It is hard to believe that I have been working from home for the past eight months due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. When my work sent out the work-from-home-until-further-notice email on March 13, I thought we’d only be working from home for about two or three weeks, maybe a month at the most.
Back in March, my co-workers in Shenzhen, China had just completed a month-long office closure and were slowly going back to working at the office. Therefore, in my mind, I didn’t think our office closure would be that long, maybe two or three weeks at the most.
Oh, how naive I was! More than eight months into working-from-home, we are nowhere close to reopening society fully. Cases are increasing and COVID-19 outbreaks are happening regularly. Until we can get effective treatments or a vaccine, the global pandemic is here to stay.
Looking back, it was definitely a good move for me to take home some stationery from work such as the external keyboard, mouse, and one of the external monitors. Without these, it would have been extremely challenging to work effectively on a 12” laptop monitor.
Has anyone seen Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self skits by Julie Nolke? She has done a really good job on these skits. It sure is amazing how much has happened. I had totally forgotten about the Australian wildfires in January.
With that in mind, I thought I’d write a post on tips to my Jan-2020-self on how to deal with the global pandemic and the fallout.
Tip #1 Learn to work from home
Although I have worked from home in the past, I never worked from home for an extended period of time. Working from home with two young kids in the house at the same time has created some challenges. Since I work in one of our spare bedrooms, a rule that I developed is that if I have the door closed, that means I am in a meeting or I need to focus. The kids have been taught about this rule and not open the door or be loud right outside the door.
For the most part, both kids are respecting this rule, but they have occasionally walked into the room while I am on a voice or video call. Fortunately, most people are quite understanding of the current situation and don’t mind when one of the kids video bombs during the meeting.
Tip #2 Learn to take regular short breaks
Working from home and having kids at home means they often seek my attention. When I am not in a meeting or working on a task with an immediate deadline, I find it worthwhile to take short breaks regularly and interact with my kids. This has helped me to really connect with them. These breaks can be as short as a couple of minutes. Quite often I just read a quick story with them or play some Lego together.
Thanks to working-from-home, I have been able to spend more time and connect more with the kids and Mrs. T. This is something I really cherish.
Tip #3 Get some weights
One of my 2020 goals is to go to the gym at least twice a week and swim for at least 120 km. Since I go to the gym at work and pools are closed, my physical activities have dropped significantly. For me, bodyweight workouts just don’t feel the same as lifting weights.
When I started looking into purchasing a kettlebell or a dumbbell to set up a home gym around May, I was shocked at how expensive things were. The increase in gym equipment price was mostly caused by supply shortages. Therefore, a tip to my Jan-2020-self would be to get some weights while the prices are still reasonable.
Fortunately, I found some kettlebells on Craigslist and purchased three brand new kettlebells for $110 recently. This was one of the best purchases during the pandemic. Thanks to these kettlebells I can now work out at home. Mrs. T and I also have been working out together which has helped to improve our relationship.
Tip #4 Get used to not travelling
In 2019, I travelled A LOT. I took a total of 46 flights and spent over six days in the air. And that’s not counting the time I spent in the different airports!
Needless to say, I’m very used to travelling for work and for pleasure. I do enjoy flying and spending time in different cities, meeting different people, trying different types of food, and checking out different sights.
But 2020 is different. Other than a quick overnight trip to Redmond to meet Microsoft, another one night trip to San Jose, and a family trip to Banff and Jasper, I haven’t travelled anywhere else.
So to my Jan-2020-self… get used to not travelling. Enjoy sleeping in my own bed and enjoying time with my family. Once it’s OK to travel again, I may never get the chance again to not travel for an extended period of time.
Tip #5 Sell everything in February and buy back in late March
Well if I could tell my Jan-2020-self I’d tell him to sell everything on February 21 when the market was near all-time-highs and buy back on March 23. This would mean taking advantage of the market swing and making a lot of money…
While I am at it, I would tell myself the winning lottery numbers… winning $65 million doesn’t sound too bad.
This tip is obviously a joke!
Tip #6 Don’t freak out about the market. Save, invest, repeat.
Back in late March, our dividend portfolio was down close to $250k. A lot of stock holdings were showing beet red. Stocks were beaten down and many people were freaking out. Although I didn’t freak out or lose sleep over this quick downturn, it was a good reminder to continue executing our hybrid investment strategy by investing in dividend paying stocks and index ETFs.
The market goes down and the market goes up. That’s the ebbs and flows of the stock market. Long term outlook is more important – the stock market tends to go up by 8% annually over the long term. It is far more important to focus on the long term outlook than the short term noise.
Continue to live below our means. Save money and invest money every month. Continue buying stocks when they’re beaten down. Take advantage of dollar cost average. Don’t time the market, time in the market is far more important.
Save, invest, repeat. The financial independence journey is quite boring and it should be that way.
Tip #7 Let out my emotions. Things will be OK even though they may not appear to be
Without getting into the details, 2020 has been a challenging year for me emotionally. I have had to deal with some personal stuff. More than a few times, I sat by myself and cried my eyes out.
I have learned that it is good to let out my emotions. If that means crying and feeling miserable for a short period of time so that I can release my emotions, so be it. Crying has a very therapeutic effect and can help to release a lot of unnecessary crap that we hold onto.
In fact, I have learned that holding onto these emotions inside of me doesn’t do me any good. If I continue to hide and suppress these emotions, I probably will end up hurting myself in the long run.
Things will be OK even though they may not appear to be. Life will always go on…
Dear readers, if you have the chance to talk to yourself back in January 2020, what kind of tips would you tell yourself?