I fail or don’t finish. How else can I learn and grow if I don’t even try?
Side thought: is this what retirement feels like?
So why are we like this? It’s one thing when we don’t have time, but it’s another if we do have time and are spending it on Netflix, YouTube and TikTok instead. Does the idea of having an infinite amount of time (although untrue) makes it seem less urgent? From my personal experience, this is a valid hypothesis as I find myself taking it easy and putting these projects off. Before I know it, my to-do list has grown to a point I don’t even know where to start!
That brings me to my second point: where do I even start? To me, this is the larger barrier. If I can at least start somewhere, anywhere, the rest comes easier. For example, take the poster businesses idea I’ve had for years. The idea of selling my prints was attractive and seemed like a fun thing to do, or at least a good learning experience, but I had no idea where to start. What website do I use, are my photo resolutions high enough, how do I handle shipping, the list goes on. But with a help of a friend who started a similar business, I set up my shop via Shopify and boom, the business was live. Once I got started, I was fully invested and spent at least 2 hours each day in the first few weeks. Hate to break it to you, but the business is no longer live after only one sale. Nevertheless, I learned so much about e-commerce, drop shipping, Facebook Ads, and the nuisances of standing up a business.
Hmm.. what else have I tried? Keyword here is tried because I believe success is defined as trying, and not by accomplishing what I set out to do. That would be the cherry on top.
For the longest time, I had an item on my to-do list to better manage my finances. I didn’t know where to start and was scared to take risks, but it seemed like everyone had the same to-do item and quarantined helped kick start it. After talking to a few friends, I set up two accounts and reviewed everything just a few weeks ago. The best part was it only took 30 minutes!
In 2018 when I traveled to Mexico with 3 other Spanish speakers, I felt very useless because I couldn’t communicate. I felt the same way in February when I went to Puerto Vallarta for vacation and thought maybe I can learn Spanish before my Argentina trip (subsequently canceled due to COVID-19) in March. During quarantine, I had all the time to learn a new language, but my excuse was I didn’t know where to start. But last night I finally began my first Spanish lesson thanks to a friend lending me his Rosetta Stone account. Yo hablo español, poquito.
While I can’t say I’ve accomplished what I set out to do – I mean, my business only had one sale, I didn’t make enough money to retire yet, and I still can’t really speak Spanish – I’ve succeeded by trying in the first place. Quarantine made not having enough time not a valid excuse anymore and helped me realize that as long as I can find a starting point, I can follow through and take on new projects. And to me, learning is most important as it’s more meaningful and keeps me sharp.