This blog isn’t the usual reminder about not being selfish, despite what the picture that accompanies it may suggest. When I decided to go with the “It’s all about you” photo for this one I was really focused on you and your experience in 2020. I wanted to share how I approach a Year in Review that I do. I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, as I don’t wait ’til January to start new things.
A couple of key questions that I ask myself: Did I feel like I just survived, or did I thrive? How well prepared for a major life change was I prepared for in advance of the pandemic? Let’s get into my review, and then hopefully you can follow suit and do your own review to learn from.
I will always remember the exact moment when I knew the pandemic stuff was going to really impact the world. I was sitting in a bar with an old friend talking about some business stuff when I happen to catch on the TV that the NBA was canceling the rest of its season. This was March 12th, 2020 and sh*t got real in a hurry from that point forward. The cascade of events that followed was truly crazy and unprecedented. Everyone was forced to adjust to the new normal very quickly. This included things like working from home, takeout only restaurants, and wearing facemasks everywhere. But there was much more to the story for most, and that is the stuff I want to focus on.
I am very fortunate that my company was able to pivot to work from home status. We did is very quickly, like over one weekend, and we never missed a beat. The staff did an amazing job of keeping the flow of things going and the level of service we provide never waivered. Personally, I am a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t tap into the work from home program sooner; I had the flexibility to, I had the freedom and the set up, but I was stuck in my ways of going to the office five days a week. This was not the only discovery, as it became clear that after working at home for a month that much of my time in the office was, shall we say, less than productive.
We used to have management meetings that routinely took over two hours. We had interdepartmental meetings on the reg, and they were a time-suck. And I would get bored and wander into someone’s office just to “visit”. Now, neither one of us are getting anything done. Clearly my definition of “work” needed an update, and by a weird twist of fate, COVID19 provided that. I learned through the first month of these changes that when I really focused on my job tasks, I could do my work in five instead of 8 hours. I also start my days earlier, and therefore am finished much earlier in the day. I can literally have an afternoon “off” when I start my day at 6:00AM and finish by noon. My dog is certainly happy about this too, as one of my new habits is to take him to the park in the early afternoon, going for a long walk. The previous approach, which was to hurry through the process so I could get to the office, felt like a morning chore. Now I look forward to this, as I have discovered I really enjoy this as well. I am far more relaxed and focused when I do this type of activity a couple of days a week if not more.
Also, by finishing my work day at noon (with an end-of-day email check) I have spent a lot of time working on my speaking and consulting side gig. I have done a bunch of virtual talks for some of the universities here in AZ, as well as some local businesses. This would have been much tougher to pull off if I was at the office all day long. When my wife is home, I have far more time to spend with her than before. As a nurse, she works three to four days a week and then is home the rest of the week. My new schedule allows her and I to spend more time together, and she joins me on those long walks with the dog whenever her schedule allows. Thanks to COIVD, the above is a recap of one of the major upgrades in my lifestyle. I learned I was not as efficient or as effective as I could be, and that was affecting my lifestyle. If I was going to grade myself in this area, I would give myself a C+.
Now, an area that I did a lot better than a “C+” grade would be in, let’s call it Household Preparedness. Because I have been of the “be prepared” mindset ever since I was a Boy Scout, my household had all of the items we needed to get by. As I am sure most recall, the “great toilet paper rush of 2020” had people fighting in the aisles of the grocery stores or standing in line for hours to get into Costco to buy what they needed.
Now, a couple of qualifiers on this:
1. My house is just my wife and I
2. We both work, and our household income is better than average
3. We live a frugal lifestyle to begin with
I am sharing these details because I know everyone has different circumstances that they have to deal with. But for us, we were prepared ahead of time with what we needed and didn’t have to go throw elbows at the store to get supplies. We watched on the news as things became more and more unsettled, and didn’t have too many concerns because of our preparedness. THAT WAS A GAMECHANGER, and a huge peace of mind for us. I was also able to help out my sister and her kids because of this, and was very happy to do so. Because we planned ahead, our lives did not become an “every man for himself” approach like some cleared undertook.
My advice on this is to, little by little, accumulate more than you need of the things you use. You don’t need to spend $500 in one shot on stuff to have on hand. But as you walk through the store on a weekly basis, look for deals on things that you would use and snag them. I always have toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies and other items from the Dollar Store in a box in a closet. We have a second refrigerator in the garage and that is always stocked up with frozen meat, fruit, and veggies. When we add to the stock, it goes to the back of the freezer and we use the stuff in the front. It is a rolling inventory to make sure things don’t expire or get freezer burnt and become unusable. I would estimate that if necessary we would not need to leave our house for three months if circumstances required it. In addition, we have one year’s worth of my salary in the bank, so of either of us lost their job during this pandemic, we would be just fine financially for quite a while. THAT is real peace of mind, and it is achievable in little steps if you think about it and map out a plan. In this area, I give myself an A.
Another area that is well within your control, if you choose to prioritize it, is your fitness level. My wife and I quit our gym memberships in April of 2020 after it seemed quite apparent that the pandemic was going to linger. We had some workout equipment on hand already, but we immediately started searching OfferUp and other discount places like Goodwill for dumbbells and other home gym equipment. Before long, we had a nice collection of things we could take to the park with us and work out outside. It was hot here in Phoenix of course, so we did early morning workouts to ease the issues with the heat. Near our house is a park with a freeway overpass bridge that we would also use for running sprints up the ramp, running the stairs, and other “fun” stuff. I have a bunch of videos of this on my Instagram page if you want to see. The point is, we pivoted quickly, and made the best of the situation. I actually miss those workouts; we are back at the gym these days, and go early to avoid too many people there to make me concerned about our health and safety. As soon as it warms up, we will be back at the park once again.
By being fit, we both have less concerns about the COVID virus itself. While good fitness doesn’t insulate us from getting the virus, studies have shown that a strong immune system and a high fitness level is key to lessening the impact of COVID. This is why many younger adults and kids are not seeing the devastating impact that older and/or people with underlying conditions like obesity, diabetes, being a smoker, etc. are seeing. In addition to this, the personal discipline, the endorphins, the sun exposure (for both mood and vitamin D) and many other benefits are there for the taking if you just apply a little effort. A long walk or a run require no more investment than a pair of shoes and the time needed to do it.
The benefits, however, are far reaching and should not be missed out on. If you have read or heard any of my other posts, you know I was a former pro racquetball player, and that a high level of fitness has been a cornerstone of my lifestyle. Yes, I know I talk about this incessantly, but I repeat it to make sure people understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just for athletes, it is for everyone. In this area, I give myself an A-, as I could always do a little more.
One more area that I like to evaluate is my time management throughout the past year. I did not start playing video games, binge watch movies or tv series, or endlessly surf through social media. I did not (and DO NOT) look at my life like I have “time to kill”. I learned a bunch of things this year, including how to do a YouTube channel, video editing, and am always watching videos on how to market myself more effectively. I have written over 100 blog posts in 2020. I have grown my speaking business DURING THE PANDEMIC. I didn’t put things on hold, think that the world conspired against me to delay or ruin my new venture, or anything like that. The world changed, and I changed with it.
Consulting and good advice never go out of style, its just that format and delivery that did. So I pivoted and changed the way I approach this, simple as that. If there is a will, there is ALWAYS a way to do something. And since I spend a lot of time at home now, I do not have the TV on in the background all day long. The news sucks, there is rarely time spent on reporting happy, nice or good things from around the world. It is a 24/7 onslaught of things like what happened Jan 6th, 2021. CNN had its highest rating ever o that day, and they perpetuate the hysteria for the purpose of selling as much advertising as possible at the highest rate possible. I was tuned into this while it was going on, as it was such a crazy thing to witness. I was concerned about the outcome and the damage, both physical and emotional, to the Capitol and the country. Two hours of that was plenty, and I turned it off. Five minutes of news the next day told me what new details emerge, and I was up to speed once again. CNN does not need my attention any more than that.
In this area, I also give myself an A-; there is always more I could do, but I did a good job of not changing these things in my life (which was the right approach) I did not become guilty of wallowing in my own boredom, endlessly playing video games to pass the time, or up my consumption of world events. Social media has a lot of negative aspects to it, and so I canceled my Facebook account, and only check in on Insta and Twitter once or twice a day for no more than ten minutes at a time. Most of my posts go out on a pre-scheduled basis through Buffer, mainly so that I am not logging in all to the time to post things, and getting sucked into the vortex that social media is.
If you review this list, what I do is make myself accountable and responsible for as much of my life as possible. I didn’t play victim, I didn’t feel sorry for myself and I certainly didn’t waste time. I get more sleep, more sh*t done and enjoy life now more than maybe any other time in my life. You can do the same, regardless of what your starting point is. Slowly, step by step, walk the path forward. Make improvements and adjustments as you go. Fine tune the areas that you already do well in, make sweeping changes in the places you don’t. It really is that easy. Only things that gets measure can be improved, so do your own review and make notes. Map out a plan and get to work, you will be much better off because it.