14 Fun and Productive things to do While at Home During the Pandemic

wii fit
Sure I deserve being chastised by the Wii

I’d like to apologize in advance for the click-bait headline I used to create this article but hey, you’re here now and there is quite a bit of useful information below. In this very strange time of being sequestered at home for an indefinite time-frame and feeling high anxiety it’s important to try and find ways to keep the mind and body busy. It’s easy to justify doing nothing but binge watch TV and mindlessly comb through our social media feeds.

While those options are alright in moderation, I’d like to propose other activities that will make us feel joyful and productive. If you’re like me you have those tasks that are on your rainy day list that you never seem to get around to. Well guess what? We’ve embarked on a rain storm of biblical proportions to give us plenty of time to tackle them so I’ve provided some options in the list below.

I also urge you to add your own tips in the comments as well.

1. Use a Console or App to Stay Fit

My kids (and I use the term lightly as they’re 20 & 21 respectively) have been trying to find ways to do something other than sit on their phones 24/7. To my surprise they decided to fire up the Wii which had been sitting dormant for the last few years. I then remembered that I had a Wii Fit board and decided it was a good time to dust it off and carefully step back on it fully knowing it may scold me for lack of use or based on my current weight.

So after being chastised I stepped on the board and begin playing some of the many different games that come with the Wii Fit and had a great time. I eventually let the kids on the board so they could enjoy themselves as well. I’d imagine that there are similar devices or Apps for Xbox or Playstation, iOS and Android as well.

2. Begin Using a Password Management App

Are you still someone who uses the same password for all the websites you use? If so it’s just a matter of time before you get hacked. Take this time to start the process of using a password manager to create unique and complex passwords for all the web services you use. Yes this can be time consuming but you’ve got plenty of that right now. Start with key services like financial institutions and work your way down. You can learn more and find a list of services to use here.

3. Call Someone You Haven’t Talked to In a Long Time

A few years ago I went on a long road trip and created a post on Facebook asking people that I haven’t talked to in a long time to call me during the journey. It was a success as I was able to talk to many different people including a childhood best friend that I hadn’t talked to in over 30 years. So pick your social media platform of choice to either post a similar message or just surprise someone but do so carefully first with a text message as we don’t know what state we may all be in at the moment. However I’m sure you will find someone that is ecstatic that you reached out to them and will have an amazing conversation catching up.

Here’s the Facebook post and yes you can call me at that number

4. Create a Will and Digital Estate Plan for Yourself or a Loved One

AARP states that 60% of Americans to not have a Will. That’s a pretty staggering number but hey, death is a taboo subject matter that nobody likes to discuss. However the pandemic is a wake-up call that we all really need to have a plan for our estates in case we die. I created my will using Quicken Willmaker Plus after weighing several options from this list which was useful.

But simply creating a traditional will isn’t enough in the digital age. We create so much of our data digitally such as photos and videos and store critical financial details using online services using passwords and 2 factor authentication with phones and security keys that it’s crucial to have those details prepared for a loved one to access if you die.

I wrote an article that provides some guidelines around creating a “digital estate planning document” that also includes a template you can use to provide a framework to create your own. I’ve also created a whole website with information on this and other topics that revolve around preserving our digital data for future generations at digitallegacymanagement.com

5. Host a Video Chat Party

I recently joined the WFH happy hour community and have joined a few of the video chats. I’ve met some great people from all over the world using Zoom and have interacted with them in the Slack channels as well.

I then thought it would be a great idea to try and get my friends together similarly for a virtual party the same way last Saturday. I talked to a friend who is a DJ and had a paid Zoom account and we coordinated the event.

I created an invite on Facebook, posted some guidelines for folks new to large video chats and created prompts for us to use as talking points. Needless to say it went very well and felt good to be able to connect with friends during this time. The music and dancing was great, the discussions flowed well and along with the drinks eventually we hit the TMI zone. We’re now planning to do this again soon.

There are many different services and options for doing a video chat party. Here’s a link to help you select based on the platforms and number of people you want to invite. Also as stated things can get a little hectic so here’s an article with some good guidelines.

6. Create a Smart Journal

Back in the day (yes I’m being purposely vague on time) during a difficult time in my adolescent life I started a journal. I had a notebook that I would use to write my unfiltered thoughts which proved to be a very therapeutic process during that part of my life. Eventually I moved on and started writing poetry for a limited time as well.

Now in the age of the internet and mobile devices a multitude of smart journal apps have emerged that offer tons of additional features around maintaining a journal such as allowing us to use our voice for dictation, automatically provide additional context around our stories using photos, video or location among other things.

When I decided I wanted to create a smart journal I did research and wrote this article which to this day is the most popular thing I’ve ever written. I first started using a more traditional long-form style using Journey which I still use occasionally but I have supplemented that with Daylio which offers a very quick and simple way to journal along with the added benefit of providing habit tracking.

7. Organize and Scan Your Photo Collection

This is a project that I started a few years ago and continue working on to this day. It can be a monumental task to organize and scan a large physical photo collection. Guess what? Now’s a great time to start!

I’m actually in the process of writing a guide for this but in lieu of that I will provide some quick tips to help you get started. Your first order at hand is to gather all of your photos and then determine a method of organizing them in preparation to scan them.

I found the following to be helpful:

  • As you begin going through photos put the ones that aren’t worth scanning into a separate pile and label the pile (doubles, bad shots, photos that you don’t care for)
  • Organize photos by decade first (60’s, 70’s, 80s (the best decade) etc…)
  • After you have them organized by decade, then organize them by similar size (4×6, 5×7 etc.)
  • Ok that’s a good start and I’m sure you will have an amazing time viewing and reminiscing during this process

Now I’ll just list a few additional high level details to help you understand additional steps which you can use Google to help you with

Either buy a scanner or choose a scanning service to do the work for you. Both links are to Wirecutter which has fantastic guides for this. I purchased an Epson FastFoto FF-640 to process large batches of images as well as the Epson Photo Perfection V550 for slides and higher quality scans.

After scanning the photos there are many additional aspects to consider such as:

  • The resolution to scan photos
  • Using software for color correction, dust removal, and straightening during the scanning
  • Changing the “Date Taken” exif meta data to help organize them by year
  • File and folder structure and naming convention to use
  • Additional meta data to add such as keywords, ratings and GPS

Yes, it’s a lot of work but also very rewarding and you will help preserve these for future generations to come.

8. Do a Virtual Tour of a Museum

I came across this article that lists 14 museums that are currently offering virtual tours from your computer. I’m looking forward to visiting these in the near future. I’m curious if any of them support VR. I’m starting to think that now may be the time for VR to shine.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

9. Setup a Data Backup Plan

Having a data backup plan is crucial today. I’ll try to keep this one simple as there are many ways to do this but here are some key takeaways. Start by creating a local backup strategy. This means backing up your source data from your personal computer to another device. This can be either a secondary drive or even a NAS (network attached storage) device.

But having a secondary local backup isn’t enough. You need to also have an offsite backup plan in the event that you are either burglarized or become the victim of a fire or other similar event. For this I recommend using an online backup service.

I personally am using a NAS as my backup device and use Backblaze as my online backup service. I have a list of articles and resources you can find on this page under “Backup Management”

10. Clean an Area of Your Home

We all have an area of our home that needs to be cleaned and organized that somehow we never get to. I have at least a bi-annual ritual of cleaning out our garage and either throwing things out, donating them or selling them (spoiler alert. tips for that below). I have the same process for my closet of clothes and food pantry. I loosely model my method on Marie Kondo if she was drunk. So far during this time I’ve cleaned the garage, cleaned out and organized our food pantry, and organized and reduced clutter in my home office.

I wrote this article with my goal to streamline and de-clutter my home years ago that provides much more detail around this process that you may also find helpful.

11. Sell Your Stuff Online

So now that you’ve cleaned out your garage or closet with the goal of de-cluttering your home you probably came across items that you no longer want but still have value. Now is a good time to get the items ready to sell online. I’ve been using both an Amazon Seller account as well as Ebay to sell stuff online for years. I find Amazon easier and more effective for items that have barcodes and use Ebay for items that Amazon either doesn’t allow me to sell or collectibles and other items that don’t have product pages on Amazon. Once sold both services provide an easy way to pay and ship using USPS and you can put the package outside for your mail carrier to pickup or take to the post office and drop it in a bin.

12. Rip Your Audio CD’s

I have a huge CD collection and while most of them are available on Spotify, I do have some rare CD’s that aren’t and I decided to start ripping (convert them to audio files) them to my computer which is something I never made the time for except for a few of them.

My CD Collection

I’m currently researching free or cheap software I could use to do this in Windows. I currently like FreeRIP MP3 Converter which I found to be the easiest and had all the features I needed. I did also tried Exact Audio Copy and while it has more features and may be better for true audiophiles, I found the extra work to setup and configure un-necessary for my needs.

Here’s a link with other options as well as Mac OS compatible products as well.

13. Build a Website

Whether you’re a techie nerd like me, or someone who has never tried to build a website, now is a great time to learn how to create one. I did research to find the best service to do this with both from a difficulty and cost perspective to write the article The Best Way to Build a Single Page Website.

I built PCXT.COM using Carrd

In that article I recommend using Carrd which is a dead simple and either free or very cheap way to create a website depending on your needs. If you want to get a little fancier, have more control and use a platform that can expand with your needs then give WordPress.com a try. It’s the software I’ve used for my personal websites for almost 20 years and powers 36% of websites on the internet for a reason.

14. Create Custom Maps

I’ve recently become consumed with maps and plotting locations on them. I purchased both a World and US pushpin map to hang so I can have a visual may to identify locations I’ve traveled to and plan on visiting in the future.

Google My Map of Locations I’ve Visited

I’ve also created a digital version of all the locations I’ve visited in the world using Google’s My Maps. This can also be done using their regular maps product as well which has less features and is done a little differently but both are great options to explore if you want to create custom location based maps for yourself.

Here’s a guide to Google’s My Maps and here’s a guide to using Google’s saved places using regular maps.

Now it’s Your Turn

What have you been doing that is unique, fun or productive during this time? Share them in the comments below.