(My) 12 ways to make the most of the coronavirus lockdown

(My) 12 ways to make the most of the coronavirus lockdown
25 March 2020
We are all in the same boat right now. The coronavirus crisis limits our range of activities, and the current lockdown period, as well as its aftermath, may last for months.

Luckily, I have stayed healthy so far, and I have the freedom to create a plan on how to best deal with it all. Instead of complaining, I am hellbent on using this extraordinary period in the best possible way. When I look back on it one day, I want to remember it as a period of experimentation, achievement, and personal growth.

To hold myself accountable, I am publishing my plan. If I don’t stick to it, it’ll be embarrassing for me.

Here goes my plan, in 12 short points:

1. No shaves until it’s over. First ever visit to a hipster barber next.

I have had the same short, stubbly facial hair for over 20 years. Experimenting with alternatives would have been tricky: creating a new style requires letting your hair grow for a while, which always results in a messy look. Who wants to go into meetings looking like someone who’s just been rescued off a raft that’s floated around the Pacific for weeks?

When I look back on it one day, I want to remember it as a period of experimentation, achievement, and personal growth.

The lockdown means I won’t have any meetings. Being marooned on the island of Sark, with just 300 other residents and only the occasional trip to the local supermarket, here’s my unique opportunity to try something new.

Assuming this is all going to take a while, I expect to be in for my first ever visit to a London barbershop in May or maybe even June. I’ll ask them to recommend a new look, based on whatever raw material they have to work with by then. I’m entirely open about what I’ll end up with.

Watch this space!

Swen soon to be

2. Write one personal email to a friend each day

Suddenly, there are more available hours in the day, so no more excuses not to catch up with a friend, check in with distant acquaintances, and revive old friendships.

One email a day will add up over the weeks. It’ll be a wonderful time for my social life, in a different kind of way.

3. Read five books a week

As you get older, you can read certain kinds of books faster. I usually need around 1-3 hours for business-related books, mainly because I know the subject matter, or because many books merely repeat the same key messages over and over.

As it happens, I recently stocked up significantly on books. Even if the postal service stopped, I’ve got enough reading material at home.

Five-a-week isn’t a major effort but it’ll add up to a sizeable amount of new knowledge over the coming weeks or months.

4. Five workouts per week

“I don’t have time today” is probably the most commonly used excuse for not working out.

With not much going on in terms of social life right now, that excuse no longer holds up.

I have factored in some off-days because a daily workout would be too much; your body needs pauses to consolidate.

On some days, I’ll be factoring in some unconventional workouts – like yesterday, where it meant carrying two cubic meters of firewood around the house (such is island life!).

But five concerted efforts per week will be part of my plan from now until we emerge from this lockdown.

5. Deal with ALL outstanding paperwork

Who doesn’t have outstanding paperwork?

In my case, it’s not taxes. My annual tax return on Sark is just one page, and I fill it out in less than 60 seconds. It doesn’t require any information about my income or assets, because the tax is solely based on the size of the property you live in.

However, like any other human being, I do have outstanding paperwork, some of which has been lying around for up to two years. If it’s not urgent, it never gets done.

By the time this virus affair is over, I want to be able to say that I’ve cleared it all.

6. Knock house maintenance over the head

Like paperwork, house maintenance is always easy to procrastinate on.

I have drawn up a list and started to deal with one item after another. Even if it only involves hiring someone who turns up after the lockdown has come to an end.

One of the achievements of this period will be that afterwards, I can easily sink back into the old routine of ignoring house-related issues for a year.

7. Exercise total control over my diet

I have always pursued a relatively healthy diet. But I’d have to be super-human to not veer off to a less-than-optimal diet while travelling, meeting, and entertaining.

The lockdown means being stuck at home with not a single restaurant to go to. It’s the ideal time to live off a perfect diet for a few weeks or months.

I always get better skin, lose weight, and feel better when I am holed up in my island hide-away. There are actually more local restaurants and bars to choose from than you’d expect from a small island. Still, I do usually go into a sort of quasi-self-isolation when I am here, even during times when there is no virus lockdown. Being super-clean on the diet side of things is not a challenging goal for me to pursue when I am at home.

Will I look ten years younger when this is over? Hmm, probably not, given the beard I’ll be growing…

8. Write more than ever before (and that means something!)

I often get asked how I manage such a large output of writing. Besides this blog, I also publish a second one dealing with investment ideas: www.undervalued-shares.com.

I am at my most prolific when the following three simple conditions are met:

  • Before going to bed, I have time to go through my files and think about the next day’s writing goals. I once wrote about this, check out “How to write while you sleep (really!)“. If you don’t go out in the evening, there is no excuse not to do this productivity-enhancing exercise before hitting the pillow. It can be applied to any writing-related tasks, including the writing of (complex) business emails.
  • I can use my morning hours for writing without any interruptions. My brain simply works best from 6am to noon. With no meetings and no travelling, I have this golden period for writing EVERY SINGLE DAY.
  • I can trick my brain into giving me a second, shorter golden period for writing by simply having a snooze in the afternoon. Sleep seems to reboot my brain. After a siesta, I can usually squeeze out another 2-4 hours of productive writing time. Again, I can now do this EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Boy, do you all have a lot of content coming your way!

9. No alarm clock

This one is a luxury and one that I will thoroughly enjoy.

I won’t set an alarm clock.

The lockdown means being stuck at home with not a single restaurant to go to. It’s the ideal time to live off a perfect diet for a few weeks or months.

It doesn’t mean I’ll sleep in every day. I am a natural early riser, and I keep a window open so that I am woken up by Sark’s plentiful birdlife (if the rising sun doesn’t do the job already).

Letting your body awake gently is also really good for your immune system. Double-win!

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

During the past four years, in particular, I have travelled an insane amount. In 2016, for example, I visited 41 World Heritage Sites all over the world. In 2017/18, I organised my life around the idea of wanting to live in a different city somewhere in the world each month.

Circumstances were right, and I simply made use of all available opportunities. Even I admit, though, that there is too much of a good thing. I have long said that occasionally, I had an urge to stop travelling and read up about the places I visited instead.

E.g., I did read a 700-page biography of Jerusalem before I went to Israel, but I was barely able to take in all the book’s details because they were overwhelming. Now that I have been to Jerusalem and have more context about the place, I want to read that book again.

While I can’t go anywhere physically right now, I’ll go back to places in my mind and learn more about them using books, YouTube, and other resources. It’s a process that’s probably similar to digesting a good meal.

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

The previous point will get my brain into the right place to eventually develop a yearning to see new places.

There are a whole bunch of places I want to research, to decide if I’d like to visit them (one such place is Nagorny-Karabach, the disputed territory). Obviously, that takes time to research.

Plus, once all this is over, there’ll probably be the best-ever travel deals to be had, and I’d like to be ready and snatch those cheap flights and hotels.

Thanks to my pretty well-stocked collection of travel guides for countries that I have never been to, I can easily plot a few future explorations.

12. Take up fishing again

As a child, I loved fishing. Sadly, when I was about 13, the German government introduced draconian legislation on fishing licenses, which put me out of business.

Today, I live in a place that is surrounded by the sea. The waters off Sark are extremely rich in fish. Anyone can go and fish in the sea; there is no license required. It takes me seven minutes to walk down the hill and fish from the pier.

When all this started, I ordered four books on angling, and placed a 97-item order with an online angling shop (not Amazon, but a well-established British firm).

I want to be able to look back at this period as the time when I was able to get into fishing again.

It’ll also take some pressure off the food supply chain, and feed into my healthy diet.

Fancy creating your own list?

I am a big believer in creating a list and placing yourself under a form of “social control”.

If your friends know that you have set yourself a goal, not fulfilling it will really hurt you.

My list is pretty long, and shouldn’t be a guideline for anyone else. I have no family to look after, few fixed obligations workwise, and I can afford to do all sorts of stuff. In that sense, I am lucky because I can focus this time on just myself.

For anyone else, I’d recommend setting two or three goals so that they’re easier to succeed. If you are really tied up, make it just one – anything counts! It’s not about competing with other list makers but doing what will make you feel good and enhance your life. Simply stick something about your goal(s) on your social media profile, and off you go!

In amidst all the misery this virus has brought (and is continuing to bring), let’s aim to use this period to create something new, and to have some positive memories to look back on once it’ll all be over.

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