To say that we are going through extraordinary times right now seems to be an understatement.
Since the start of the year, the Covid-19 pandemic has put a halt to normality all over the world. As the economy continues to suffer through the pandemic, so are we — with jobs and livelihoods being gravely affected, we are facing an uncertain future — not to mention the amount of lives that were lost during the past months.
As we begin to understand the magnitude of this pandemic and try to adjust our lives to the new ‘normal’, with our social activities being interrupted and more time spent indoors, a lot of people are exploring their creativity in forms of ‘lockdown’ projects, new hobbies or are dedicating this time to self-improvement and self-care.
The internet has exploded in abundance with people sharing their DIY crafts, writing, and painting projects, only to name a few. There are also a lot of people who are currently learning new skills or are studying to further their personal or professional development.
While it is inspiring to see what beauty we are capable of creating and how motivated and persistent we are in times like these, many of us can’t help but think ‘Am I being productive enough’?
Being creative can help with exploring new skills and expressing the emotions we are all currently experiencing. Keeping productive means that energy is spent towards one or multiple goals you have set out to achieve during lockdown. It can also create a healthy routine and keep the mind engaged. But in no instances, should we pressure and force ourselves to be productive, just to keep up with our perception of other people’s productivity.
Read the below ideas on how to create a productive but healthy routine:
1. Be clear of your goals and the things you want to achieve during lockdown
Is lockdown simply providing you with the time and opportunity to explore a hobby that you would otherwise put off because it would take too much time or did not fit into your routine? Awesome! Now is the perfect time to pick up some painting (if that’s your thing) or whichever hobby/skill you always wanted to pursue but lacked motivation. Have fun and create away!
If you are currently stuck at home and are going through a stressful time, taking on a new hobby may help with balancing those emotions. However, it is very important to place your main focus on your emotional well-being and self-care, rather than trying to be super productive or feeling pressured to counteract stress by throwing yourself into work/creative projects. There are a lot of remedies against stress, but it is important to try and figure out what works best for you to un-wind and clear your headspace.
That being said, writing, journaling and painting, exercising or taking on certain creative projects are meant to help release stress, as long as you are doing it for yourself and know that you are not competing against anybody.
During these times it is also very important to be less critical of yourself and to not base your worth on what you are creating/doing in your free time. Instead, try and take time to be with yourself without feeling guilty for doing so. Productivity should be used as a medium to de-stress and to make yourself feel good — if you are feeling the opposite when being productive, then it is time to focus more on yourself and figure out better ways to get into a healthy headspace.
If you are looking to learn a new skill or to take on a new project during lockdown, it is important to go at your own pace. Some days you will simply not feel like working on it, and that is completely ok. Just because you are spending more times indoors at the moment, doesn’t mean that you have to be occupied at all times or that you have to pressure yourself to finish a project/learn a new skill based on an invented deadline. We all deserve a break from time to time, sometimes even for days. Do not compare yourself to your peers — if you are working on something that you enjoy and that is beneficial to your mindset, you will pick it up again, even after a longer break.
Most of us are still working full time, most have relocated from physical offices to working from home. That does not mean that you cannot be creative, have a new project or learn a new skill. However, it is crucial for you to allow for things that fit into your routine and are manageable. And again, go at your own pace and do not pressure yourself too much. Break your project into small parts that you can complete each day to eventually build up a habit (unless it is a short-term project).
2. Figure out the best time to let your creative juices flow
Once you have identified your motivation behind taking on a project, the next step is to determine the best time in the day that works for you. Are your creative juices flowing in the morning or are you a Night owl? Or maybe, you prefer to be creative/active during your lunch, allowing yourself a nice break from work?
If you are not sure when your most productive time is, you can do a 6 day trial which consists of getting up earlier in the morning to work on your project for 2 days, then switch to during the day for another 2 days and then try and work on your project after work/late evenings for the remaining 2 days.
Things to look out for during this trial are the level of energy you feel at any given time to work on your project (are you more energised during the morning, around the afternoon or after work/late evening?).
This is important because a lack of energy or being tired can result in less motivation and commitment to your project which can often lead to pressure/less productivity.
Secondly, what time in the day do you feel the most engaged or the most motivated? Even though we all know motivation comes and goes and that only persistence keeps a project alive, it helps to figure out the best slot in the day where you feel refreshed, free and the most capable.
It should also be a time where your mind is not occupied with other things and you feel relaxed and calm. This is essential for moving your project along, if you are trying to be productive in times that don’t suit you, you automatically lose your motivation and the flow to incorporate this into your routine, thus, the ability to complete and enjoy your project.
3. Enjoy the ride!
Even though we are all striving for greatness, a project should be another opportunity for you to have fun and enjoy yourself. We should not forget that although projects are a chance to further your creativity/development, they can also be therapeutic as they help us un-wind and de-stress, whilst keeping our minds engaged.
So, take that chance and have fun exploring something new or enjoy learning a skill you usually would never dare to. Do not be critical or harsh with yourself if you get stuck or if your skills do not live up to your expectations. Pressure and dissatisfaction are the killers of creativity and productivity. Instead, enjoy the process, experiment, and go at your own pace. If you fail the first couple of times, you’ll try again if you are passionate about it. And if you do decide it is not meant to be for you, there are enough other projects/skills that you can explore.
The key here is to take the pressure and guilt off yourself and to not beat yourself up when things do not go as planned. Those actions will ultimately lead to fear, stress, and the anticipation of failure. And it will then become very challenging to source creativity from those emotions. You will become less and less motivated and will view your project as a task which will need to be completed successfully, rather than a chance to live out your creativity.
Always keep in mind that you are not here to compete with anyone, and you are not here to compete with yourself. Productivity/Creativity thrive from accepting your capabilities and possessing the courage and excitement to go beyond your abilities.
4. Say yes to inspiration — and NO to comparison
Sometimes your creativity can be fuelled by looking at other people’s work. This can be a great source of inspiration, especially if you are not motivated at times or are stuck at a certain stage of your project. It is also a great way to get new ideas or improve your skills.
While seeking inspiration from other projects we see online can give your own productivity a boost, do not try and compare your own creations/skills to the ones you view online.
As mentioned previously, it is important to do things your way and go at your own pace. The beauty of creativity is that it comes in many forms and that everybody has their own ways of bringing that creativity to life.
Comparing yourself to other people negatively can sometimes create a feeling of inferiority (even if this is completely unjustified) which can lead to pressure, self-criticism, and dissatisfaction. Needless to say, these emotions are detrimental to any project.
Secondly, not everything you see online will necessarily show the entire truth. In a lot of cases, the creative pieces of writing or the awesome artworks showcased online, do not depict the amount of hard work and the time it took to achieve these amazing results. This one-sided approach can sometime make you question your own progress or doubt your skills because they no longer live up to your expectation. Each person has different hours a day they can afford to spend on their project.
Instead, embrace the abundance of creativity that you are able to access as a source of inspiration, take bits of that and incorporate them into your projects and be confident and proud that you are working on things at your own pace — in your own unique way.
5. Have a breather — sometimes even for days!
As dedicated as we all are to our projects, sometimes it can be beneficial for your creativity when you take a step back and allow yourself to have a break.
This gives you the chance to recharge your batteries which will then refuel your creativity and provide you with a new outlook or new ideas.
If you are working full time from home, also ensure that you are getting enough fresh air by going for walks or exercising outdoors.
Especially if you are still working, a considerable amount of your energy is still going towards work. And some days, you will simply run out of energy and will not feel like working on your project.
That is completely fine — we are all human and need to recharge from time to time. It’s really important to always focus on your self-care and do things that make you feel good and lift up your energy.
It can also be difficult to feel inspired when you are always in the same environment, especially when you are also using this environment for your regular work.
To be creative, you need to allow yourself to escape reality for a while. There are different things that you could do, e.g. listening to podcasts/watching movies, reading new books, exercising, watching tutorials, talking to friends or simply be by yourself and do whatever feels best.
Whichever method you chose, make sure that you feel refreshed and inspired afterwards.
And ensure that when you do decide to take a break, do not feel guilty or pressured to get back to your project, but rather focus on regaining your energy. Creativity cannot be sourced from stress and burnout, you need to feel your best to be able to create and learn.
I hope the above tips are useful to start your creative/productive journey while you have some spare time during lockdown.
There is never one rule that fits all and each person has their own preference/processes. It’s important to keep yourself engaged during these times and to work towards your project/goals, but it is also equally important to put your well-being first and learn to feel less pressured and to enjoy the ride, because that’s when the magic happens.
And at the end of the day, if you just want to throw it all away and simply binge watch Netflix, please, go for it, it’s really not the end of the world.