These past couple of months have been interesting times for everyone. California started shelter in place (SIP) relatively early starting so most of the population has been sitting at home since late March.
What was surprisingly to me was how fast everything started to fall apart. I'm sure many businesses were already seeing reductions in revenue since February, but only a couple weeks into official SIP, medium-sized businesses such as Boba Guys started announcing that were closing down locations permanently. Soon after, I started hearing personal stories from photography friends being laid off or their paid photoshoots being indefinitely postponed. It didn't take long after for the mass layoffs at companies to start happening.
Fortunately, although I've been financially impacted, I'm still financially stable. At the end of April, my company made the tough decision of laying off over 15% of the entire workforce. No one was safe and every team got affected one way or another. Additionally, everyone else received a pay cut until the end of August. Although I don't believe many of these corporations like my company will be in financial trouble in the new future, the closing of businesses became a wakeup call to the long bull run of the stock market.
What really affected me, however, was the disruption to the tempo of my life under SIP. In this new lifestyle, I've gotten a lot of my time refunded back, yet I've become a lot less productive. I've started to use "oh it's SIP, I can't do anything" as an excuse to procrastinate, even though SIP logically has no impact on my productivity. In fact, I now have way more flexibility in taking photos than ever before (excluding portraits, of course), yet I've produced way fewer photos than I normally would in this time frame. I could do home photo projects, photo walks around the community, or even drive out to remote areas to shoot things. Instead, I spend more time playing video games and mindlessly browsing.
So it makes me wonder - what's really changed for me? After some self-reflection, I think it has to with the sudden disruption of all the habits I've built up to now. In the past, every time there were changes to my habits it would be one or a small handful of habits at a time. I also have a notes app to keep track of the daily tasks I'd like to complete every day which helps me stay on track.
After SIP, many events I normally do felt like they were no longer doable. With the time slots now empty, the daily routine felt a lot more vague and empty. There lacked concrete consistency in the things I do. It almost felt like every day was simultaneously a Friday and a Monday at the same time. With the perceived reduced optionality in things to do, I also stopped making daily task lists, since it felt they would be empty anyway. Just like the Snap of Thanos, all my habits and daily tasks were forcibly wiped.
Additionally, at the start of the SIP, all the institutions and news outlets were overly optimistic about the duration of the SIP, stating that it would be over in a few weeks to a month. So I thought to myself "this is temporary, I'll just wait it out and my life will resume normal". But two weeks turned into a month, a month turned into two months, and two months then turned into the rest of the year.
After losing structure, it's much easier to play video games non-stop. I think this is because there are concrete progressions and goals in video games. Thus, playing games felt like a shortcut to having structure and progress in my life once again. Before I knew it, I've already developed bad habits and have become a waste man. Under the new schedule, it felt like my life was slowly spiraling out of control and losing purpose. I was losing passion for things and started to feel more indifferent overall. It definitely did not feel good.
Finally, well over a month into the SIP, I realized the severity of the situation and had to address the problem. I accepted that for the near future, SIP is here for to stay. I must invest in time and discipline in developing the correct habits for living in these situations. On top of that, I noticed working remote will become a new norm as companies are realizing remote workforces is a viable option with an array of benefits. I will likely give it a try sometime in the future and these new habits for these living conditions will definitely prove useful in the new norm.
The first thing I needed to bring back was the list of daily tasks and populate it with meaningful tasks that can be completed. This way, I'll always have a plan and be able to create a sense of progress. Initially, I'll perform daily tasks that have low barriers of entry that utilize minimal brain power, such as reading, cleaning, or pursuing a more indoor hobby. As I rebuild my habits, I'll add in more thought intensive tasks such as designing photography projects.
With much discipline, I was able to build momentum and create structure in my life again. Next, I wanted to restore my photography. After a long dry period of not taking photos, I felt like I was losing inspiration and the passion was dying. But I realized that SIP had absolutely no impact on the majority of the things I shoot since I like to shoot alone in non-crowded areas. I needed to make plans to go out to shoot again to reignite the flame. To make things easy, I chose the most straight forward and obvious topic to shoot around - COVID-19 - and made plans to shoot every week around this topic.
I'm happy to report that after a month of consciously trying to address the problem, I've recovered much of my productivity. Although it's still nowhere close to what it was before, I'm able to produce a decent amount of photos again.