A Page from the Plague Episode

Afraid of making a mistake? There are no mistakes in the tango, not like life. It’s simple. That’s what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, just tango on.

– Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman (1992)

This quote is from one of my all-time favorite movies  – ‘Scent of a Woman’. Besides holding a special significance in personal life, this is also in my opinion one of the most inspirational scenes in cinematic history. The message here is as simple as it gets – ‘No matter what happens in life, dust yourself and carry on’.

I am as introvert as a person can get and therefore can endure isolation almost painlessly. Admittedly the last few months have caught up to me though. There have been periods where I have just felt super wiped out and the possibility of this work-from-home cum quarantine routine holding up until the mid of next year or so, has only done its part of bogging me down further.

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly caused its share of psychological ramifications for most people. Even with a fairly regular routine of getting up early, exercising, reading, working and indulging creative aspects during free time, I have had a massive case of procrastination going on for the past couple of days. I have been waking up feeling like “Aah shoot! I’m just going to eat junk and stay in bed and Netflix.” And I realize a whole day has just passed by without me doing any real productive work and the self-loathing cycle starts.

I am not necessarily lazy. In fact, for lack of modesty, I’d say I’m far from being lazy on usual days. I am used to carrying out various activities in a day for my personal and professional gratification. Something has been off though, lately. Say, I woke up today morning and had to literally drag myself from my bedroom to the study, in a feeble attempt to shake myself up and get into a productive mindset. I had loads to do – drafts of blog posts that I had begun but got struck on, a couple of office emails to write, complete an assignment for an online course, a book to finish taking notes from and so on.

I reminded myself of the long list of work to be done for the day and went back to dwelling in sorrow. Sorrow of not being able to get anything done past the basic office work. But after mulling over things for a while, I decided to tackle this the right way. Obviously with previous occurrences of such episodes, I am quite aware by now of what triggers my productivity.

Barring people who work night shifts or have a genuine reason for staying up late into the night, I’d definitely recommend waking up early in the morning to the remaining population. It really does set the tone for the rest of the day.

Let me share some pointers with you on how an average day in my life looks like. This is a routine that I’ve been sticking to for the past say, three years or so, ever since I moved out of my parents’ home to a new city.

And people who know me intimately, are well aware of the fact that once asleep it usually takes a town drill with drums to wake me up. As difficult as it has been to stick to it, I can vouch for the improvements these activities have brought to my life in the form of health and knowledge.

  1. Sleep Hacking

Three-four years ago, while still pursuing my undergraduate degree, I used to hate waking up unless absolutely required. I’d sleep late into the day on weekends and mum had to literally kick me out of the bed to get going to the college. Infinite number of snoozed alarms, numerous cups of coffee and one commute later, I’d reach the college feeling all groggy and struggling to keep pace with the day’s activities. Solution: Wake up for yourself and not for your day at work or college. I started waking up early – to hit the gym, finish that last piece of assignment, catch up on some books or to simply have a meaningful conversation with parents. Make your mornings all about yourself and you’d soon be counting yourself in the ‘morning person camp’.

2. Social Media

I usually take an objective stance towards most issues, but social media is a sore point for me. Over the years I have found certain personality traits of mine that do not qualify me for holding a social media account of any sorts. I can’t maintain an air of indifference to the happenings in my friends’ lives – good or bad. Insecurities regarding my own capabilities or self-worth, and most of all and I can’t stress this enough –  

People struggling with a hyper-productivity syndrome should refrain from being on social platforms – probably not absolutely relieving yourself of it but a controlled usage of relevant media is a thing that is mastered over a period of time.

I was probably on social media for around a year and a half and then went on to disable all my accounts as I was fortunate enough to assess the amount of harm vs the good it was doing to me. And the results weren’t that great. I do maintain a strong presence through LinkedIn though, as the community there has brought me a lot of positivity in terms of career and aspirations. Choose a media of relevance, one that matches your personality and life aspirations and then set a way to going about leveraging it.

I’ve seen my friends and family members spend insane amount of time on social media accounts all through the night and then look for notifications the first thing in the morning. The checking and browsing part quickly spirals into hours and before you know you’ve lost out on the most crucial part of your day. Giving up on social media or at least the amount of time spent on it, might seem like a clip from a horror movie at first. But the results are gratifying and worth replicating.

3. Reading and Listening

I have been a bibliophile all my life so its easy for me to single out this activity as one of my topmost priority before going head on into starting my day. Pick out books that resonate with your life goals and qualities that you seek to imbibe. Read out blogs, listen to podcasts and try writing down your own opinions on matters. Maintain a repository of your thoughts. You’ll be amazed at the new perspectives and outlook you’ll gain as a result of this. You might be a painter, singer, writer, corporate worker – it does not matter. Reading truly does expand the realm of possibilities. So dig into a book the first thing after you wake up.

4. The people you spend the most time with shape who you are

I have learned this the hard way in my life. I have associated myself with friends that have thrown me under the bus when it seemed suitable and I have had friends and mentors, that no matter what have stood by me and set the course of my life.

As Darren Hardy writes in The Compound Effect:

According to research by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, [the people you habitually associate with] determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.

Actively construct your own social environment. I am not asking for you to forge a fantasy bubble where you lose touch with reality and are only surrounded by yes people. On the contrary, I advocate the presence and necessity of both opposing and pro views in life. You can have a major difference of opinion on issues ranging from twitter wars to politics. But morals cannot be compromised with. I for one, keep tabs on the kind of life-philosophies that I wish to expose myself to and associate with similar people.

Having said all of this, you need to know that hitting the wall once in a while is not bad. You might want to self-isolate, introspect life choices or you’re simply too exhausted carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Embrace this feeling and always be ready with a combat plan if the phase threatens to run into a longer duration.

My one suggestion would be to follow leads that naturally intrigue you, without them having to mean anything in your life.

I am as far from a painter as you can get, but I was always fascinated by art and the methods used to create it. While on the sorrowful spree, I bought a couple of paints, brushes and sheets and started painting. Just for the heck of it! For once, it helped me take a break from getting sucked into the vortex of creating something meaningful.

On a side note, I love making my friends and family watch this scene. Something about Al Pacino’s blind character and the beautiful dance he shares with Gabrielle Anwar’s character is as pure and innocent as it gets.

Including a link to the famous scene, below. Hope it brings as much positivity to your life as it has done to mine on numerous occasions!

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