Back in late August I was no longer employed at a traditional job and was left to my own devices as to my future income and future goals. I already had some goals in mind for my future income (business income, side hustles like Uber and Rover, and a part-time job if necessary), but with all the options on the table it became evident that choosing a path forward and sticking with it was going to be a challenge.
A big problem I’ve been trying to work out since becoming an entrepreneur and “remote worker” has been how to make sure I’m improving myself and working toward my personal and professional goals, especially when the direction of how to reach those goals or even the goals themselves are not necessarily clear. I’m beginning to learn that having systems in place and sticking to them as much as possible frees up space for creativity and can help clarify how exactly you want to improve yourself and what goals you want to set and accomplish.
I have spoken with friends and a few acquaintances who are facing big changes as of this writing when it comes to their income sources and their daily routines. Many people seem to be confined to their homes and are now left to their own devices on the same things I dealt with last year. I am encouraging you to take all of this new-found down time as a way to evaluate yourself and what goals you want to pursue, and to take the time to test out systems that will make you productive and feel accomplished.
I am sharing below how I am trying to improve myself during this pandemic and associated quarantine, and would love to hear how you are trying to improve as well!
A) Washing my hands more (and touching my face less)
If there’s one behavior change that will likely stick with me for the rest of my life it will be singing Happy Birthday every time I wash my hands (hint: add the “and many mooooore” at the end to get to the full 20 seconds). A side benefit of this process is that it prompts me to check birthdays for that day so I don’t miss anyone to whom I wish to extend birthday greetings.
B) Structuring my time better
I will be making another post in the future regarding the specifics of my daily routine to provide ideas that you can use and to solicit ideas that I can apply, but for the moment I am attempting to avoid falling into the trap of lazing around and scrolling through Facebook and Instagram all day by having a hard and fast structure to my day. The structure includes productive periods and planned out relaxation periods, with household chores, physical activity and meals scattered throughout. I am also working on fully knowing and understanding that this will never work out perfectly, not being hard on myself when it inevitably doesn’t work out, and getting back on track as quickly as possible adjusting the plan as needed.
C) Learning new skills
If there was ever a time to run out of excuses for learning a new skill, that time would absolutely have to be right now. I have started a list of skills I would like to get better at in the next few weeks (currently on the list are Excel, Quickbooks and learning about affiliate marketing) and am incorporating watching free YouTube videos about all these things into my productive periods when other business items aren’t pressing. It fascinates me how much there is to learn out there for FREE, and being able to go down a YouTube rabbit hole while also improving yourself is my kind of win-win.
D) Finding new workouts that don’t involve equipment
I never liked that I’ve never felt motivated to do a ton of physical activity outside my normal gym time at Crunch and occasional one-off yoga class prior to all gyms being closed indefinitely. Therefore I would put off any sort of training during travel periods or other busy times, and it always felt like getting back into the regular routine was like trying to start a boulder rolling again with no momentum. However, in the last couple weeks we have been forced to find video workouts and classes that are also FREE and require no equipment. I know for a fact that I will be referring to these on future vacations and other times I would have normally put off physical activity now that I know how much is out there and how easy the sessions are to access. I would highly recommend doing these with a partner as I’ve found that doing these with Amanda have been huge for accountability reasons. We just completed a 2 mile run earlier today after finding how bad our (okay, my) cardio shape is in, and at this rate we just might start our half-marathon training again by accident.
E) Learning how to filter the news
There is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there these days, and if I know anyone that loves to capitalize on fear and uncertainty, it’s news organizations. From my perspective it has been getting harder and harder to filter out objective news out of the 24-hour constantly buzzing echo chambers on TV and online, and there’s no better time to learn where to get objective information than this life-and-death situation in which we currently find ourselves. A couple of tips: listen directly to experts (think medical doctors and public health officials) rather than watered-down second hand versions, and focus on what you should be doing for yourself, your family and your community. You have no control over whether the death toll from this pandemic will be 200,000 or 800 million, so focusing on the numbers the news loves to spit out for ratings will be doing yourself a disservice.
F) Becoming a better writer
This is an area that I have been putting off for a very long time, because I’ve always thought it’s a daunting task and to a certain extent I didn’t think people would really care what my thoughts would be on items on which I am not an expert. What I am starting to figure out, however, is that putting my thoughts on paper constantly makes me question the things I am writing down. If I’m really going to send out these thoughts to the world, I’ll need to do so with conviction and make sure my ideas are thoroughly thought out. So, for selfish reasons it seems, I have decided to incorporate a writing schedule into my week and hope to improve and refine my thoughts in the weeks to come.
G) How to get the most out of virtual interactions
I had never heard of Zoom prior to March 1, 2020, and have used it over ten times ever since. Although virtual meetings have not been new for a long time, something tells me they are about to be far more utilized and much more accepted practice than before the pandemic, and for good reason. We have a few scheduled meetings with clients that will be occurring over Zoom by necessity, and as a result we are taking the time to learn how to adjust our coaching style via videoconference and learning the most effective times to use graphics and/or screen shares to get the most positive effects.
H) Optimizing my routine
This is the point I have tinkered with the most since leaving a corporate setting and the point that adjusts the most on the fly. I am always evaluating and testing many portions of my daily routine, including: breakfast or no breakfast, timing of workouts, length of scheduled productive and non-productive blocks for best results, supplements and timing throughout the day, best places and times of day for writing and other focused work, and many others. I welcome any tips on what has helped you optimize your life as I and I’m sure many others are constantly looking for those tiny adjustments in your day that can have an exponential positive impact on the rest of their day and week.
I) Finding new podcasts and audiobooks
To be fair, I have been doing this long before this pandemic started. However, I have had a renewed focus recently on looking for podcasts and audiobooks with interesting people and topics that make me question my points of view and spark new interests that I didn’t realize I had before. I feel these are helping my mind stay sharp especially during this period of less face-to-face social interaction. Some of the podcasts that I listen to fairly religiously are Freakonomics Radio, The Joe Rogan Experience, The Tim Ferriss Show, ChooseFI, The Minimalists Podcast, and Mad FIentist . I also just finished listening to the audiobook Own the Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus, which I would highly recommend for people also looking to optimize their routine as the book contained a ton of highly actionable ideas.
J) Maintaining Perspective and Practicing Gratitude
This has felt surprisingly easy for me to do especially now that our lives are much different than they were just a few weeks ago. I think this is because our current situation puts into perspective how great we all had it prior to the pandemic and will give us a greater appreciation of “normal” once it returns. Even now, I find myself so grateful for little things like food in the refrigerator, the roof over our heads and walls hopefully slowing down the spread of disease, and supportive friends and family with the technology to be able to reach them consistently. I am also grateful for the bravery and selflessness of healthcare workers putting their own health on the line every day to the benefit of others, of food workers risking their own health to make sure we are fed, and of essential employees risking their own health to keep our lives as normal and comfortable as they can be during this crazy period. I am seeing another difficult period bringing out the best in people, and it gives me a ton of hope for the future beyond the pandemic.