A virus indoors

How do you social distance from someone inside your home?

It’s an odd question to ask, isn’t it? Why would you wish to do something like that, anyway? You and your family have been indoors this whole time. Everyone is a little bored, and yes, sometimes it feels like it’s getting a little crowded inside those walls, but all of you are healthy and you need to cherish and be with each other now more than ever, not avoid each other’s company.

Very true. But there is someone else living with you now, as it is with every student all over the world. You can’t see it, yet you feel its presence often. You can’t hear it, yet it’s virtually in every room you walk into. People used to call it “the devil of procrastination”. However, perhaps in our days it’s more apt to call it a virus.

Procrastination can be defined as the desire to do tomorrow what you should be doing today. It is the act of trying to cross the long hanging bridge between what you want to do and what you need to do, without ever taking the first step. As Charles Dickens said, it is “the thief of time”.

Many things in your house are contaminated with this virus. Your Playstation. Your mobile phone. Your bed. The couch. The television. The laptop. These things used to be the cause of social distancing even when it wasn’t mandatory – you would sometimes stay at home by yourself just to be with them. Now that you can’t physically be with your friends although you want to, you find yourself in the company of these objects more often than usual. Why wouldn’t you? They help stave off the boredom when all else seems to fail, and for a moment, while spending time with these “surrogate friends”, you actually feel like you’ve stepped outside your house for a while, even if only in your mind.

In the meantime, hours roll into days, and days snowball into weeks. The thief of time fills his pockets and you can’t hear his laughter because you are distracted doing something other than you would normally be doing on a weekday.

And what exactly is this thief taking away from you?

Not money, not material possessions, not even time. This thief steals something far more valuable. He steals your grades.

These objects, these distracting surrogate friends living with you, all carry the virus of procrastination. They appear to be good for you, and normally they are, but think about why you are home right now. You are social distancing from your friends on the outside not because you don’t want to be with them, but because for the time being, protecting your future and theirs requires keeping away from each other.

It is the same with these “friends” at your home. You want to play with your old mate, the Playstation, and you want to read stories with your buddy, the mobile phone. ut right now, keeping your goals healthy requires you to distance yourself from these things.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, and so the question must be asked again: How do you social distance from someone inside your home?

How do you keep away from these things that bring such relief in a time of boredom and cabin fever?

Fortunately, there is a vaccine for the virus of procrastination. It’s called “now”. It only works for a short period of time, and so it must be administered several times a day. But it’s 100% effective.

When you have Maths homework to do, but the Whatsapp messages keep pouring in, what choice do you make? You tell yourself that ‘it’s okay to pick up the mobile, I can do the Maths homework later’, and coat the pockets of the thief of time just a little more. Or you can turn your mobile off and say “I’ll do my Maths homework now”. After you’ve finished, you’ll have a healthy dose of the vaccine in your system and it will be perfectly safe to go on Whatsapp and catch up on everything you missed.<

When it’s midnight and you have online lessons very early the next morning but you’re still halfway through the movie on Netflix, what do you do? You can finish watching it and chip away a little more at the grade you were hoping to get, or you can tell yourself “I’m going to bed now”. You’ll have to wait an extra day to find out how the movie ends, but you’ll have spared yourself seeing the spoiler at the end of the movie about your next morning: you would not have been able to get out of bed.

The way to keep safe from the virus of procrastination in your home is to have a rigorous schedule filled with “nows”. When it’s time to study, you’ll study “now”. You won’t socialize with any surrogate friend in your home, no matter how loud they call you. They will be there when you finish, and then it will be safe to hang out with them.

Think of your daily schedule as your academic home. If you leave it even if only for a moment just to take a nap when you should be studying, or to play an online game when you should be having an online lesson, you will be contaminated. Maybe you won’t have any symptoms for a long time. Make no mistake, though: When it’s time to go get the grades you’ve always wanted, you will realize how sick you really were the whole time. By then, it will be too late to find a cure.

Noelle Hancock wrote that ‘Procrastination is the lazy cousin of fear. When we feel anxiety around an activity, we postpone it.’ That anxiety will be there every waking moment of your life until you stop it by saying that small but powerful magic word. The word that heals wounded futures and drives away the thief of time. The word that disinfects your whole home of the terrible virus of procrastination.

Why not start using it right now? Stop reading this, you got the message already. Think of something you should have done already. Do you have it in your mind?


Say “now”, walk away – keeping at a safe distance from your “indoor friends” –, and just go do it.

7th April 2020