How to Waste Time: An Ultimate Survival Guide for COVID-19 and the Future

Yesterday at work (over Zoom of course) my colleague told me that I should take a vacation. He basically sees me sending emails late at night, the green dot next to my Slack name on at all hours of the day, and I’m constantly juggling different responsibilities. He is right. I should take a break and remember how to waste time, but the truth is: I don’t know what else I would do with myself except work if I took a vacation.

During COVID-19, we’re all (hopefully) stuck inside, and while there are many substantial challenges–from financial to mental health to physical health–there is a minor challenge that feels exponential difficult: How do I spend my time?

Let’s be real: When there is so much uncertainty about the world, work, in all of its glory and the dull moments, can be satisfying. Since I can do everything I could do at home as I could in the office, I am very busy, and knocking things off my to-do list was a form of control over the unpredictable. Being able to focus on clear, tangible tasks was a way for me to forget the viruses flying around my community like modern-day plagues.

But now that we’re almost seven weeks into quarantine, I have come to feel that the time we have inside our homes can be used in wonderful ways, and the only way to really take advantage of this moment is to figure out how to waste time with passion.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise Pascal

Being alone in our room with our thoughts is challenging for many reasons. So, stop doing that. You don’t need to embrace the existential crisis of humanity during COVID-19. I recommend wasting time and enjoy the seconds tick by, because, truthfully, that is really all we have. In my ultimate guide to wasting time, I’ll share tips on the following aspects that span streaming to reading to music:

Feel free to click on the links above to skip right to the section you want.

How to Waste Time with Netflix

When people try and imagine how they can waste their time, it’s obvious that peoples’ minds go straight to television. During COVID-19, streaming has been one of the biggest waste of times. In fact, in April 21, “Netflix wowed Wall Street with its biggest quarter and a record number of new paid subscribers, nearly 16 million. Revenue grew to $5.77 billion from $4.52 billion in the year-ago period. The news sent Netflix shares soaring 9% in extended trading,” according MarketWatch.

So, since so many people are on Netflix, I wanted to share what I have been watching recently.

The Death of Stalin

Imagine if Larry David had directed a movie about Stalin’s death and the struggle for power that followed. The Death of Stalin has become one of my favorite movies because it takes such a serious subject–Russian despotism–and makes the viewer feel like they’re watching The Three Stooges. Plus, it features Steve Buscemi, and I loved him in Boardwalk Empire and pretty much everything else he was in, even the strange cameo in Billy Madison.


I lived in Los Angeles for a few years, and as a journalist, I was able to navigate the city and explore different neighborhoods. Gentefied reminds me of that time, and it’s a wonderful show about a family-run taqueria in Boyle Heights. It is hilarious, real, and heartbreaking at the same time. Watch the episode on the Mariachi trying to find an apartment for his family and tell me you don’t want to cry. Another reason to watch this show: If you loved Narcos and Don Neto, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo is one of the main characters in Gentefied.


Every person who is trying to waste time needs a good police procedural a.k.a. detective story. Broadchurch is an English detective series that delivers on beautiful scenery and tremendous acting. It’s been around for a bit, but I just discovered it.


If you haven’t watched Laura Linney and Jason Bateman before in Ozark, then you have been missing out. Enough said. Waste your time now.

Black AF

In a lot of ways, Black AF plays on the mockumentary trope of Parks & Recreation, The Office, and Arrested Development, but the show pulls off the trope with one special, meta twist. Kenyon Barris, the main character in the show, plays himself, who is the creator of another famous mockumentary, Blackish. It’s a mockumnetary about a man who created a mockumentary. Besides the postmodernism, it’s a really funny show starring Rashida Jones opposite Kenyon Barris.

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How to Waste Time with Books

As I’m writing this, the birds are singing in my backyard, the white curtains in my office are blowing in the wind, and I’m not really thinking about COVID-19. I’m thinking about how to waste time, and right now, here are the books I’m recommending based on what I’ve read lately.

The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons

I would say The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons is probably one of my favorite books of 2020. In a lot of ways, it’s simply a supernatural love story featuring a hipster angel in Brooklyn. It’s almost as if Denis Johnson was trying to be funny and wrote a novel about being stuck in purgatory. Or, better yet, imagine a combination of Studio Ghibli meets Henry Miller. If you’re looking for a strange yet hip and sexy novel, then pick this up and waste some time.

Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

If you’re wasting time, then you might want to learn to think about time and space in new ways. Stephen Hawking, the legendary theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, created the perfect book for helping you stretch your imagination of what wasting time could even mean. There is a line in the book that I actually think a lot about. At one point, Hawking says:

“I have spent my life traveling across the universe, inside my mind.”

Stephen Hawking

For someone stuck inside their home, I can’t think of a more inspiring quote. Don’t let the limits of your physical space stop you from traveling the universe.

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Steph Cha is one of my favorite writers in Los Angeles, and her latest book, “Your House Will Pay,” is an exceptional read about the impact of the LA Riots generations after the fact. When I was a journalist in Los Angeles, I participated in LA Weekly’s tournament to find the greatest LA novel, and I certainly think that Cha’s latest needs to be in the conversation.

For more book related posts, check out my book recommendations from 2019.

How to Waste Time with Amazon Prime Video

What I have found is that Amazon Prime has some great programming lately, and it certainly has some fantastic movies. Here are some of my recommendations.

My Neighbor Totoro

I hate to admit this, but until quarantine, I had never seen a single Studio Ghibli film. Studio Ghibli is “one of the most acclaimed animation studios in the world, and the home of some of the most revered and beloved animated works to have ever graced the screen,” according to their website. The studio is based in Japan, and Hayao Miyazaki is the director. He is a legend, and the studio won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film in 2003.

Out of all the films, which I will be devouring over quarantine, the first one I watched was My Neighbor Totoro. I just love how the movie is a slow burn into the fantastic.

The Birdcage

Robin Wiliams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, enough said.

It’s funny I haven’t seen this movie since I was younger, and it’s aged pretty well, except for the son who comes off like an asshole. The reason I pulled this movie out of the vault is because the main character in “The Regrets” talked about how much they liked this movie.

Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky caught me by surprise. Yes, it’s a classic heist movie, and it’s created by the same people who brought us Ocean’s 11, but it features Adam Driver playing a southerner. I didn’t think it would be possible, but man, this was a fun movie.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is another film from Studio Ghibili, and it’s an anime Alice in Wonderland mixed with a bit DMT nightmare. This movie was beyond inspiring. It’s literally awesome in the true sense of the word.

How to Waste Your Time with Music

Over the last few weeks, a ton of great music has been given to the world, and I’ve rediscovered or been introduced to some different albums. Here are a few of my recommendations.

The Strokes, The New Abnormal

Haim, Women in Music Part III (Full album coming soon)

The Kooks, Unshelved Pt. 1

Mac Miller, Circles

Seu Jorge & Roge, Night Dreamer

Chassol, Big Sun

Flor de Toloache, Las Caras Lindas

Tim Maia, World Psychedelic Classics

How to Waste Time with Fantasy

If you want to see this last section as a nod to sexual fantasy or Fifty Shades of Grey, then I totally understand you going there. When in quarantine, couples of all types can discover whatever they want, and while I’m sure that’s happening all over the world, I’m not talking about that type of fantasy.

The fantasy that I’m talking about in this post is more of the ordinary everyday parts of the world. Just spend some time fantasizing about what you’re going to do after quarantine ends.

When quarantine is over, I can’t wait to go to my local coffee shops in South Park–either Seven Seas, Communal, or Dark Horse–and order the biggest latte they have. I can’t wait to stand in line, listen to the other people in front of me order, and then order myself. I can’t wait to listen to the espresso machine whispering into milk. I can’t wait to hold the latte in my hand, slip on a cover to protect my hand from the heat, and take my first sip.

I can’t wait to go to Yoga. I want to be in a room with a bunch of other people, beads of sweat dripping onto our mats. Shit, I don’t even care if someone farts. I just want to be able to enjoy being around other people working out without the fear of germs.

I can’t wait to just walk down the street without having to cross to the other side when I see someone. Honestly, I just can’t wait to share a sidewalk with someone again.

I can’t wait to drink a cold beer at a dive bar and pop in some money into a jukebox. Take a shot of whiskey. Listen to The Doors like I was 19-years old again playing pool and thinking I was cool.

There are many things I fantasize about when quarantine is over, but they are all the small and ordinary moments. Right now, during Covid, or any future pandemic or period of isolation, I’m recommending you waste time with passion and enjoy how exceptional the ordinary can be.

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