Chris Tan JerseyWith a second lockdown currently in place across much of the UK and Western Europe, many of us are searching for inspiration on how to spend our evenings and weekends, particularly as the days grow colder and shorter.  Whilst watching Netflix enveloped in a warm blanket and munching away at chocolates will always be tempting, exploring a new hobby is never a bad idea. Perhaps there’s a musical instrument you always wanted to master, or a language you’ve not spoken in years that you’d like to pick up again?

Alternatively, how do you fancy unleashing the inner journalist in you and like me writing blogs for CheekyLittleCareers?  The possibilities are endless, and if you’re really stuck, you could always give a jigsaw a go, or host a Zoom Christmas quiz (playing quizmaster and researching the questions, I’ve been told, is a really fun way to spend an afternoon).  That said, I get the distinct impression that many of you are now quizzed out so best stick to the jigsaw!

Of course, maybe due to caring or other responsibilities combined with a busy work schedule, lockdown doesn’t necessarily mean all of us have the luxury of additional spare time.  For many lawyers like myself or other business professionals, you’re likely to be as busy before the pandemic struck, or indeed busier than ever before.  These tips are for you too: particularly, if you’re currently working from home and your professional and personal lives are inevitably starting to meld, it is helpful to set aside time to relax in a structured and intentional way.

Canvas with a landscapeFor me, the one activity I wanted to revisit was painting. It is something I had thoroughly enjoyed many years ago (but had not done recently). Felicitously, it was something that was feasible for me to do here in the beautiful island of Jersey, where I’m currently located (if you want to know how I ended up here please do check out one of my previous blog posts).

Plan ahead

First, decide what it is that you want to do – you could look up lists of ‘popular lockdown activities’ online, but ideally this should be an innate interest of yours.

Then, decide how you’re going to set about doing this activity. Even if taking a “DIY” approach, you might need to find reference books or YouTube channels. Alternatively, you may want to sign up for classes (whether by Zoom or otherwise). If looking for classes, Google is always helpful – but also check community Facebook groups, adult education colleges or notice boards in your area. For me, I did an internet search for ‘Jersey art class’ and found Julia Renault‘s classes, held just a short walk from my office. Julia then provided a helpful and comprehensive materials list and also advised me about the different grades of paint as well as on where to buy brushes, canvasses and the time-saving “tear off” disposable palettes.

The cost of classes and materials must be budgeted for, so this stage of the research is important. There are often cheaper alternatives so do shop around. Given recent delays in the post, if ordering online, do expect it to take some time to gather materials or equipment. In the meantime, do improvise – I did pencil sketches while waiting for my paints to arrive.

Make it part of your routine

I like attending classes as it means there is something fixed in my diary that I can look forward to. What’s more, having made a financial commitment, I am also much less inclined to skip a week to do something else. Make life easier for yourself by picking a time slot that is most convenient for you, rather than one when you might be tired, busy or distracted.

It can be helpful to flag to your colleagues that you have set aside a particular time, just once a week, for your chosen hobby. If a colleague helps you with an urgent evening task that would have clashed with your activity time slot, there would be an element of quid pro quo of course – expect to do the same for them in due course. Alternatively, you could try to do your chosen hobby and meet deadlines by offering to start work earlier the next morning or over the weekend, if feasible.

Enjoy yourself

Black & White LandscapeUltimately, however, the point of pursuing a new activity is to enjoy yourself and relax during a designated time slot. If you miss the odd session, do not worry about it. However, if trying to make everything work logistically results in causing you more stress than happiness, then consider a scaled-back version or different interest – it’s not as if the options are limited. For instance, one of my arty contacts who is currently too busy to get her brushes and canvasses out of hibernation relies on a colouring book to occupy her ‘me’ time meaning she doesn’t have the bother of both setting and clearing up.

If you are doing something for the first time, be proud of yourself for taking that step of trying: you should not feel embarrassed or disappointed if you are not able to do your chosen activity well at first. I know my paintings may never be displayed in a gallery, but there is no reason why I should feel bad about that.

Conclusion

Nowadays, the word ‘amateur’ has acquired a pejorative connotation – but in the original Latin simply means one who loves or enjoys doing something. So, after appropriate due diligence (a job hazard that seems to follow lawyers everywhere!), do simply set aside some time to unwind and have fun.

Christopher Tan is an associate in the litigation team of Carey Olsen in Jersey as well as a budding artist. He works on a wide range of complex cross-border commercial disputes but has a particular interest in the financial services sector.