I would confidently bet that the majority of us feel a range of emotions on different days. On Monday I had my shit together; I divided all my tasks into lists based on urgency, sent off a 3 weeks calendar of content to one of our clients and did a 5k run after work. On Tuesday, a colleague and I delivered a strategy presentation, brainstormed new creative ideas for our social channels and I attended an insightful webinar. On paper, it looks like two great days, right? So what makes them different?
… the way I felt on those days. On Tuesday I was struggling all day. I felt drained, yet restless, caught my thoughts constantly drifting and had to force myself to re-focus my attention on work, and any idea that was good was not good enough! Although it was a productive day where I accomplished more than what was on my to do list, it did not feel like it.
We try to do our best in situations of crises. We use our survival instinct and adapt, power though and come up with solutions based on information available. Yet, changed circumstances and the unknown can quickly drain our energy.
So how can we continue to get up in the morning, be creative and produce good work, despite our feelings interfering and causing a dissonance?
My best tips for staying creative, productive and motivated – anytime, not just during a strange and unfamiliar pandemic – are to find what works for you, be kind to yourself and listen to your body.
Find what works for you through trial and error
Getting up at the same time every day, sleep in on Wednesdays, only reply to emails after 11am, exercise at midday, late lunch or 20 min power nap at 3pm – what does your mind and body need? Be transparent with what works for you and voice this to your manager. It is in their best interest to allow you to take responsibility of your way of working so you can perform at your optimal and deliver what is required of you.
I have always been an advocate for flexible working, because that is when I thrive. For me, it takes away imagined pressure and allows me to put my energy where it is needed, which results in me feeling better, more positive and creative, and consequently producing better quality work. I believe in facilitating a work environment and culture that enables the individual to perform at their best, and no one knows better what works for you, than you.
It is okay to struggle, it is okay to feel a range of emotions, it is okay to cope differently on different days - essentially; it is okay not to be okay. Remind yourself of this when you are struggling. There can sometimes be a gap between what we know to be true (facts) and what we feel is true (emotions). What may help, when your feelings are betraying you, is to remind yourself of your accomplishments. An effective way to do this is by using lists, spreadsheets, mind maps (whatever is your preference) to keep a track of what you have achieved so you can see it.
Listen to your body
Considering our circumstances have changed, it would be peculiar to expect our routines to stay the same. You have most likely lost out on your daily exercise such as walking to the bus, going to the corner café for a take away coffee, taking the stairs to the meeting on one floor above you and your weekly gym classes, which all would contribute to well-needed endorphins tackling elevated cortisol levels caused by stress. Furthermore, video calls and video meetings take more energy than meetings face-to-face as we lose out on body language and instant social interaction. Multitasking, working without certain equipment and having to plan more in advance (e.g. food shopping, preparation and cooking) take up further energy. Not being able to socialise with friends and family like we are used to, thus loosing out on vital human contact, and not knowing when we can hug our loved ones again, take up additional energy. The list of everyday things that now take up additional energy becomes long quickly.
Although many of us have taken up running (which is amazing), our new routines (shorter commute to the living room than the office and less social interaction through weekly online quizzes than prosecco in a beer garden while watching the rugby) reward us with fewer endorphins, and new stresses may cause increased cortisol levels, which in turn may trigger mental health issues such as low mood and anxiety.
With all of this going on, your head and body is bound to be more tired, and you might need more sleep, go to bed earlier and/or wake up later. You might even need an afternoon nap!
Acknowledging these variables and accept that they may effect us more than what we desire is a good start in being nicer to ourselves and others around us.
We try to do our best in situations of crises.
There are no right answers.
Find what works for you, be kind to yourself and listen to your body.