April 10, 2020

Lifecamp Newsletter #1

Ideas and resources for weird times

“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Hi friends,

What a month it has been. Never has the Lenin quote above felt more apt. I’ll try not to dwell on the Coronavirus pandemic as it has (understandably) been an inescapable subject for the last few weeks. There are plenty of far more qualified people than me putting information out there, and I have no intention of being another armchair virologist. But I will tailor the newsletter content to the circumstances with a couple of virus-related bits.

Winston Churchill famously said, “never waste a good crisis”. And while that may sound opportunistic, it is sage advice. Humans are creatures of habit, and we get caught up in our own inertia. When an external event (like, say, a global pandemic) profoundly disrupts our routine, we have an opportunity to break that inertia. 

Rather than do our best to carry on as usual, we can pause, reflect, and make positive changes to our lives. With reduced scope for socialising, travelling and even commuting we have more time to work on ourselves and finally do some of the things we are always putting off. Here are a few things I am thinking about and focusing on while I have been given this luxury of time to work on my personal growth.

A framework for productivity

When our routine changes, we often struggle to be productive until we adapt to our new circumstances. If you’re finding it hard to focus at the moment, take a look at my guide to productivity. Unlike most articles on the topic, which focus on tactics like efficiency hacks and specific software platforms, I outline a strategy for getting things done and walk you through how to apply it. The key thing is to make your goals as specific as possible, put a target date on them, then get in the habit of showing up and doing the work.

Home workouts

If you live in an area that is currently under some form of lockdown (it feels surreal to write that phrase) and are unable to get out of the house frequently, you may be struggling for exercise options. It’s important not to get lazy. Regular exercise is vital for physical and mental health. Get outdoors for walks or runs whenever you can. If you want to switch it up and have a more varied exercise regimen, here are a few things you can try at home without any equipment:

Yoga with Adriene is an excellent YouTube channel with lots of free content for all abilities. She posts new routines almost daily and has lots of 30-day programs you can do on her playlists. If you’re new to yoga and don’t have a yoga mat, it’s no biggie. You can get away with following along on your carpet, on a rug, or any cushioned floor surface.

Bodyweight workouts are an awesome way to improve your strength and conditioning with minimal equipment. This program is easy to follow, and the Onnit Academy has loads of different routines you can try. Be warned; bodyweight training is deceptively hard. Just because you aren’t throwing big weights around doesn’t mean it isn’t taxing, so don’t be too ambitious when you first start out.

Though not essential, I recommend getting a pull-up bar that you can attach to a doorframe along with a couple of resistance bands. They are cheap and will give you a lot of home workout options for a small investment.

Corona corner

I’ve noticed that the news headlines keep focusing on the daily rises in COVID-19-related deaths. This seems like lazy journalism intended to keep people reading day after day, and you should probably ignore it. All you need to know is that pandemics spread exponentially, so all metrics will rise each day until the spread peaks. Rising metrics should not be a daily headline. What people need is practical advice.

The best things you can do to minimise the spread of the virus along with your chance of catching it are to employ social distancing behaviour and wash your hands after touching public surfaces like railings and door handles. 

The WHO is still saying there is no need to wear a mask, but there is lots of evidence to the contrary. This measure might be unnecessary in rural areas but if you live in an urban environment or use public transport, wearing a mask is probably a smart move. If you can’t find any to buy, you can make your own.

This is the best detailed article I have found on the virus, so I will leave the topic there, and you can follow the link if you want to know more. 

If you really can’t get enough pandemic-related content, the Pandemic series on Netflix is worth a watch. It only came out a few months ago, so it is pre-COVID-19, but it is scarily prescient.

Let’s get creative

If you are finding yourself with more time on your hands at the moment, take the opportunity to develop a new skill. A creative practice is a great asset to have. Creative pursuits promote flow states, which makes them perfect for relaxation, deep learning, and improving your wellbeing. Here’s a couple of ideas for activities you can explore at home to keep boredom at bay:

Drawing is a wonderful skill to develop. It encourages you to observe the world with more detail and develop a greater understanding of it. You also end up with some drawings after each session, which is a satisfyingly tangible end result for your time. Here are some good tutorials to get you started.

I’ve always been fascinated by popping and locking as a dance form. It looks cool, has so much attitude, and seems like bags of fun. If you’re missing the party life, getting on the TikTok craze, or want to learn some new moves you can show off when socialising is a thing again, this is a decent source of beginner’s tutorials.

If you’ve ever wanted to write, there’s no better time to start than now, while you’re stuck at home. Even if you don’t, keeping in touch remotely means that we are writing more than ever. Here are some quick tips for tightening up your writing skills.

Investing for beginners

There never a wrong time to get your finances in order, but a global crisis makes smart financial planning more important than ever. Here’s a couple of resources to help you improve your economic acumen.

First, this animation, scripted and narrated by legendary hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, is a good summary of how an economy works.

Second, if you intend to start investing at some point in your life, now is an excellent time to get up to speed on how to invest in stocks. The stock market is falling due to the global crisis we are in, but the long term trend is always up, so there is a short-term opportunity to buy in while the price is low.

This wiki page has lots of great advice for people who are new to investing. Jump to the Getting Started section and follow the links in there for a primer on investing and how to go about building a portfolio. The site is based on the advice of John Bogle, who simplified investing by creating easily accessible investment funds with low fees that removed the need for much of the complex decision-making and analysis traditionally associated with investing.

Note, I am not a financial advisor, so please don’t take this as financial advice. What you do with your money is your business and stock market investing is not for everyone.

Book of the month

I recently read Atomic Habits by James Clear and it blew me away. Its central premise is that “habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” Focusing on the idea that repeated small actions add up to significant results over time, it provides simple, actionable steps you can take to encourage small behavioural tweaks that bring about positive change.

Unlike a lot of personal development books, this one is full of immediately practical advice and is all killer, no filler. If you’re trying to develop new habits at the moment, reading this might help them stick.

Final thought

“A drawing is made stronger by focusing on what is important while ignoring what is unimportant and avoiding distractions. Perhaps there is a lesson for life in that too.”  – Lane Brown.

Until next time, stay safe,