171 days at home – my coronavirus lockdown scorecard

171 days at home – my coronavirus lockdown scorecard
4 September 2020

Few things are as motivating as making a public commitment.

Even if no one had read it, I still would have published my to-do list for the coronavirus lockdown period. Having it out there meant I had to perform.

Little did I know that this extraordinary period was going to last MONTHS rather than weeks.

Between 18 March 2020 and today, I didn’t leave the Channel Islands. The last time I spent 171 days in one place was in 2001 when I didn’t travel for half a year following 9/11. Between 2002 and spring 2020, the longest I’ve ever spent in one place was eight weeks.

As you are reading this, I will be on my way to London.

Now is the time to hold myself accountable.

A rapid assessment of my goals set in March 2020

1. No shaves until it’s over

I did stop shaving and went into full hipster mode.

Never let an opportunity for (safe) experimentation go to waste.

Feedback was mixed. Some genuinely liked it, others didn’t. I felt it added nothing but made me look a decade older.

Swen corona beard

The next photo is me on day 1 after I went back to normal a week ago. Since then, my trademark stubbles have grown back.

Swen after corona beard

I had wondered if a beard would suit me or if it would be an effective branding tool for launching a new stage in my life. It didn’t, but I am glad that I got a conclusive answer to those questions.

Never let an opportunity for (safe) experimentation go to waste.

2. Write one personal email a day

I completely failed and became very inwardly focussed instead. When you don’t feel like it, there is nothing you can (or should) do. Never hesitate to change a plan!

3. Read five books a week

I overperformed by a fat margin. However, that only worked because I carefully considered the right reading technique. Read my article “7 powerful habits to make your reading more effective” if you’d like to learn about it.

4. Five workouts a week

I live on an island that is mostly flat and which tourists love to visit for its natural beauty. Sark is ideal for running, and run I did!

In terms of cardio, I am now the fittest I have been since 2007 when I reached peak fitness.

Having used the lockdown period to get myself off to a flying start, I can now continue to build on that.

Several articles are coming your way about fitness-related aspects – something else I’ve educated myself about during the past six months.

5. Deal with all outstanding personal paperwork.


6. Knock house maintenance over the head


7. Exercise total control over my diet

I finish this crazy period weighing the same as in my early 20s, i.e. just where I want to be. It’s so much easier to have your ideal weight when you are not incessantly travelling or entertaining professionally.

A week of non-stop dining out in London is coming up. Temptations galore. HELP!

8. Write more than ever before

By God, I did.

A quick count reveals I’ve published around 900 pages in total – the equivalent of more than 5 pages each day for 171 days straight.

I don’t think I’ve ever written more during a comparable period – and then some. These were just my published articles, not counting replies to reader emails, etc.

Someone’s gotta do it.

Swen Rocky meme

9. No alarm clock

I mostly stuck to that. I can confirm that waking up naturally improves both your metabolism and skin.

Sadly, civilised life and flight schedules will all but make this impossible going forward. It was nice while it lasted.

10. Read about trips from the past and feed on memories

I did! Never before did it taste so sweet to have so many travelling memories.

11. Plan one new trip for the post-lockdown period

I am about to head to Poland, where I’ll be leading a group of 30 investors who want to learn about Polish companies and the Polish equity market. I’ve signed up superb partners for the event, and it’ll be the largest ever trip that I’ve organised for readers. Despite corona, I am totally booked out. Exciting!

That trip will be quite the way to come out of this period.

12. Take up fishing again

I had not previously appreciated how sea fishing is entirely different from sweetwater fishing. Lots had to be learned anew. Many afternoons ended with nothing to show for, though they always involved lots of fresh air and stunning sea views. My island angling buddy Andy, who knew even less than me, was a great sport throughout and always brought non-alcoholic beer along.

In the end, we persevered. As men of action always do.

This is my official “Summer of 2020” photo.

Swen fishing

The big learnings of 2020

The more you do, the more unexpected things you learn.

I always wanted to remember the coronavirus lockdown period for something positive. As a result of my to-do list, I can now take three significant learnings and realisations into the future.

1. The incredible value of spending time by yourself

2020 is shaping up to be one of my most productive and most successful years ever, and certainly so in terms of self-development and creating growth potential for the years ahead. I could not have done it without the luxury of spending almost half a year (!) mostly by myself.

A week, a weekend, a day, an evening or just an hour by yourself can produce beneficial results.

It’s an extreme example and not practical for most people. However, solitude and alone time definitely get way too bad a rap. They can be extraordinarily useful to get ahead.

A week, a weekend, a day, an evening or just an hour by yourself can produce beneficial results.

At some point in my 50s or 60s (if and when my career permits), I’d love to disappear to a remote island for a year of focussed me-time and re-emerge with something amazing.

Until I get to do that, I’ll fiendishly defend whatever pockets of quality time by myself I can get.

Here are three articles you might like:

The anti-social secret of success (Financial Times, 2019) <= highly recommended!!!

Why You Should Find Time to Be Alone With Yourself (New York Times, 2019)

People are overrated (Taki’s Magazine, 2020)

2. Our body needs way less food than we were made to believe

One of the most popular articles I’ve ever published was “1 meal per day for 3 months – a tool for productivity and success?“. Initially an experiment and focussed effort to lose a bit of weight, “OMAD” turned into a permanent feature of my lifestyle. I always leave room to manoeuvre when my busy social and professional life demands, but I also sprinkle in the odd day of not eating at all.

So far, on days when I skipped food, I didn’t work out. We can’t work out when we have not eaten, right?

During the past 171 days, I’ve experimented with combining the following:

  • 48h fasts.
  • Working out during these periods (1h+ runs on one or both days).

It was a double experiment. I approached the subject quite carefully, and then pushed the envelope further when it felt safe to do so.

Not only did it feel amazingly good, as in feeling cleansed, energised, and focussed.

I realised there is almost no immediate connection between putting food in my mouth and having energy. I did some of the best runs after not having eaten for 36h.

The more I explore the subject of diet, the more I wonder if our consumer society has manipulated us into eating way more than we actually need to function well.

The logical next question is, what does this overconsumption do to us?

There is more to be learned about all this, and you can expect one or two articles coming your way once I have educated myself about it a bit further.

I am not evangelical about the subject of diet – each to their own. I merely share my experience and observations. If you are interested in the topic of fasting, I can’t recommend highly enough to look into it and see if it is for you. I wish someone had taught me about it decades earlier!

3. The place (also) maketh the man

The crisis that erupted on the back of the global pandemic has reminded us how fragile the systems that our lives depend on are.

Have we ever seen such far-reaching change in such a short period? Many things that would have seemed unlikely or impossible just six months ago have by now become normal.

As Lenin once said: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.

What next? I don’t know for sure, and no one does.

I do know for sure, however, that I am in the right place to make the most of this extraordinary period.

In most places, people are currently facing:

  • Ever higher taxes.
  • Restrictions on their freedom (many of them, arbitrary).
  • Distractions, e.g. because of political instability.

Moving to Sark in 2017 was a bit of an oddball decision at the time.

Now, I can say with confidence that time proved me right.

As I never tire to point out, there are nearly 200 jurisdictions on this planet. What are the chances you were born in the one that is exactly the right one for the current period of your life?

Being based where I am based, I was able to use the coronavirus lockdown as a period of personal growth and progress. Higher taxes won’t happen on Sark, and few things are likely to change because Sark likes staying the way it is – and it has done so since 1565.

As I never tire to point out, there are nearly 200 jurisdictions on this planet. What are the chances you were born in the one that is exactly the right one for the current period of your life?

To mull over this aspect for yourself, check back to my 10 ideas for dramatically changing your work environment (or moving country!).

If you ever considered changing location – maybe corona provides you with the ideal opportunity? Make it a period of positive change and growth, that’s all I can say.

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