It goes without saying that quarantine and the various lockdowns which happened during 2020 were hard for everybody. Hopefully soon they will be a memory only, with 2021 bringing us back to normality.
Yet, I personally welcomed some alone time at home. Some, of course. We had far too much of it. Perhaps 50% less would have been more bearable, but hey, we don't get to control a virus that easily.
Whatever you did during your quarantine and alone time at home, it had better be something productive. That doesn't mean work or hobbies, but some self-reflection and reassessing priorities count as productivity to me. Even if you didn't learn 3 new languages, completed 5 courses and cooked 14 new recipes, nobody did all that probably, if you only did some reflection on your life, your objectives and what path you're treading on, that counts as a positive.
But what did I do? Let's see.
Gym at home
I never was a huge gym-rat. I hit the gym, a lot, when I was younger, built some muscles, dropped chunks of fat, and got "healthier". Fine. But then I got bored with competing against myself all the time, of having to repeat the same exercises, trying to break my own past records, and frequenting sweaty, bacteria-infested places where hundreds of people sweat and grunt all the time.
Not exactly my cup of tea. So in 2020 I not only trained at home but learned to do the exercises I liked, not those I needed to. Plus, no more competition against myself but working out to keep fit, to increase my heart rate a couple of times per week (I'm not going to participate in any sport competition anytime soon...), and release some good hormones to help my mental health. That's it.
Thus, I learned to stretch more than in the past (which was 0), do some light yoga, lots more bodyweight exercises (living in a small apartment limits you a lot in what you can fit in it). No equipment outside of a short mat. Exercising for myself, not for an objective or a competition. Mental health paired with fitness.
Crushing my Goodreads reading challenges
I used to read a lot more in my youth. Easily 40-50 books per year. Then the internet happened, the mobile phone was bought by my parents and the distractions multiplied. For many years I only managed to read about 10-20 books every year, always failing my Goodreads challenge. Once of only one book, but heck, that's still not reaching it.
In 2020 I ignored social media much more than in the last years and finally achieved the grand total of 72 books read. 22 more than the objective of 50. Quarantine and lockdowns did what sheer force will couldn't. In 2021, I hope to continue this trend with another 50 or more books read.
Baking bread (and not only)
And yet, baking bread was a trend throughout 2020. I did my part too, starting a sourdough culture from scratch (using a kefir started, some honey and lots of patience). While my successes in baking bread were nothing to write home about, tasty but a third shorter than I wanted, my Italian heart moved me to bake not just bread.
One of my first attempts at making cinnamon rolls.
The first Pandoro I ever made.
There's so much that can be done with a simple starter and flour. Bread is a world of its own that requires a lot of skills and learning to master. Other recipes are much simpler. If you are wondering whether you're capable of baking something good, choose one of the easiest recipes and learn from that. There's not only bread that can be baked, don't get discouraged that it is not coming up as you would like to. Do something else, then try with bread again later, when you have more experience (and enough failures to know what shouldn't be done).
Tasting coffee and whisky
Yes, who doesn't drink coffee in some form, at least occasionally? But have you ever stopped to carefully taste it? To attentively reflect on its taste profile? To identify what you like of it and what you don't.
You don't need to be a coffee expert to do that. Do it for fun. Quarantine taught me to take things more slowly, to enjoy the time passing by, idly. I started to taste coffee, every cup of it, and to compare it with the previous one. And the one before that. And so on and on.
Same with whisky. Taking your time to sip it, thinking about every flavor, everything that you feel in your mouth and nose while tasting it, will give you a whole different insight on what's good and bad about the glass you're having. There's no need to taste hundreds of whiskeys, or coffee, to be able to do that. If you can, more power to you. If you can't, do with what you already have.
Surely what 2020 taught me was a slower approach to beverages. Coffee and whisky are my favorites, but that of course applies to anything from rum to tea, from milk and its substitutes to your local liqueur.
2020's quarantines could have been productive without actually "producing" anything
If there's a message to bring home from all this is: quarantines and lockdowns can be productive in many ways. Not necessarily by learning work-related skills, getting into complex hobbies or making more money. None of those are to be discouraged, sure. But simple activities that are fun, relaxing and teach you something, regardless of that being immediately usable at work, are productive too.
Hopefully 2020 taught you some good new habits/hobbies. And if not, at least a good deal of self-reflecting on your life. That's perhaps the most valuable lesson of them all.