I know what you’re thinking. Not another COVID-19 blog. Yet, if I drew your attention, feel free to carry on as I describe how I used COVID-19, and the whole working from home period to gear up my life in ways I had not expected.

First of all, I have to admit I sometimes feel left out of the rain while scrolling through Medium. I am an avid productivity geek and read as many productivity-improving articles as one could possibly read. I sometimes wonder if that is pure procrastination or a true journey towards productivity. As I said though, I often feel I am not part of the target group. Typically, the persons that write these productivity and habit related articles seem to be successful independent professionals (or: Entrepreneurs!), in their thirties, without kids, or a mortgage. I am 33 years old of age and happily married to the woman I dearly love, have been with the same employer for over a decade, am also ludicrously in love with our two-year-old son, and two years ago, my wife and I bought the house we want to live in for at least the next 15 to 20 years. But here’s the good news (and why I include this part): we, ‘the ordinary people’ (pun intended), can also do cool stuff. You don’t need to be a freelance writer, to gear up on life!

So, you might ask, what areas of your life did you gear up on exactly? Well, without further ado, here they are:

  • I upped my physical condition by losing weight steadily
  • I started running again, three times a week
  • I finally developed a daily routine
  • I really started to put some of the principles of working smart into practice
  • I practiced craftsmanship and boy did I like it

About Loosing Weight

Okay, let’s start with the first one. For some years now, I have been ‘on the edge’ with regards to my weight. I am almost two meters long and don’t feel fat but sometimes my shirts don’t fit that comfortably anymore. which means either my wife messed up the laundry or I enjoyed life a little too much. Likely the latter. So, for some time now, I really wanted to lose a few kilos but never really succeeded. Well, I am happy to let you know that, since I started working from home, I lost some serious weight, in just a few weeks. I did not adhere to any specific diet, I just applied some basic principles:

  • Start late, stop early. Or: intermittent fasting. Or: replace breakfast with coffee and water early morning and do not consume lots of snacks after eight. I haven’t read a book or article on it so don’t blame me if this isn’t it, or not to the fullest. But it works for me.
  • Also on the list of intermittent fastening, I believe: drinking lots of water. Whenever I stand up, I try to empty a bottle of my Dopper as well.
  • I often cook, and I often cook plenty. Which means there are always leftovers when we have finished dinner. I usually take the ‘honor’ of consuming the leftovers, one to save on garbage, two because I just love food. But that does mean I will often eat too much.
  • I started to exercise on a regular base again. For multiple reasons, including losing weight but also because I signed up for another edition of Mud Masters later this year.

Starting To Run

Talking about exercise… Another thing that has been on my list for months, if not years. Back in the days, before I moved into an office routine, I used to be quite fit, workout on a regular base and really had no issues with my weight. Fast forward ten years and it is becoming an issue, by my personal definition. I sit more, work out less and have gained weight. During this COVID period, I have started to run on a regular base. Nothing special. Trying to hit 5KM within 30 minutes first of all. And once we got that, let’s see if we can extend it to 10KM in 1 hour. But most important: regular runs. Don’t skip a week. I at max skip two days before I force myself to run again. Routine.

Okay, so about that daily routine

I have never been a very good early riser. On days where I leave the bed before my wife does, she is usually the one to kick me out of bed. The days she goes first are thankfully used as moments to snooze. Well, here comes COVID. We’re both at home. And because her rhythm is different, I find myself in this unpleasant position where I am the first to start a new day, every day. So, with no excuses left at all, I had one thing left to do, but to do it. So, I am now sticking to a morning routine where I always wake up at 6.51, in order to go down at 7.00. I start the day by making coffee and reading a bible part, before glancing over some articles I want to read on Blendle or Medium. My working day starts at 8.00 and I make sure I have something worthwhile, focus-necessary to do each morning. Email remains off until 11.00.

Working Smart

For all you non-Dutch-speaking people: I am sorry. You’re missing out on something great, a book called Grip that is focused on one thing only: working smart. I believe an English version is in the making though but you’d have to ask the author! Similar to myself, Rick is passionate about working smarter (not harder) and has written a very practical and useful book about it. Gearing up my productivity and sculpting my routines, I used a variety of techniques from his book to help me out. Things like my annual plan, my quarterly review and working through my day in the right sequence, focusing on what’s really important are just some of the things that really helped me out.

Craftsmanship. Times 2.

Craftsmanship. Those of you that have read Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” know what I am talking about. Rather than following your passion hoping somebody is willing to pay you for it, Newport suggests adopting a craftsmanship mentality. If you want to achieve something, make sure you get the necessary training, equip yourself with the right tools and practice. I have done that in two different ways. First of all, I have used this period to finish two internet courses. I completed Elements of AI. And I completed Microsoft’s Azure Fundamentals. Two courses that are not in my line of expertise. Yes, I work in IT but have primarily sat on the business side of things. So, those two courses presented a challenge to me. It took courage to start and persistence to finish. The second element here is more practical. One of the examples Newport brings in is when referring to craftsmanship is the example of a carpenter. And until a year ago, I would have probably told you I was not a good carpenter whereafter I’d suggest buying new furniture instead of building it. Over the past few months though, I have constructed a new bed for our son, I built a proper working station for my kamado BBQ and just before Easter I completed a new dinner table, to be placed in the garden. Not everything is perfect but boy have I been proud of myself.

So what is it that made the difference?

There’s a quote that has come up in my head frequently over the past few weeks: If it is to be, it is up to me. It isn’t my quote, but I really like it. With COVID coming in, I had nothing left to hide behind. No more chatter with my colleagues, no more sleepy mornings, no more working late, no more traffic jams. Nothing of that. It was just me. I alone was to be responsible for my acts.

And so, I have a choice. Every time again, I can choose to do what’s right, or be lazy. No more excuses. If it is to be, it is up to me!

Final notes

2019 wasn’t my year. Although we went to great heights with the team that I worked in at the office, things were shit personally. Deep shit. However, 2019 was also the year of recovery, repair and standing up straight again. I, therefore, saw my confidence grow during the year and have been expanding on it in 2020. This may sound odd but to me, it sometimes feels like COVID is like a blessing. Okay, I got things working here really well, that’s for another post, but it really put me in the driver’s seat.