I was on a chat recently with friends when one of them said: "I'm gonna be sorely disappointed if, after four weeks, I haven't accomplished anything."
Same, I thought.
I have extra hours each day that used to be filled driving to work, teaching class, driving kids to training or meeting with friends.
The Covid-19 lockdown has provided bonus time where I could clear out the garage, hang pictures in our new house, stain the fence, write articles for online publications, teach my daughter French, bake, learn a new language …
My teenagers can join the productivity parade, finishing homework on time, cleaning the car, taking the dog for long walks, cleaning the house …
Very little of this has happened - yet. I've dragged the kids outside a couple of times to walk the dog or practise football.
I'm lucky to get them out of bed before midday. I did bake bread in my slow cooker. The loaf was squat but tasty.
I wake without an alarm around 7am. Some mornings I feel so lethargic I want to return to bed. Some afternoons my stomach can't decide if it's hungry or full. Maybe there's a pit - that feeling deep inside something's not right.
Then it hit me after reading an article someone shared from Harvard Business Review that what I'm feeling is grief. The author wrote, "If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it."
We're grieving the loss of gatherings with friends and family.
We're grieving the loss of work that may or may not return.
We're grieving the loss of innocence that we control our environment.
We're grieving loss of routine.
We're grieving the loss of simple pleasures we assumed would always be available: coffee at a cafe, attending events, shopping for items other than food.
And we're anticipating more griefs to come.
Knowing we're grieving, we need to ditch the notion we're going to be paragons of productivity during a global pandemic.
Would you tell a friend who had just lost a loved one to crank out some extra work? Take on new tasks so she'd feel better?
It might work for some people, but most of us, especially in the early stages of grief, must focus on essentials.
Here's what I didn't do the first few months after my husband died in 2010: write a novel, run a marathon, start a charitable trust.
Here's what I did: made sure my children were fed, ate, ran a half marathon ( I'd already trained and running was medicine), started back at work part-time, and - most importantly - accepted help when it was offered.
Extracurricular activities - sitting on boards and attending extra meetings at work - had already dropped off while Sean was in intensive care.
This pandemic has been compared to a major war which will change the world. Aisha Ahmad in the Chronicle of Higher Education said her answer to the question, "When will this be over?" was never.
"Even if we contain the Covid-19 crisis within a few months, the legacy of this pandemic will live with us for years, perhaps decades to come," she wrote. "It will change the way we move, build, learn, and connect. There is simply no way that our lives will resume as if this had never happened."
Ahmad says diving into a frenzy of activity is denial and delusion. "The emotionally and spiritually sane response is to prepare to be forever changed."
During a crisis, our brains don't process information the way they normally would. The high-functioning, logic-controlling part of our brain can be hijacked by two other parts which control emotions and the response to fight, freeze or flee.
We can regain control of our higher selves, but it takes time and practice. It's like a surfer training to hold her breath for long stretches underwater so she can avoid panicking when a big wave pins her down.
We're under that big wave. And we haven't trained for this.
We need to redefine productivity in the age of isolation.
I'm used to interviewing at least a dozen sources during a week, writing 3000 to 4000 words for a feature story and a column, teaching two classes and marking students' assignments.
Part of my workload has vanished because of Covid-19, but I doubt I could keep up the old pace today. I must manage not only my own anxiety but my children's school assignments, their wellbeing and fears. I still work from home, but my pace and output have dropped dramatically.
We need to back away from what Ahmad calls "productivity porn" in social media. It's okay to miss the online meditation class. It's okay you didn't hold a family Olympics day complete with homemade biscuit medals, as one of my friends recently did.
"Who are these people?" asked my friend, Amy, when I told her about the family games. "Our Olympics is when we don't kill each other."
My friend, Paula, says she harbours no illusion she'll become a better person after four weeks at home. "If anything, I'll probably be a slightly worse person. Fatter, less fit ... I'm not going to finish lots of home projects, I'm not going to learn Māori …" She limits time on social media, especially when everyone's in a similar situation.
Like a global pandemic. Or Christmas. "You can't look at what other people are doing. You just want to compare yourself and they're mostly putting up the best bits."
Accept that you're grieving. And anxious.
Know that your usual productive self will return.
Meanwhile, be kind, smile, and say hello to everyone you pass from two metres away.
Building resiliency may be the most productive thing we do during this time.