21 August 2020

How do you make the most of your spare time?

Since my last post from the beach at Lunan Bay in mid-March, things have calmed down a lot. At that time, world stock-markets were reeling from the perceived impact that the pandemic would have on businesses, with all major indices being down sharply, typically 20-30%. Fast forward four to five months and things feel a lot more settled. The MSCI World index has recovered all of these falls and is now above where it started 2020. A quite remarkable recovery. The UK market by comparison is still around 17% below its 1st January 2020 level.

In March, most non ‘key workers’ were adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of working from home. I suddenly had two extra hours a day to fill as a result of not commuting. For the first few weeks of lockdown, I didn’t have to think too hard about how to use them as the workload dictated that I was sat at my desk for all of it and more. As time went on, I realised that being stuck in front of screens for 12 hours a day was not healthy for me or the business and something needed to change.

I’ve never been a runner, cyclist or fan of the gym and although I can swim, that didn’t appeal to me as a way of getting fit and pools were closed anyway. So I started out by doing what most of us can do pretty easily, walking. I am very lucky to live in a part of the country that has quiet roads and a beautiful beach all within easy reach, so I set about using some of the two hours I was saving each day to embrace the fresh air, get fit and lose some weight.

I really enjoyed it. So much so, that I started to think about other positive benefits that my newfound pastime could bring. I began listening to podcasts on finance, investing and interviews with some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs. Getting fit, losing weight, improving my mental health and wellbeing and learning all at the same time felt like a big win.

The final piece of the jigsaw for me was that I’d never taken on any meaningful sponsorship challenges before and I realised that my new found pastime would be an ideal way to try and help others by raising money for a charity. I’m a Director of Montrose FC and we have a fantastic charitable arm called Montrose Community Trust (MCT). Prior to lockdown, MCT engaged with over 10% of the town’s population on a weekly basis across numerous programmes. As well as delivering football coaching sessions, MCT delivers programmes to help the unemployed, those living with dementia, suffering from poor mental health, recovering from an addiction or living in social isolation. Those programmes had to stop during lockdown, so the Trust turned its hand to providing much needed daily nutrition for some of the most in need by cooking and delivering dozens of hot, nutritious meals every day.

So in the immortal words of two of Scotland’s finest song-writing wordsmiths, I created a page on Just Giving called ‘I would walk 500 miles’ and based on my initial walking distances, set out to complete this in 100 days. I soon ‘got the bug’ and my five mile walks became seven, then eight and now nine or ten miles a day, so I revised the target down to 80 days. 40 days in, I’ve now completed over 300 miles, so barring injuries, I’m well on track to complete the challenge ahead of schedule.

Although this pandemic has created extreme difficulties, pain and suffering for many, it has also forced us all to think carefully about how we use the most precious of resources, our time.

If you too have found yourself with some unexpected spare time over the last few months, we’d love to hear how you’ve been spending it, so feel free to let us know or send us a photo that captures it.

Barry O'Neill


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