Summary March 2020

Well, March and likely next few months are going to be all about the virus, self-isolation, and remote work. Both me and my wife have IT-related jobs which are easy to make remote. I’ve been working remotely for the past 5 years so it’s nothing new. What is different though is that our kiddo is also staying home with us, and it’s been nightmare’ish, to say the least.

In the past two weeks we’ve all been adapting to the new reality: trying to find time and space for some deep work, getting personal time and space outside work, and having enough ideas and games to get the toddler busy and entertained.

Flexible work

If you’re not strictly bound by 9 to 5 schedule at work, move to flexible hours. So far this has been the best revelation for me. I can wake up around 6.30 or 7 in the morning and have few productive hours until my child wakes up. Prepare the breakfast and put on cartoons for 30-40 more minutes to have non-essential work. Throughout the day we can go out for a walk in the forest, play together, read books, draw, etc. By the end of the working day my wife can take over and I can spend 3-4 more hours working. This doesn’t leave much (or in fact any) time for myself, but this gets us through the stressful day nicely. The first working week at home was a disaster where none of us could really concentrate on work, and the child was constantly crying because nobody played with her.

Financial planning

In the past year I’ve been putting money aside to be able to survive without any income for a year. I’m planning to go to university some time in the future, and I am very happy that I have this cushion now, especially while working in a startup.

Things are progressing quickly and it’s hard to predict what comes tomorrow. We can argue that banks will never close [1], government can never default [2], there will always be food in the shops [3], but the reality can be different. Optimism bias [4] is what drives people to ignore all the warnings and continue to gather outside. As a result, I decided to split my funds into three groups:

  • Current account in my regular bank that I use
  • Borderless account in TransferWise
  • Cash

Sadly banks do go bankrupt and close. Even the financial symbols like Lehman Brothers. Here in Estonia government won’t be able to bail any bank out, and even though every deposit is protected by up to 75 000 EUR by the central bank, in the even of global crisis I might not get that money when I need it. And I might get a pretty big haircut on it too [5]. This all lead me to move out some of the funds out of one single bank which brings me to TransferWise.

TransferWise is not a bank in a common sense. It is a financial institution that doesn’t have a banking license which means that my funds have to be safeguarded [6]. TW cannot use my money to give out loans or use it for some other hole plugging. And if the company goes bankrupt, my money should still be safe. Well, unless some of the banks where TransferWise keeps their accounts go down too. Which brings me to the third option: cash.

While I don’t like to keep cash, in these times I feel like it’s important to have some. I don’t belive that we will have a situation where people won’t be able to use ATMs, but again who am I to know? Sadly we have examples of Cyprus [7], Ukraine [8], and Estonia [9].

All of this didn’t cost me anything, and in case nothing serious happens I’ll continue my life as usual. In case of a bigger financial crisis I am well prepared.

Food

There is no shortage of food in the shops (apart from buckwheat), and if the China and Italy are good examples, we shouldn’t have any problems even if the situation becomes much worse. To limit our shop visits we started to use more of the food we had on our shelves for ages: various beans, lentils, rice, and canned food. This lead to various interesting and surprising experiments. Turned out all of us love curry, and we’ve cooked different ones in the past few weeks. Millet and cottage cheese pankakes, peanut butter and dried berry fudge, quinoa salad, and many other. As a result of this crisis our diet got more diverse.

Personal projects

Before the virus hit my usual routine was to get back from the office, spend the evening with the family, do sports, or some other activity. And when the kid goes to sleep, I spend 1-2 hours working on personal projects. In the past few months my attention was on the Elm course. Unfortunately as a result of going flexible I didn’t have much, if any, time to work on this. In the evening I am both mentally and physically drowned. As a result I’m focusing on other things.

I still do the Elm Bits newsletter and it’s going good. Few days ago I took the courage to mention it on the official Elm Slack, and received so much positive feedback from the community that it blew my mind. Words of encouregament, praise, and comments on how to improve it even more.

As I walk in the forest with my child I see a lot of fallen trees. This winter we didn’t have snow and instead got a lot of storms. Our governmental body that is responsible for keeping forests healthy is doing amazing job at cutting the old and unhealthy trees and planting new ones, but I thought I’d help a bit. I wanted to build something out of a tree log for a while, and so went and cut one dead tree with a hand saw and took it home. My plan for April is to make a small chair. Let’s see how it goes.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012–13_Cypriot_financial_crisis
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_debt_crises
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortages_in_Venezuela
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimism_bias
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/25/cyprus-bailout-deal-eu-closes-bank
  6. https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/emi-payment-institutions-safeguarding-requirements
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/28/cyprus-crisis-limits-bank-withdrawals
  8. https://www.wired.com/story/notpetya-cyberattack-ukraine-russia-code-crashed-the-world/
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_cyberattacks_on_Estonia