First of all, congratulations on taking up the government’s advice and staying home to slow down the spread of coronavirus. You deserve appreciation for taking this responsibility. But, how much time have you actually spent on doing productive activities? Staying at home does not equate to binge-watching Netflix or playing Call of Duty all day long. I mean, okay, I know that you have turned into a great home chef, but what else?
With life outside the house seemingly on hold, you can finally spend some time getting your digital life in order, and perhaps even learn some new tech skills. Taking new projects will get you more organized and better prepared for whenever things return to a state of normalcy. Here are nine ideas to consider.
Take a digital museum tour
Thanks to technology, spending the day at a museum is still an option, even if you can’t leave the house. Travel + Leisure has a list of 12 museums that offer virtual tours. You can check out famous locations in the US or abroad in Seoul, Berlin, Florence and more.
You can also get your art fix with the Google Arts and Culture app for iPhone and Android. The app lets you view paintings in AR, read up on masterpieces and find your famous painting doppelganger. Don’t forget to see what you can find in Google Maps if you’re in the mood to explore. The Georgia Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have turned on webcams so you can still watch otters, fish and penguins without the crowds.
Organize your photos
In any given month, you might snap hundreds of photos with your smartphone. You’re probably snapping fewer now, so it’s a fine time to look through your photo collection, make sure it’s properly backed up, and you can even create some albums to share and print.
I suggest having at least two backup solutions for your photos. If you have an iPhone and are tired of paying for iCloud storage, you can move your images over to Google Photos for free (albeit at slightly reduced quality), but making an occasional backup to an external hard drive is also a good idea. And if you’ve got old print photos that you want to digitize, Google’s PhotoScan app for iOS and Android lets you quickly scan, enhance, and upload them.
Backup your documents
As long as you’re backing up photos, you might also create a backup system for your documents. It would be preferable to do it without manual copying and pasting to an external drive.
If you have a Windows PC and aren’t using a cloud storage service like Dropbox then set up Microsoft OneDrive service. This creates a new folder on your computer and automatically backs up any documents inside it. More importantly, you can set OneDrive to automatically backup your documents, pictures, and desktop folders as well. The free version of OneDrive includes 5 GB of free storage, which is more than enough for word files and other text-based documents.
Mac users may be better off using iCloud Drive, which also offers 5 GB of storage for free. If you haven’t done so already, you can set iCloud Drive to automatically backup your Desktop and Documents folders, making them available on any device. Alternatively, Apple’s Time Machine utility works well for automatic backups if you do have an external hard drive on hand.
Watch a useful TED Talk
We can all agree that isolation makes us go down a rabbit hole of thoughts. Some of these can lead to good self-assessment, but others can be pretty taxing on our mental health. Whenever you find yourself going down that spiral, go online and watch a TED Talk.
TED Talks are influential videos from expert speakers on education, business, science, tech and creativity, with subtitles in 100+ languages. They are available on YouTube as well as their own website. One can find numerous discussions on things bothering them. Moreover, it is full of new, insightful and educational talks that would be way more forgiving to our brain than our own difficult whirlwinds of emotions.
— TED Talks (@TEDTalks) March 28, 2019
Protect your passwords
It’s easy to say that you should use a password manager—and we often do—but the reality is that programs like LastPass and Dashlane take some time to set up and learn. You’ll need to get in the habit of saving credentials to your password manager for every site you log into, and you’ll want to go through your password list to replace weak passwords with stronger, randomly generated ones. Being stuck at home presents an opportunity to finally put in the effort. The tech blog How-To Geek has a great primer on password managers if you’re new to the whole concept.
Straighten up your email
It is very easy to lose track of too many important emails. It is time to finally tame your unruly inbox. Such a project would include going through past few weeks of emails, addressing all the important ones, and arching everything else. Then, you can implement a new system that sorts reader emails, personal emails, and interesting PR pitches into folders. This would be an unbelievably productive activity.
Of course, that’s not the only way to organize an inbox. You can also set up folders based on deadlines, rethink the way you triage emails in the first place, or turn your Gmail into a Trello-style to-do list. And if all else fails, follow this advice from Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos and email like a CEO. Sounds like one of the better projects no?
Create a system for notes and lists
No disrespect to paper, but if your notes and to-do lists are a mishmash of paper planners and disparate smartphone apps, it might be time to reorganize. How about you add this to your list of new projects now? An ideal set up would be using different apps for different purposes. For example, Ephemeral thoughts and personal to-do lists can go into Google Keep; bookmarks and story ideas can go into Trello; and Notability can capture your handwritten interview notes.
Repurpose old Tech
Have an old phone or tablet stashed in a drawer somewhere? Try giving it new life as a single-use device.
My favorite example of such projects for those working from home: Keep an old tablet permanently plugged in at your desk as a second monitor, using either Apple’s Sidecar feature (for iPads and Macs) or Duet Display (with any other device combination). You could also turn an old phone into a Chromecast remote, create a restricted iOS or Android device for kids, or create a dedicated reading or writing device by removing all distracting apps.
Throw out old wires and gadgets
Now is the time. Get rid of old charging cables that you think you can repurpose. Throw out old batteries that you have stashed in drawers. Go in a deep-cleaning mode and use this time to release yourself from your hoarding habits. It’s one of the smaller projects that is easy to execute. I believe in you – DO IT!
These projects are all easy ways one can use this time to declutter their lives and be extra productive. Think about it, would you ever get time to organize your life this way again? Probably not in a long time. Post-quarantine, life will fasten up everyone’s work/study life and hardly anyone will spend time on themselves. So, now is the time to get off your couch and go the extra mile.