Like everyone else, I’m stuck at home, feeling anxious and feeling like I’m in a perpetual state of limbo. I have zero plans scheduled. For someone who is trying to maximize daily output, this is a weird state to be in, just drifting along. I want to refocus away from the distraction on news cycles and Netflix and begin to reclaim my days. I went through everything in my life that I could improve upon, now that I have this unexpected time.
Start With a Daily Schedule
We started by planning out each day. In the evening, our family sits down and creates a schedule for the following day. We take it one day at a time and keep it simple.
Here’s an example from this past Monday:
7:00–8:30 Writing, quiet time
9:00–10:00 Go for a walk, stretch
10:00–12:00 Work on my business, kids electronics time, Brenna flowers
12:00–1:00 Lunch and games with kids
1:00–4:00 Work on taxes, kids reading or playing with toys
6:00–7:00 Make dinner together
7:00–8:00 Family time, watch a show
8:00–9:00 Get the kids ready for bed and read to them
9:00–10:00 Reading and bed
Once we started writing a daily schedule the night before, it gave everyone a bit of clarity on how to approach the day. We eliminated drifting.
With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. — Eleanor Roosevelt
The items on this list are in no particular order. Some are fun, and some are tedious, but all of them will help to give you a renewed sense of purpose and control.
1. Writing or Journaling
Writing should be the first thing you do in the morning. Your mind is active, and you’ll want to capture all your thoughts. I’ve utilized different writing practices, but the one I use is a basic version of morning pages. Use a pen, any paper, and start writing down a stream of consciousness. Even though this is a private activity, I sometimes feel self-conscious. It’s not important what you say at first, just put pen to paper. Looking through old journal entries, I found passages where I wrote I have nothing to say twenty times before diving into a personal story about getting cut from a hockey team.
I usually spend 10–20 minutes writing. I don’t think there’s a best practice for morning journaling. The benefits are the same whether you tell stories, write down goals, to-do lists, or complain about your boss. The act is the act.
If you’ve never meditated, starting now might be the most beneficial step you can take to bringing a renewed sense of clarity to your life. I practice a simple style of mindfulness meditation. Find a place in your space that’s quiet and calm with good natural light or soft (non-florescent) lighting. Usually, I prefer using a cushion to prop myself up, but it’s not a big deal. You can sit in a chair or lie on the floor. Laying down if you’re still sleepy might not be the best idea. I think 15 minutes is the right amount of time to meditate. The first five minutes my mind is all over, the next five I’m a bit back and forth, and the last five I’m experiencing stillness. It’s always surprising to me that by clearing my mind, I’m able to then refocus on the essential things.
3. The Magic Art of Tidying Up
A few years ago, we read and followed Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her process is genuinely life-changing. Now that you’re in your space 24 hours a day turning it into a place that brings you joy is more important than ever.
4. Practice Essentialism
Greg McKeown wrote an excellent book titled Essentialism. Its premise is not about getting less done; it’s about getting only the right things done. What that means is beginning to examine everything you do and start making decisions on what is truly important to your life.
It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us. — Greg McKeown
5. Bodyweight Workouts
If you haven’t already run out and purchased your Peloton, you should try a bodyweight workout. I sit at a desk all day, and I’ve introduced stretching and a simple exercise routine that I do every couple of hours.
6. Reconnect With Family and Friends
I’m a bit of an introvert, and laying low is not such a terrible thing. But consider how your older relatives in self-quarantine are feeling. I’ve been trying to get in touch with my parents every day. We’ve been using FaceTime, and I know getting to see their grandkids every day is something they appreciate. I also spoke with my college roommate and a few old friends. A great place to start is just sending them a note, “Hey, I was thinking about you. I hope you’re doing OK.”
7. Read Both Fiction and Non-fiction Books
I’ve always been a reader, but lately, the non-fiction books I’ve been reading are focused on business, marketing, and personal growth. I’ve gotten away from reading for pleasure.
My first job after graduating from university was a design position at The New Yorker magazine. Everyone I interacted with was highly intelligent and well-read; it was embarrassing how little I knew about literature. My 22-year-old self became determined to turn myself into an “intellectual.” A writer friend recommended I start with the classics and gave me the list of Easton Press 100 Greatest Books.
Reading on my morning subway commute, I made it through at least 50 of the books. But I must have read another 100 books from specific authors that I enjoyed. I didn’t quite make it to being an “intellectual,” but I certainly increased my vocabulary. Reading literature provides your brain with examples of correct grammar, which helps you become a better writer and, more importantly, a more other-centered communicator.
8. Start a Side Hustle
It’s probably not the time to start driving for Lyft or reselling items on Craigslist. What you can be doing is selling things online. Create an online course, start a podcast, write and publish an ebook or write for an excellent platform like Medium! Find ways to monetize your existing knowledge and experience. If you try something different right now, you’ll be gaining valuable new expertise to use in the future as well.
I had an idea for a t-shirt design store, but it took me a long, long time to finally launch. My go-to excuse was always not enough time. I started working from home, and between freelance jobs, I began building the store. I made it on the Shopify platform. I use Printful, a print on demand provider, to produce all the products. My store is Create & Destroy.
9. Wake the Zombies
I’ve worked at SaaS (software as a service) companies for the past five years. There’s a saying at these businesses, never wake the zombies. Zombies are people who’ve signed up for their monthly service and never use it, and the companies keep charging them every month for it.
Make a list of all the monthly subscription you’re paying for. Go through your credit card statements and find every recurring payment. After we did this, I saw that we were paying for a Skype account for the past year. We signed up for it to make video calls to Germany one time but forgot to cancel.
It’s also an excellent time to evaluate the necessity of every subscription you have. We’re keeping Netflix, but do we also need Disney+, Crave, and Amazon Prime? Don’t be a zombie.
10. Create a Will
Not because you’re going to die from COVID-19, everyone needs to have a will. It would be an incredible pain in the ass for your family to deal with your estate if you do not have a will. You will get to decide who gets your property instead of your State’s Laws.
Although the end of life is something you probably don’t want to dwell on, deciding what will happen to your assets and personal possessions after your death is essential. Preparing a Will is the simplest way to ensure that your funds and property will be distributed according to your wishes. Not having a will is an incredible pain in the ass for your family, to deal with your estate if you do not have a Will.
A will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children. If you die without a will, those wishes may not be followed. Further, your heirs may be forced to spend additional time, money, and emotional energy to settle your affairs after you’re gone. — Investopia
Any person over the age of 18 who is of sound mind and memory can write a Will. It doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. A Will created by you is legally binding, but having it notarized makes the process in court move faster. A great place to start is going to a free online service like:
11. Financial Health Check
We are entering into scary times. The stock market is in a freefall, and there will be significant disruptions to every industry, including job losses. It’s going to be a long time before we know how much damage has been done to the economy. As painful as it might be to look at your 401k or other investment accounts, you need to know where you stand financially. Go through every account and write out a list of every asset. Next, write down every liability, credit card debt, mortgage, car payments, etc. Whether your current situation feels good or bad, knowing exactly where you stand financially brings a tremendous amount of relief.
Investopedia is an excellent resource for more information on financial health.
12. Call your internet/cable/mobile providers
Now is a good time to call these services and negotiate lower rates. I decided to cancel cable TV and only keep Netflix and internet. I called my provider and was forwarded to someone from the customer retention team. We went over my plan to see how to lower my monthly charges. In the end, they knocked $50 off, and I kept everything the same minus sports channels. They understand what’s coming, and fortunately, companies have been empowering their support teams to work with clients.
13. Homeschooling Your Kids and Also Yourself
Do you have a newfound appreciation for your kid’s teachers yet? I always thought homeschooling was a bit odd, but now every parent gets to be a teacher. We’re technically on spring break and slowly coming up with a plan. It’s a good thing that all those “odd” people have it all figured out. Here’s a good article from Parents magazine on where to get started.
When this is all over, are we going to get back to business as usual immediately? There are so many uncertainties in the world that job security is in question, and it might be time to consider a career change. If you’ve considered entering another field, auditing classes is a smart way to test the waters. There are many free online courses available, check out: 500 Free Ivy League Classes
For fun, we also signed-up for a family drawing class on Udemy.
14. Organize Passwords
I’ve been using a Lastpass free account for a while, 1Password is another good option. It’s embarrassing, but before I switched, I used the same password on almost every account. Then I would change one or two characters, but it became so confusing I would need to continually input three variations before I’d find the correct password. It was easy to set up, but a bit time consuming to try and identify every account I used. After I finished and added the Lastpass app on my phone, it’s been amazing.
Good for you if you managed to grab a bag of flour and some yeast before they sold out. If you haven’t tried no-knead bread, it is as amazing as everyone says it is. I’ve used this recipe from Jo Cooks many times, and I’m always floored when it turns out amazing.
A personal note. Optimism doesn’t come naturally to me. During this time, I’m struggling along with everybody. It’s been hard for me to think about the future. I know we’ll get through. Don’t shut yourself down, and you’ll come out much stronger and wiser on the other side. I’m sending you positive energy