A Few Tips for Surviving Coronavirus Lockdown

Staying productive

If you’re lucky you will still be working and hence need to be productive while at home. This can be very tricky with the entire family in the house. Even without this distraction, it is hard to stay motivated with important global events happening, uncertainty about the future and a radical change in working style.

  • Turn off news and social media during your new workday: the official news and informal anecdotes that come with virus news are a serious productivity killer. It is hard to ignore them, but often an end of day summary is probably just as useful as seeing things immediately. This is hard, but shutting off the stream is important to allow yourself to focus on other things. Consider redirecting Facebook and the major news sites to a blank page on your primary work machine.
  • Try some “one thing” thinking and carve out at least a few hours a day to work on what’s most important to you: Gary Keller’s book “The One Thing” is a little repetitive and trite in places, but its central message is worth the book’s weight in gold. The key idea is that work is wasted if it’s not working towards achieving your highest priority. In operationalizing this, the author suggests making sure at least 4 hours (half your day) is dedicated to working on what is most important to you. It might not be obvious what this is (subject of another post I guess and the book certainly helps!), but mostly these are things which help you achieve meaningful things in the long term. In other words, they are things that rise above the noise of the day to day. In these strange times this might be: content you know would be useful for your team/business/customers, new functionality for products, a book capturing your knowledge in a new way etc. The reason this (and the allocation of a chunk of time) becomes so important in this changed world is that making progress on large items each day is likely more valuable (and certainly feels more valuable) than being stuck pinging back and forth between small items. It might not work for everyone, but consider finding yourself a meaningful project which you try to make progress on every day. I found this really valuable.

Fitness & diet

This is a really tough topic. Being confined to a small space is even more claustrophobic if you are used to running or walking every day. I was training for two marathons before the quarantine kicked in. Both races are now canceled, but the impulse to move about is still there.

  • Build a home mini-gym: even if you don’t have much space, it’s worth staking out a zone in your residence for fitness. This helps pool fitness equipment and helps everybody living there recognize that it might be needed. Our initial shot at this was to lay down exercise mats, put up a long-neglected pull-up bar and dumbbells. However, we’ve now ordered a static spinning bike and I know several people that have ordered treadmills. Overkill? If the lockdown lasts 2 weeks, probably, but if it is 4, 6, 12, … we’ll be pretty happy with the investment. Amazon in Spain is already running short of pretty much all home gym equipment so it’s worth deciding early if you feel you need this.
  • Commit to a routine: not being allowed to walk outside is a little extreme but whatever your lockdown situation is, it’s worth identifying a part of your day for exercise. Committing to a physical workout early helps you feel you’re doing something. It may also be a good time to learn something new. I’ve been using Freelytics for a while and this generates new bodyweight exercises each couple of days — a real help right now! (Other similar systems include 8Fit, Fitocracy, and others) I’m also taking baby steps in beginners Yoga (aided by youtube).

This will probably last longer than you think

This is probably the most important point of this post. As I already mentioned in the fitness section, the need to refrain from going out in public and meeting in groups is likely to be with us for quite some time. Spain’s initial announced lockdown period was 15 days, but it was almost immediately clear it would last longer. Today, rumors are “over Easter at least”. In Italy, the lockdown protocols have just been extended past March 25th as well.

Financial Wellbeing

This is the toughest subject of all. Some of us are in stable jobs and have employers that will stand by their employees through the crisis, but many will face either temporary or permanent loss of their jobs. The virus itself might affect some, but far more will be affected by the behavioral changes the virus will bring in reduced travel, reduction in social gatherings and so on. About the only thoughts I can give here are:

  • If you are facing a loss of income: first and foremost it’s likely important to think through how long challenges might last in your industry. Some of the changes could take years to undo, in some cases, they may never return to the previous normal. It may, unfortunately, be a time to seek new skills and ask for some help from friends, family and whatever society can provide to branch out in some new directions.

Conclusions

I’m hard pushed to say whether this post is optimistic or pessimistic! Hopefully, some of the tips do help make lockdown more pleasant. Also though it’s hard to ignore the fact that the virus impact is likely to be quite long-lived and have deep effects. Getting in the mindset that this will take a while to work through is probably the most important takeaway.

Recovering ex-CEO. Thoughts are my own and don't represent my employer.

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