How do you stay productive during a Global Pandemic?

The world of a freelancer can feel fairly solitary and isolated at the best of times but you’d usually have dinner with the family at your favourite restaurant, planned adventures and a long list of exciting things in the calendar to keep you both busy and motivated to plow through the days and weeks ahead.

Until now! When you find yourself in a Global Pandemic and your extracurriculars go out the window! Are you struggling to find your mojo during lock down? Do you wake up in the morning, make your third cup of coffee and plonk yourself down at your desk only to think: Now what?

Fret not! You’re not alone! Here are a handful of tried and tested ways of keeping your productivity levels up during this pandemic:

Keep to your Routine but be adaptable

It’s easy to be distracted by the morning news, the jobs around the house, the puppy at your feet and the odd changes you’ve no doubt noticed in some of your clients but by trying to stick to your normal routine you should ensure a level of productivity.

If your normal routine would see you working 9-5 with an hours break for lunch at 1:00 try to stick to this throughout your workweek. Sure, this may need to be a little more fluid than normal if you have kids home from school to whom you’re teaching Algebra you had long forgotten existed, or, if you’re working with clients who now themselves are part-time teachers, carers and housekeepers

Your routine if your jam, it’s your blueprint, it’s what sets you up for your day, or your night! Whatever your work routine looks like doesn’t really matter. It’s making sure that whatever you include in those work hours keeps you on track, allows you to reach deadlines and improves your workflow. 

Reward yourself with regular breaks

Whether a break for you is sitting outside in the sunshine with a cup of coffee or working through your house work in between client calls, set yourself some break times and stick to em’. You could focus on client work in 1.5-2 hour increments (depending on the task), then reward yourself with 15 minutes or so of doing ‘something else’ some days that something else could be sitting on the couch scrolling through IG, other times, it might be putting the next load of washing in the dryer or changing the beds, that’s not important . 

What is important is taking those mini breaks. You may choose to take fewer longer breaks or many short breaks throughout your day, either way do your best to prioritise these to avoid burn-out. It is proven to increase concentration and productivity when you set yourself ‘sessions’ throughout the day broken down into blocks that you can easily accomplish. It feels good even just reading that hey?

During a study for Inc.com researchers found, the ideal work rhythm was 52 minutes of work time followed by a 17-minute break. You can read more on that here.

What does Productivity look like to you?

This is important to establish from the offset, as a freelancer especially. You need to be open to the fact that productivity can come about in many different forms. This may depend on your overall schedule that week, it may vary depending on which clients you find yourself working with and it may simply take on a different shape if you happen to be juggling a busy home life/work balance. 

Many freelancing weeks look the same, they follow the same time-table (mostly) and have a similar rhythm. However, at the beginning of every week, on a Monday or Sunday night if you’re feeling really adventurous! Why not spend 5-10 minutes just bullet pointing what Productivity looks like to you that week. 

Most times your list may be 5 or 6 bullets revolving around starting, finishing or finessing certain client projects but other times it may include chores or DIY jobs you weren’t able finish off around the house over the weekend. You’ll likely find that more often than not, it’s a mixture of the two with a few gym or fitness bullets thrown in for good measure! 

Assessing what being productive looks like to you allows you to then measure ‘what good looks like’ and allows you to feel a real sense of achievement about your work week. 

Focus on what you can control and ignore the rest

Working as a freelancer usually means that you find yourself at home or working from a coffee shop. Although both of these places can be lovely and spark creativity of all kinds, they can also be hella’ distracting! Top that off with social media, the news, opinions of others, a difficult client and bad weather and well what started off as a pleasant and work worthy day can soon descend into mass chaos.

Do not lose hope though, it doesn’t always have to be that way, you don’t have to let the day run away with you once it begins to unravel. No, now is the time to focus on the things that you can control:

  • Ignore social media, hey, turn your phone off if needs must
  • Address the difficult client, put them at ease and manage their expectations, then move on
  • Move locations, if your current spot isn’t working for you you’ll waste less time packing up and moving to a more suitable place than trying to push through
  • Ignore outside distractions, your evening plans, family WhatsApp group and the news can all wait until later. They will still be there during your next coffee break, lunch or even the end of the day, madness I know
  • If your headspace is better suited to drafting rather than editing that day then don’t fight it, harness your mood and make your day work for you

In doing the above you’ll create a space (both menatally and physically) that works for you, a space with minimal distractions that allows you to work your butt off when necessary, knowing that you can switch off at the end of the day with a completed To Do list. 

Don’t stress about things you cannot control; i.e the wet weather or the sound the old guy next to you is making when drinking his cappuccino, but do make every effort to change the things you can if they will lead you to a more productive day. 

Be kind to yourself

As a creative you’re likely an overthinker, it’s how you get some of your best work done, let’s be honest!  BUT overthinking can sometimes lead to a downward spiral of misery. On those days when your head is just not in it, you’ve got a client deadline looming and you worked until the late hours the night before; be kind to yourself. 

Take a step away from work, give yourself an hour of ‘you’ time and do something unrelated. Speak kindly to yourself and do the little things that make you feel better. When the days are rough allow yourself an hour of wallow. Whether you end up in YouTube hole watching Beyoncé live performances or Masterchef re-runs, give yourself that time but once those 60 minutes are up so should be your pity party. 

From time-to-time we have to realise that being kind to ourselves and allowing our minds to wander for a moment or two is better than gauging our eyes out in front of our laptops muttering cruel words about ourselves, our work and our lacklustre performance that day. Have your moment, then dust yourself off and get back to it. You’ll thank yourself later.

Keep Active

This probably warrants a whole post of its own, damn, many profs have written about the benefits of staying active when working from home, or from the Freelancers favourite position: seated. Activity is worth mentioning nonetheless.

Try to move around as much as possible, stand a little (use your kitchen counter as a standing desk), take walking phone calls whenever possible and if it’s your kinda’ thing don’t scrimp on the lunchtime gym activities, make them a priority!

If you don’t tend to do very well sitting still and never have done, don’t fight it. If you’re feeling stuck or uncomfortable having been sat at your desk for hours on end, why not take an hour and go to partake in some yoga, play with your kids or take the doggos on a walk? You know as well as all of us that once you have you’ll be able to settle into whatever job you have in front of you.

Get those steps in when you can, stretch and move your body. Your brain will reward you! 

Remember, this Pandemic will end

Over the upcoming weeks and months you will slowly begin to move out of lock down, you will be able to visit friends and family. Businesses will begin to emerge from their forced hibernation, clients will be spending money once again and you will acclimatise to the ‘new normal’.

It’s worth taking a moment to think about where you and your freelance business want to be when the lock down does lift. Try to tie up any of those niggly bits that you don’t normally have time to do; edits on your website, updating your portfolio and general housekeeping around your accounts and finances. Strategise, plan, review and re-set.

Be sure that when the world does emerge on the other side of this that you’re ready to hit the ground running. Put a plan in place that will ensure that you’re engaged, excited and prepared to take on the work that will land on your desk. 

And lastly

It is clear that the Coronavirus Pandemic has hit the freelancing world, however, more fool it! As a Freelancer you are dedicated, adaptable and bold by nature! You jump through hoops bigger than Coronavirus most weeks!

Now is the time for you to up your Pandemic Productivity and show Covid-19 that you’re not to be played with!

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