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What Can You Do While Stuck at Home?

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The novel coronavirus has many people self-isolating at home. You might be healthy, but your firm has asked people to work remotely. Your city has closed schools and nonessential retail businesses. It might be two weeks; it might be longer. What’s an advisor to do?

It’s been written about before. ThinkAdvisor has looked at how to “Keep Calm and Carry On (With Your Practice)” and “10 Things Advisors Can Do When Snowbound.” You know you should be in touch with clients. You’ve got this one covered.

14 Practical Ways to Use Your Time

Time is a gift. Advisors never have enough. As you are stuck at home for two weeks (or more), you suddenly realize what retirement must be like for some of your clients. Sure, they can travel on vacation or visit other family members, but many days they have nothing on the schedule. You are stepping into their shoes.

Here are some ways advisors can make good use of their free time.

1. Do a client mailing. Surface mail is called snail mail. Most people only get bills, ads and maybe magazines. Personal and business letters have disappeared. This makes it an underutilized channel. Check with your office that it’s OK to mail business letters from home. Assuming you have office stationery and envelopes handy, design a letter, get compliance approval (via email) and print 50 personalized letters to your best clients.

Clients are likely staying at home, too. They will have time to read it.

2. Video chat with clients. It’s the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting across your desk. You are giving them attention. You are sharing information. You can see their family members in the background. You can read facial expressions.

You are communicating “You are an important client to me.”

Now let’s look at non-business-related activities that are a good use of your time.

1. Start that diet. I’ve always felt diets are fine when you are in a controlled environment, but tough to maintain when everyone is at a bar having beers and chicken wings. Now, you are in that controlled environment. You can research diets that are appropriate and have your family doctor’s approval. Follow the program. Write down what you eat.

You should be pleasantly surprised by the results.

2. Home cooking. In the UK, “The Great British Baking Show” energized many people into cooking at home. According to YouGov, The Food Network is the 9th most popular network and the 21st most famous. This means there’s plenty of recipes and inspiration for people at all skill levels.

You’ve got the time. You’re not eating out.

3. Keep a journal. Write down what you do every day. Like the diet notebook, it’s a discipline that encourages good behavior. It gets you thinking “What needs to get done?” build a list in your journal.

Afterwards, people will ask: “What did you do when we were all stuck at home?” It won’t be a blur.

4. Contact friends from afar. We travel to the same places a lot. On Outlook we have our “China friends” and our “Cunard friends.” These are people we met on vacations. I try to write individual emails once a quarter. This is an ideal time to reestablish connections. Ask them if they are working from home. How has life changed? Learn from their perspective.

You have reawakened some dormant relationships.

5. Learn to do laundry and household chores. Regardless of size, it takes lots of work to keep a household running. Tasks often fall to different family members as their sole responsibility. Some children don’t understand how clothing they put into the laundry hamper reappears folded in their dresser drawers! Take the lead. If laundry isn’t normally your department, learn how it’s done. Or learn how to clean grout or do minor household repairs. Gather the family, so they learn too.

Ever see the Swiffer Duster TV commercial about the guy who says he has no time to clean? Great news! You have time.

6. Review your monthly bills. We might shop around for the best price at hotels or airlines, but many people stick with the same wireless service, power company, trash collector, home and auto insurance for years. They never shop around. Now you have time. Do some online searching. See what competitors are offering. You don’t necessarily need to switch. Call your provider. Tell them what you found. Ask what they can do.

It makes good business sense.

7. Call your friends. We have a British friend of German descent. Every Sunday morning, she pulls out her phone book, pours a cup of coffee and calls friends back in Germany for a chat. She is comfortably settled in for a long talk with no distractions.

You have distant friends and relatives. Check in with them. They should be glad to hear from you.

8. Religious services. They’ve likely been suspended because gatherings are being discouraged for health reasons. There’s likely a cable TV station broadcasting the service for people who are shut indoors. Now that’s you!

Put it on your schedule, if it’s part of your usual routine anyway.

9. Spring cleaning. March 19 was the first day of Spring. Winter is over! Spring is a time of renewal. Pick a room a day in your apartment or house. Clean out closets. What can you donate to charity (when the virus is history)? Clean out your kitchen cabinets. Scrub the refrigerator. You will throw out plenty of stuff. You will discover things you thought you had lost. If you have extra artwork, take down pictures. Hang the other ones. You can have different looks for different times of the year.

The work will be rewarding. You’ll feel you’ve accomplished something.

10. The food pantry. While cleaning the kitchen, you found extra stuff. In the bathroom, you wondered where all those packaged toothbrushes came from. Have you really saved that many hotel shampoos? Your local food pantry is helping those in the community with the greatest need. Assuming it’s OK with them, drop off those supplies when you next head out grocery shopping.

In this difficult time, you are helping those who really need it.

11. Outdoor projects. If you have a back yard or outdoor space, there’s lots to do after winter has passed. Tree branches have fallen. The flower beds are brown vegetation. It’s time to get ready for spring planting. If the weather is mild, get the outdoor furniture in place. Those 70-degree days will sneak up on you.

Often this is a catch-up project. You’ve gotten ahead of it this year. You are getting exercise.

12. Plan your next vacation. This too shall pass. Life will return to normal. Where would you like to go? What are your hotel options? What sights must you see? How about restaurants you must try? What will this cost?

Start planning for the future, while you are sitting at home in the present.

These dozen activities present the opportunity to make good use of your time and accomplish something. It also gives you plenty of material to write into your journal, mentioned in point #4.