In March 2020, the spread of the corona virus SARS-CoV-2 was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). As a consequence, many countries took precautions to minimise the spread of the virus, including Germany where I live.
Based on previous experiences with pandemics and epidemics, social distancing seemed to be the best way to tackle it. The hashtag #stayhome was coined.
This journal is about how I deal with the restrictions the corona pandemic caused in my daily life.
I was not diagnosed with a corona virus infection, nor with the related lung disease (COVID-19).
Thursday, 12 March: Goodbye, office
Just one week ago, my teammates and I were sharing drinks in a bar, making fun about corona and blaming the media that they give too much attention to the virus while other topics fall behind.
One week later, we got the message that a colleague in the same building was in contact with an infected person. Since this colleague was also in contact with us, we were recommended to work from home the next 2 working days.
Suddenly I was more open to what media reported, but also the narrative seemed to have changed: My boyfriend sent me an article saying that we need to change our behaviour now. And when checking my emails, this graph jumped into my face:
In the meantime, all my colleagues have left the office. So I packed my things as well – anticipating that I will be home for more than just 2 days.
Friday, 13 March: Yoga at home
Yoga studios were not closed yet, but I thought it’s probably better to not attend a class. Because what is the matter of staying away from my co-workers, but being surrounded by a group of sweating people?
So I decided to do yoga at home for the first time with help of a youtube class a friend of mine recommended. Although the class was not exactly the type of yoga I’m looking for in a class, I liked it a lot and will continue to do yoga at home once a week for the time being.
Saturday, 14 March: Am I infected?
It’s crazy what your mind does to you if it constantly gets flooded with information about diseases.
For lunch, I went to the park with my boyfriend and got a soup from one of the food stalls. When the chef handed over a roll without wearing gloves, I immediately felt disgusted.
I ate the soup because I was hungry and felt cold, but I didn’t feel well the rest of the day. Was the soup really bad or did my mind just play a trick on me?
Sunday, 15 March: Back to online games
Now as I have more spare time at home as usual, I wondered what I did in similar situations in the past, e.g. during rainy 6 weeks of school holidays. While I now enjoy to go outside and be around people, back in the days I preferred being inside and playing computer games.
When I had a call with my sister this evening, she told me that she's playing Roller Coaster Tycoon on her phone. Roller Coaster Tycoon used to be one of my favourite computer games, so I decided to pick it up again – and I'm kind of addicted since.
Monday, 16 March: Feeling lethargic
Over the weekend, the message from government and media got very clear: Social distancing is the only way to stop spreading the virus. People were asked to stay home and limit social contacts to a minimum. Countries like China have shown that it’s successful and countries like Italy have shown what happens if you don’t start early enough.
Whenever I have a lot of spare time at home, I feel the need to be crazy productive and do all the things I normally don’t have time for. If I then end up not doing anything of the points on my to do list, I’ll become very frustrated, draining even the last bit of motivation out of me.
In general, “not having time for something” is just an excuse for not giving it enough priority. Over the last year, I made myself more aware of things I do immediately compared to things I keep procrastinating. The power ingredients here are reflection and kindness to yourself: Instead of blaming myself for not having done anything, I wondered “Why didn’t I do it?” and “What did I do instead?”
Very often we prioritise things we should do over things we want to do without recognising that we’re trying to meet someone’s expectations we believe to be our own.
So the ultimate goal is to distinguish things you want to do from things someone else wants you to do.
And finally, allowing yourself to do nothing is immensely important to let body and mind recharge. So don’t blame yourself if you binge-watch a Netflix series from time to time. Especially in times of uncertainty like we face right now, this might be exactly what you need.
Tuesday, 17 March: Get out of my way
I took today off, because I had to take remaining holidays from 2019 until end of March. “Such an amazing time to have holidays”, I thought.
Since the weather was warm and sunny, I decided to take a walk. I walked to a district of my neighbourhood I had never been before. Located between the S-Bahn-Ring, garages and Soviet “Plattenbauten”, I found myself in a beautiful, quiet neighbourhood of post-war buildings and small, ancient-looking shops.
This neighbourhood seemed so peaceful that I shortly forgot about this whole corona panic. I even had ice cream and ended my 2.5 hours walk with a meditation practice in a park. The holiday turned out exactly what a holiday is supposed to be: Relaxing and calming.
However, the corona crisis didn’t leave me completely alone: While walking on the sidewalk, I had to constantly get out of the way of people. Nobody seemed to really take care of being 1.5 meters away from each other. Sometimes I had to walk on the street because people were not willing to move a little bit closer to the edge of the sidewalk when approaching me. This, plus the fact that I saw so many groups of people hanging out in parks and playgrounds worried me a lot.
Wednesday, 18 March: Stay the fuck home
The worries from the tay before continued and found their peek today. What I observed the day before, was now visible in the news: People didn’t take the advice to stay home serious. The number of people infected increased exponentially and reached 10,000 this evening.
I also got more and more concerned about the economical situation. Especially Berlin’s club scene being at risk touched me hard, so hard that I woke up soaked in sweat this early morning. Because I consider Berlin’s club culture as something truly special, something no other city can offer.
Thursday, 19 March: DIY standing desk
I’m not a big fan of working from home. Usually when I work from home, I like it for one day, but I’m happy that I can return to the office the next day.
Here’s what I mainly struggle with when working from home:
Regular breaks: I often don’t do proper lunch breaks. The main reason is that I tend to eat smaller meals throughout the day when being at home. This is not necessarily bad, but I often end up replacing healthy warm food with not so healthy cold food, which makes me less fulfilled.
Stop working: I work long hours in the evening these days, just because my work station is so approachable. Plus, a lot of my hobbies (meeting friends, going out for dinner, doing sports) got eliminated from my daily life, so there’s simply more time for work.
- Staying active: Probably the hardest thing of being inside the whole day is the lack of movement. I keep my morning workout routine, but I don’t cycle to work or walk to a restaurant for lunch anymore. Having no standing desk at home causes me sitting most of the time.
To accommodate the latter issue, today I built a standing desk using wine crates and IKEA boxes. It’s not perfect because the display of my 13" MacBook is quite small, but definitely better for my back than sitting the whole day.
Friday, 20 March: Feeling like 16 again
I spend a lot of time chatting and being active on social media these days, because this is how I compensate for the lack of physical social interaction, I guess.
This instantly reminds me of the time when I was 16: I was spending hours in the evening chatting with friends via MSN and ICQ messenger. I still prefer direct messaging over sharing content with a larger group. The only thing that has changed are the tools: MSN and ICQ got replaced by WhatsApp and Slack.
Later the evening, I was streaming live dj sets from my favourite night club Kater Blau. Going out and dancing is quite a common weekend activity of mine, so being able to kind of do it at home is great. Sadly, it didn’t get me into dancing mode though.
Saturday, 21 March: WirVsVirus Hackathon
To give people an incentive to stay home, the German government organised a 48-hours hackathon during which participants work on challenges related to the corona virus.
Its overall organisation was quite messy. They had so many participants (over 42.000) and so many ideas submitted (1993) that invitations to the Slack workspace were delayed. When I joined, lots of teams were already formed and ideas discussed, so that I missed the whole concept stage and could only assign myself to tasks which were left.
Hence, the hackathon turned out quite unsuccessful for me, but also reminded me of a few important principles I try to follow:
- Creativity over Consumption: I’m not willing to spend 4 hours digging my way through Slack messages before I can get creative.
- Collaboration over Chatter: Collaboration is great if it’s time-boxed, otherwise it keeps me from doing hands-on work.
- Fulfilment over Following Orders: I like to decide myself what I spend my time with instead of completing pre-defined tasks.
For these reasons, I decided to stop participating in the hackathon and use my time to continue writing this journal and designing my new website instead.
Sunday, 22 March: Cycling through the forest
Another reason to not participate in the hackathon was the great weather we had this weekend. Today I compromised on the #stayhome credo and did a bike tour through the forest and along the river with my boyfriend.
Monday, 23 March: Sleep & Talks
As already pointed out in my post 4 day work week, sleeping gained new importance in my life since I have Mondays off.
Now as I spend this time at home, I keep giving sleep high priority. Some people, especially very busy people, think that sleeping is a waste of time. But it times of corona, it's actually the best thing you can do: Because science confirms that lack of sleep harms your immune system. Especially my posture hates me for not giving myself enough sleep, because the first thing I do when I'm tired is slouching. So my self-made standing desk would become useless if I was too tired to use it.
What is a great way to fall asleep? Watching a talk! Of course this is not the reason why I watch talks, but it works incredibly well.
Today I rewatched some of my favourites talks from Simon Sinek and Amy Cuddy.
Tuesday, 24 March: Just getting a coffee
Some people, like my boyfriend, aren’t bothered at all by staying home the whole day. But I really need some fresh air from time to time. And more importantly, I need to get reminded that there are other living beings in the world and that life somehow goes in.
So I try to take a walk more often, which is also a great opportunity to take breaks during working hours, which I struggle with as mentioned above. Today I went out to get a coffee. I figured that it would also make sense to shop a few groceries since it’s usually more crowded in the evening.
Over the last couple of days, the shopping experience changed tremendously. While a few days ago customers had to take precautions themselves (only a few actually did), now the shops take care of it:
- They only let a small number of people inside the shop, so customers wait in a line to get in.
- They added barriers and floor stickers in the shop to indicate where customers are supposed to walk or stand.
- They provided higher protection for their employees by equipping them with gloves, masks and installing a pane at the cash desk.
I’m really ok with all of this, for 3 reasons:
- People take better care to keep distance to each other (a lot more people wearings masks not, too)
- Everything is slowed down, making you realise that pace is not important
- You begin to appreciate the liberal and comfortable situation before the virus, we always took for granted
But you should be prepared: My 1 hour lunch break had to be extended to 1.5 hours – and I just wanted to get a coffee. Because cafes are now only allowed to let 1 person in at a time, otherwise they get a fine from the public order office. So “quickly” getting a coffee can take up to half an hour, depending on the queue outside.
But it’s 100% worth it: You get really good coffee and support local businesses which are currently having a very hard time.
Wednesday, 25 March: VouchForCulture
Although the WirVsVirus hackathon didn’t turn out very successful for me (see entry from Saturday 21 March), I got in contact with a group of people who want to continue working on their project and need a designer.
We had a call today in which they introduced me to the their project: It’s an online platform called ‘VouchForCulture’ where artists can offer vouchers for services from home concerts to online classes, that help them overcome potential liquidity issues during the corona lockdown.
Since the hackathon was in German, all the content is in German, too.
Thursday, 26 March: Changing my walking routine
Despite the things I appreciated during my walk on Tuesday, taking a walk during my lunch break comes with some downsides:
First, I don’t have time for preparing food and eating. Second, I realised that I struggle with shifting my focus away from work when working hours are over – and a lunch break walk doesn’t really help with that.
What used to be really helpful was my commute: A 20 minutes ride by bike, breathing some fresh air and being in another environment seems to be enough to have this clear break between work and private life.
So it might help me to imitate my commute by going out for a walk as soon as I shut down my computer. However, I already know that this will be a hard one, because often when I finish work, I am tired and hungry and have a hard time imagining that a walk is exactly the right thing for me now. But I’ll try my best and let you know in the next days.
Friday, 27 March: Topsy-turfy world
Although I didn’t manage to go for a walk after work, but at least once per day which was not during my lunch break. I initially planned a to meet a friend in a park, but then figured that it’s not really compliant with #stayhome and an unnecessary risk.
To still get into my walking habit and breath some fresh air, I took a walk with my boyfriend in the afternoon. We decided to walk to Berghain Berghain, probably Berlin’s most famous night club and just 6 walking minutes away from our flat. On the way, you’d need to go through a park along the railways.
I love this small part of nature in the middle of the city which doesn’t lose it’s urban feeling, because it’s surrounded by industrial buildings, graffiti and all sorts of people – from students drinking beer, to skaters from the close skatepark to mums and dads with their kids. The funny (and also worrying) part is that it was more crowded than before corona hit us.
Speaking of crowds of people, we made another super fun observation when walking by the DIY store which is just 100 meters away from Berghain:
While usually people queue to get into Berghain, these days they queue to get into a DIY store.
Saturday, 27 March: Disney+
I first thought that we don’t need another streaming provider, but the launch of the new Star Wars tv show was enough reason to take the 7-day-trial. Instead of watching Star Wars, I ended up sobbing on the sofa watching animated short movies about love, trust and family.
Sunday, 29 March: Online Yoga
In the last days, I was really amazed by the positive energy local businesses handle this difficult situation with: I received many emails from companies who turned all the anxiety about liquidity into new business opportunities: From online courses for sport, to musicians livestreaming concerts, to automotive companies 3D-printing face masks.
It seems true that innovation works best when teams are asked to react to new conditions at a rapid pace. I really hope that all the effort pays off and local businesses will be saved. I’m currently looking into different platforms and thinking about which ones to donate for.
In the meantime, I withdrew my Urban Sports Club pause and booked an online yoga class hosted by a studio I usually go to.
Monday, 30 March: Time well spent
On Monday, the WirVsVirus jury announced the winners of the hackathon – and the project I initially joined was among the winners.
The product is called Small Business Hero. It’s a platform where local shops can offer their products and deliver them to customers in the neighbourhood.
While I was happy for the team, it was also a bit painful:
I didn’t join the project because I didn’t believe in it. Now knowing that the jury believed in it and wants it to continue let me recap my decision. I started to regret that I didn’t join just for the sake of being part of it. At least I could have put the project on my website then.
So what was it that kept me from joining?
I came to a conclusion which I really like:
You might be familiar with the time well spent movement started by Tristan Harris. It advocates for more humane technology and criticises technology being part of the attention economy and harming our minds.
But time well spent doesn’t end with technology. Since having read ‘‘The Why Are You Here Cafe’, I became more conscious about how I spend my time every day. I committed to myself that I will do more things I enjoy, listen to my heart and do what feels right.
This is hard to achieve at work. Work is called work because it requires you to do things you don’t always like. This puts even more importance on how you spend your free time.
So the reason why I didn’t join the hackathon project was simply because I didn’t feel it’s worth the time I will spend on it. Even though I’m a bit sad that I’m not part of the success they gained at the end, I’m more than ok with my decision. Because it shows that I became a little bit more self-determined.
Tuesday, 31 March 2020: Video calls
I usually don’t do a phone calls, let alone video calls, except with my mum every other week. However, in times of #stayhome, calling someone becomes attractive even outside work.
Instead of having 1-2 dates per week to meet friends in cafes and bars, I now have 1-2 video call dates per week. I found that treating it as an actual meeting with a fixed time, a dedicated space in the flat and maybe a coffee or drink makes it feel very nice and almost equal to its non-virtual version.
Wednesday, 1 April 2020: No trip to Warsaw
Today was the last day to cancel a trip I wished so hard I wouldn’t need to cancel:
As a gift for my boyfriend’s 30th birthday, I booked a 4 day trip to Warsaw. The trip was inspired by the movie ‘All these sleepless nights’ which we watched in an independent cinema in a Berlin backyard a few years ago.
Not only the cinema is a magical place, but also the movie itself has a very magical mood. It’s about young people going out and spending nights in Warsaw. I only later found out that it’s a reality documentary, showing people in their own roles with their actual relationships.
I think I’m going to watch the movie again in the next days, even though it will make me sad that I can’t experience its vibes in real life.
Thursday, 2 April: Voice beats text
The more days we have to stay at home, the more often we have informal video calls, both at work and in private life.
For example, a call named ‘coffee kitchen’ popped up in my calendar in the beginning of this week. I already had a couple of Slack calls with ex-coworkers, either to help each other out or to simply hear how it is going. I myself set up a remote team meeting called ‘Chats & Beers’ ever Friday afternoon. And tomorrow my boyfriend and I will have a Zoom date with some friends in Munich. The latter kinds of dates are usually accompanied by a bottle of wine.
Usually I’m not a big fan of video calls, because they require the participants to be somewhere private or use headphones and have a stable internet connection – things that are not always a given. When working remotely though, lots of communication that used to be done by talking is replaced by written communication. Writing + reading and speaking + listening are very different cognitive efforts. I guess it’s a matter of time to get used to it, but most of us were dropped into this remote situation quite suddenly.
Even my boss-boss shared new updates about the situation in a podcast rather than an email.
Voice beats text these days, because we all have to write too much anyways.
Friday, 3 April: Help! I’m running out of coffee
Speaking of coffee kitchen, I drink a lot of coffee these days? Why? Because I’m at home and can brew really great coffee with my own equipment, something I don’t have when being at the office.
Plus, I went decaf a couple of weeks ago, not fully, but it became my default type of coffee. So there is simply no “no caffeine anymore”-excuse: I can drink as much coffee as I want, no matter the time of the day.
However, this comes at a price:
I consume about 50-60 grams of coffee every day. The coffee I buy from local roasters usually comes in 250 gram bags. Today I made this quick calculation and realised that 1 coffee bag lasts max. 5 days!
With #stayhome being continued, I will need a lot of coffee in the next days, so I better be prepared and place an order. This is also a really nice opportunity to discover and support local roasters.
One of my favourite coffee suppliers from Berlin that deliver straight to your door:
In the end though, I bought coffee from another cafe x coffee roaster which was still open, so I didn’t have to wait for it to be delivered.
Saturday, 4 April 2020: A new cookbook
While I didn’t cook much the last weeks, I started to enjoy cooking again. When being trapped at home, cooking actually becomes a must, unless you’re ok with cold food or spending a hell of money on delivered food, which is often not the healthiest.
To get some new inspiration, I bought ‘Vegan For Fit’ by Attila Hildmann this week. Its recipes are supposed to be low in carbs and high in protein which most vegan dishes are not.
I started going almost 100% vegan in the middle of last year. I wanted to see if it helps my skin because it turned really bad after I stopped taking the pill. I know people who achieved really good results by changing their diet. Plus there is research that suggests that milk and animal protein can increase acne, so I tried to avoid those.
However, in the last weeks, my motivation dropped and I didn’t take my vegan diet too seriously. I hope this book gives me new inspiration and reason to keep on going, and maybe even shoot beyond that: Because as mentioned above, the book doesn’t only promise vegan, but also low-carb recipes. Let’s see.
Tuesday, 7 April 2020: Differences
Even for couples that are together for a long time, being together 24/7 can be tough. Luckily my boyfriend and I live in a big flat so that we can avoid each other from time to time.
This is also necessary because we are very different kinds of people. It’s funny because now as I’m surrounded by him so much, I realise even more how different we are. Here are a few examples:
- I enjoy cooking and trying out new food – he never cooks and mainly eats to fill his stomach
- I love being surrounded by other people – he is most comfortable when being on his own
- I have my best moments in the morning after waking up – He is active until late at night
Although it’s not always easy to work around these different schedules and preferences, I come to believe that being different from your partner increases the chance of having a long-term relationship. Because it just doesn’t get boring over time. You can still learn from your partner and enhance each others’ lives. And this is to me one of the most important benefits of sharing the life with someone.
Needless to say, this requires both partners to bring a lot of empathy and understanding into the relationship. Without accepting the other person for who they are and giving them enough room to breathe, you won’t come to the point where you appreciate their specialty.
Wednesday, 8 April 2020: Magazines
Staying home for so many days calls for reading. However, I find it hard these days to pick up up a book. It feels too lengthy and serious.
Luckily there are magazines: Coming with the nice smell of printed paper, they provide brief and inspiring articles that are perfect for a short read during a lunch break or in the evening.
Haven’t read any magazine in a while, I first needed to find one that interests me. You already know that I’m really into coffee, so I was thinking about subscribing to Standart, a magazine dedicated to coffee. But am I really so much into coffee that I want to read a magazine about it?
The challenge to find the right magazine is obviously that you don’t know if you like it before you hold it in your hands. This made me come up with the business idea to offer a preference-based subscription of different magazines. The customer doesn’t know which magazine they get, but can select topics or categories and set the frequency for the delivery, e.g. weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. At my surprise, there is no such service on the market yet.
In the end, I solved the problem in a different way: I had a Offscreen subscription a few years ago and I still hadn’t read most of the articles. So I went to my bookshelf started reading.
I had almost forgotten how beautifully this magazine is put together and was blown away by an interview with VSCO founder Joel Flory. I’ve been a VSCO user for several years. Almost all photos here on this journal are edited with their app.
What stood out most is how they monetise and market their product: VSCO decided to neither let advertising ruin their UX, nor to promote their product in aggressive, obvious ways. Instead, they give their creative community a stage to showcase their work, showing potential customers what is possible with their product.
This reminded me of one of my favourite books I cannot recommend often enough: ‘Badass: Making users awesome’ by Kathy Sierra suggests a design and marketing approach that focusses on the outcomes users achieve a product.
Thursday, 9 April 2020: A virtual birthday party
A lot of birthday parties were cancelled in the last weeks because bigger gatherings are not compliant with #stayhome. But similar to the clubbing experience, birthday parties can go virtual too.
Tonight will be the first time I’m joining a virtual birthday party, which allows me to catch up with a friend who is currently stuck in Sri Lanka. Zoom seems to be the tool of the day right now, since it offers a view with each participant taking an equal amount of screen space. Plus you can go crazy with different backgrounds.
Friday, 10 April: Happy Easter
Easter is knocking on the door, meaning 4 free days in a row with lots of sunshine, neighbourhood walks and ice cream. Usually Easter is for family gatherings, but due to #stayhome, I (like most people) won’t get to see my family.
I see myself as a minimalist who is very critical about consumption and materialism, but I like to make myself a gift from to time time to keep up my mood, especially in times like today where you can’t be around people you love.
Obviously, what makes me feel good about these things is not just the products themselves, but the feeling of generosity: By buying coffee from Bonanza, I support local roasters who have a hard time right now. And the profit from the t-shirt will be used to save Berlin’s club scene.
Saturday, 11 April: Design Principles
In the documentary, Dieter Rams seems worried about that design today is more misunderstood than 50 years ago: While design origins from making something functional and useful, it’s seen more and more as beautification. This came as a surprise to me as I thought that with the rise of user experience and digital product design, the perception of design evolved in the exact other direction.
At the same time, knowing about the origin of design had a calming effect on me: If it was already understood like this in the past, we should be able to get back to its original understanding.
Working in the IT department of Volkswagen, making my co-workers (mostly software engineers) understand that design is more than beautification is one of my biggest daily struggles. When corona is over, I might print out Dieter Ram’s design principles and hang them all over the office. Until then, I might start with a poster in my home office.
Monday, 20 April: Donations
While I try to support local shops and restaurants by buying food and products from them, I cannot support clubs other than by donation. I usually go clubbing 2-3 times per month, so it’s just fair to donate the money I would usually spend on entry fees, cloak room fees and drinks, especially because I regularly enjoy their livestreams.
To help set an amount for my donation, I made a quick calculation what I usually spend:
- 15,00 € entry fee
- 2,00 € cloak room fee
- 14,00 € gin mate (2x)
- 3,00 € soft drink
- 1,00 € tip
- = 35 €
- → Donation amount: 100 €
You can donate on Betterplace.org.