Design Your Life and Get Unstuck – Dave Evans
Not Exactly Retired – David Jarmul

Make the Most of Social Distancing

Coronavirus has led to many people on lockdown and working from home out of their normal routine


By Joe Casey

Resilience. Adaptability. Resourcefulness. Ingenuity. These are words to keep in mind during these difficult times. We’re facing a serious health situation with a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety and stress. There are real economic consequences. The routines of daily life have been disrupted and many people have been ordered to stay at home. Social distancing is likely to last for a significant period of time, at least in certain parts of the world. Resilience building and adaptability to change are keep skills for the rest of your life.

So what’s the best way to handle this period of time?

Can it somehow be constructive for you and for others?


A Simple Framework is Helpful in Times Like These

As an executive coach working with Fortune 500 companies, I give my clients a 30-plus page report summarizing the observations of key people they work with, work for and lead. It’s based on confidential interviews I conduct and it’s designed to give them a rare candid view of how others perceive their strengths, their style and areas for development. The most valuable section of the report captures recommendations on behavioral change. People share their ideas on what they think the leader should Start to Do, Stop Doing and Continue to Do. It’s gratifying to see what powerful changes eventually come from this simple framework.

It was on my mind last week as I was moving some things from my office to begin working fully from home. I now have about 12 to 15 hours a week I would typically spend in my car going to my office or traveling to client meetings. How can I best make use of these hours for the foreseeable future?

Your health and safety – and those of others – comes first. But if you are limited to staying at home for weeks, this simple framework of Start, Stop and Continue can help you think through how to make the most of this period of social distancing.Whether you’re working full-time from home, semi-retired or already retired, it can help you organize your thoughts about this disruptive period and how to use it wisely.



Adaptability is essentially about being open to change – and being willing to step outside your comfort zone and experiment. Here are some ideas on how you can start something new. None are earth-shattering. But they’re simple, doable and beneficial. They’re meant to stimulate your own thinking. Pick a date in the future – perhaps it four weeks, eight weeks or twelve weeks from now.  Ask yourself, what if I started to do something that I’ve always wanted to do? Where would I be at that future point?

“New” is top of mind for me right now. I’m 90 days into writing a book on the power of new experiences and pursuits in retirement. While this is a disruptive period, it does offer an opportunity to get engaged with something new. Social distancing won’t last forever. Start something that may last longer and be good for you longer-term.

I’m not suggesting that you start many new things. I’m recommending you try one or two. Start small. You may want to encourage others (especially those sequestered with you) to do the same.


Create a new habit. When we’re out of our normal rhythm of day-to-day life our habits can change. But this period of time is also a chance to design and wire in new habits that you want in your life. BJ Fogg has created a simple yet powerful method of habit formation, Tiny Habits. Listen to him explain how these Tiny Habits Can Lead to Big Changes down the line. 

Take an online course. You’ve likely become an expert on Zoom in last few weeks. What’s next? There are so many options to learn online today at various levels of depth and cost. Look at what’s available on Coursera or Udemy. Check out MasterClass. Learn some new – even if it’s a magic trick or two.

Read something totally different. Choose something outside of your typical areas. Prefer non-fiction? Read a novel. Up to date on the bestseller list? Read a classic.

Cook something new. The usual fare can be comforting. Try making something completely different. You may be surprised.

Start a garden. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. Just start if it’s not something you usually do. Here’s why.

Begin to meditate. Is this on your list of something you wanted to do, but haven’t has the time? Now you may. Start small. Here’s a place to start.

Try yoga. This is on my list. I now have no valid excuses. I have a wife and daughter at home who are certified yoga instructors and classes on Zoom daily. Namaste. 

Reconnect with someone. This has been biggest surprise for me over the past year or so. It’s an amazing experience to reconnect with friends, a college roommate,  former co-workers and even a close family member. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been. Trust me, you’ll pick up where you left off. All it takes is one text, an email or an old-school phone call. You’ll be glad you did.

Thank someone who made a difference. I’ve read many times about how valuable this is to do. Last year, I had an opportunity to do this and I took it. It is one of those rare things that is truly mutually beneficial. Write a simple, sincere email, note – or better yet – an old-fashioned letter. You can truly make someone’s day by thanking them for how they helped you in your life and career. You know who they are. Write them today.

Check-in on someone. Who’s in your orbit who may be having an especially difficult time with this? This include as older relatives and neighbors. It also includes people working from home with multiple kids now home from school, no matter what their ages. Reach out to see how they are doing.

Declutter a room. Look outside and you can feel it’s time for spring cleaning. Tackle one room. Set a timer and spend 30 minutes to get rid of what you no longer need. 

Explore a hobby. Other than sports, I personally don’t have a hobby. But this is a great time to look into one, experiment with one or resume one you used to have in the past.

Fix that thing that needs fixing. Is there something you’ve been putting off? What better time to tackle it.

Start a new project. What’s your next personal or professional project. Map it out. Take the first steps.

Develop a Plan B. The reality is that this pandemic will have a significant impact on the economic climate. Are you prepared to what you’ll do next if you are forced to retire early or change careers? About half of retirees leave earlier than planned even during the best of times. Two of our recent podcast guests Dave Evans and Dawn Graham offer valuable advice on planning your future, that can be very useful – especially in these uncertain times. 



It’s often equally helpful to stop some things. Here are some candidates to consider:


Checking the markets too often. I heard someone give this advice: Stay informed, not obsessed.

Over-consuming news. Sometimes it’s hard to turn away. Set limits. Set a timer and them move to something else.

Too much Netflix. Binge away. But there may indeed be too much of a good thing. Please let me know if you find the limit.



In this current situation, look at the foundational things you want to keep going. Identify where you may need to make adjustments from what you’re doing now. A big part of resilience is staying grounded in the practices that keep your physical and mental health strong.


Keep exercising. While you may not be able to go to the gym, there are many things you can do at home to stay  fit. Step away from your devices every few hours and take a walk.

Eat healthy. We can learn from others.

Stay social connected. Isolation has many negative effects. Take the initiative. Reach out.

Spend time in nature. It’s good for you (as long you keep your distance and don’t congregate). Spring is here.

Support others. Look for opportunities to help and offer support.

One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned as a coach in reframing. It helps to look at an issue from different perspectives. I came across this old talk by John Gardner on self-renewal (shared by Shane Parrish @Farnum Street). It reframed things for me. Perhaps this period of isolation can lead to some much needed reflection and self-renewal.

I hope you’ll be safe and healthy during this time and beyond. If you do choose to try one of these ideas, please email me at [email protected] and we’ll share your experience.


Joe Casey is a former senior HR executive at Merrill Lynch who’s in his second career as a retirement coach at Retirement Wisdom. He holds a Masters in Gerontology from the University of Southern California and works with people to help them discover and design what’s next after their primary career.  He’s the host of The Retirement Wisdom Podcast talking with thought leaders, experts and retirees pursuing interesting Second Acts who share lessons learned that can help you in your journey.


More Ideas?

My list is intended to be a thought-starters. Want more ideas to get yours going?

This piece from my hometown newspaper has a ton more:

75+ things to do while coronavirus has you stuck at home

As cabin fever sets in, try these all-ages ideas for fun, self-improvement, and even a little stress relief.

Related RW Blog Posts You May Be Interested In

Three Mindfulness Practices to Try Before You Retire

Power Up Your Purpose: Now’s The Time


Related Podcast Episode

Why Building Resilience is Vital in Midlife and Beyond – Jan Zacharjasz



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