2020 has not been the easiest year, to say the least.
The pandemic has caused massive upheaval across the globe, forcing us into a variety of stressful situations and making us rethink pretty much every aspect of our lives, including the way we do business.
But there have been some positives, too. A lot of insights that have been gained from slowing down. After speaking to some folk and among ourselves, we compiled ten of the most valuable habits and lessons we’ve learned (including tips on how to keep them up once lockdown lifts).
If you want to skip the summaries and head straight to the action points, just scroll to the end of this article where we’ve collated them for you. (Helpful, ‘ey?)
1. Being more “human” in the way you communicate
If you had a business plan at the start of 2020, chances are it’s long-since been scrapped. Our global situation has called for much more empathetic content from us: messages that reflect the needs of our society as it evolves. The knock-on effect of this is that we’ve experienced much more “human” content from brands online. Everything from public statements to personal stories and posts about (much-needed) activism. In turn, this honest communication has paved the way for more authentic connections… which is exactly what content should create.
How can I keep this up?: Be dedicated to engaging with your consumers openly. Don’t be afraid to have a stance on the subjects affecting our society, either. The more human you are, the more likely you are to connect in a genuine way with the people that matter.
2. Operating by a more balanced schedule
Whether you were already working from your couch or were a total home office novice, self-isolation is bound to have affected the way you do business. Most likely, the biggest change is that you’ve switched up when you work. Adapting your “office” hours to factor in your kids, digital social commitments, self-care and more.
Whatever time-based tweaks you’ve made, we hope it’s been in the pursuit of balance – creating a schedule that has helped you feel your happiest, healthiest self despite the circumstances. If so, fight to keep this new rhythm once restrictions have been lifted. Balance is crucial whether we’re in quarantine or not, and you should always be the master of your own schedule – not at the mercy of it.
How can I keep this up?: If you’re self-employed, the solution is easy! Just keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t be afraid to adapt your routine as and when you need to, to complement your energy levels and/or mood.
If you’re an employee, have a conversation with your boss. If you’ve already proven your ability to work from home effectively, there’s no reason why they should chuck your needs to the curb without reason. Particularly as many employers are now thinking of incorporating remote working policies into their businesses full-time. We’ve got our fingers crossed for you.
3. Adhering to your mental health
According to this report in The Telegraph, more than one million people in the UK have downloaded a mental health app since the start of the pandemic.
This comes as no surprise considering the immense stress we’ve all been under. Yet while the stress itself is hard to dress up as a good thing, the volume of downloads signifies people aren’t sweeping their needs under the rug. Many of us are investing in looking inward, and taking advantage of our slowed down society to attend to the demands of our heads and hearts… mindful work that only makes us stronger in the long run.
How can I keep this up?: The most important requirement of working on your mental health is repetition. If you’ve downloaded an app, are journalling or making efforts to open up more to your loved ones, make sure you’re creating a habit out of it. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes to anxiety. Consistency is key, so you’ve got to “do the work” on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
4. Being friendlier with the people you work with
We don’t know about you, but the standard “hope you are well” email opener just hasn’t been sitting well with us recently. It feels disingenuous in a climate where anxiety is the norm (and you know how we feel about being genuine!). As a result, it’s inspired us to think differently about how we address the people we collaborate with – using words that are less formal and more friendly. In turn, that’s helped us build more of a relationship with some of our clients: which has been hugely positive.
How can I keep this up?: There are several ways to build more of a relationship with the people you do business with. It can be as big as arranging digital drinks over Zoom, or as small as chucking a line into your standard check-in email that makes it clear you’re available to chat if needed. You never know when someone might want your shoulder. By offering yours, you’ll only strengthen your working relationships in a great way.
5. Paying more attention to your brand
Hands up who’s had more time to play with their brand recently? Most of us, right? With our foot off the gas in terms of client work, it’s been easier to pour attention into the look and feel of our own professional identities. This work can take many forms. Maybe you’ve overhauled your website, changed the visual style of your social pages or spruced up your bio copy. Whatever efforts you’ve made to freshen up your brand, the investment is never wasted. It’ll only improve your chances of impressing the people you want to engage with, and keep your digital spaces at the forefront of search engines and social dashboards, too. All good stuff.
How can I keep this up?: The biggest danger is that you won’t feel able to give your brand the same attention you’ve been able to when regular work resumes. The only way to address that is through strict time management. Reserve at least a couple of hours a week for you: to check your website’s functionality, engage on social media and plan content that’ll keep you and your community connected. Remember, it’s just as important to keep your brand in good nick as it is producing great work for others. Your platforms are often the first impression people get before contacting you, so don’t neglect them!
6. Picking up a more balanced view
There’s something about a global pandemic that really puts things into perspective. The stuff that used to keep us up at night – a slightly rude email from a client, spotting a grammatical error in an article we’ve written – has been given a totally new light, in contrast to the major issues we’re facing as a collective. And while these are absolutely not to be sneezed at, they’ve offered us a valuable outlook on our daily problems. Enabling us to see what’s really important, and to put our energy towards the things that need it most.
How can I keep this up?: Maintaining healthy and accurate perspectives is so important – on both ends of the spectrum. It’s vital we continue paying attention to the matters taking centre-stage – ending racial inequality, protecting LGBTQA+ rights, tackling the pandemic safely – and contribute where we can. But it’s equally crucial that we don’t get overwhelmed, and carry the whole world on our shoulders. That will only hold you back and stop you from performing at your highest level.
Appreciate the perspective quarantine has given you, but keep the balance. Partake in activism, absolutely. But limit your time online reading negative news. Don’t sweat the small stuff… but consider starting a gratitude journal, anyway. It’s important to remind yourself of the blessings in your life, so when you’re going through harder times, you have something positive to refer to.
7. Knowing when to rest
Many of us have trouble learning when to get off the productivity treadmill and just… “be”. It’s not a natural state for many of us. Not in a society which uses the work you produce as a marker for self-worth, and where social media acts as a means to compare yourself endlessly.
That being said, quarantine seems to have created more space for self-compassion and forgiveness. One in which “rest” has not only been accepted, but encouraged. We all understand we’re in a unique situation, and setting personal boundaries and limits is no longer a controversial act. Hopefully this remains to be the case long after lockdown lifts.
How can I keep this up?: First, remember that comparison is always fruitless. Everyone has their own needs. So long as you’re doing your best with what you’ve got, there’s no need to care about anyone else.
Second, if you struggle striking the balance, maybe download an app or start following a personalised schedule that ticks all the necessary boxes: self-care, self-improvement, socialising, work and play. The more equally proactive, rested and stimulated you feel, the happier you’ll be. In the immortal words of Leslie Knope…
Image source: TV Gag
8. Thinking about the future
Similar to point number three, many of us have been taking stock of our feelings, and getting reacquainted with new or long-buried dreams. Maybe lockdown has revealed you’re unhappy with your job, and given you the opportunity to start exploring new talents and career paths. Or you’ve realised how much you miss travelling, and don’t want to take it for granted anymore – causing you to finally plan that trip of a lifetime. Whichever dreams have come tapping at the door, you’ve had time to give them due diligence, and start thinking of ways to make them happen.
How can I keep this up?: It’s important to discern which dreams are genuine and worth pursuing, and which are just fantasy (the ones that seem cool in your head but you know wouldn’t match up in real life). Prime example: yesterday in the shower I was listening to Susanne Sundfør – an awesome Norweigan artist – who in a couple of her songs, has an organ player. I thought, “hey, I’d love to learn the organ!”. Twenty-four hours later, and I can safely say that this would be a terrible idea. Much as I love music, I’ve never had an aptitude for it. Deep down, I know I would lose interest within a few seconds of my first (probably diabolical) organ lesson.
The moral? If you’re toying with a new dream that you’re not sure about yet, mull on it – and do your research – before you start investing tools. On the flip side, if you’ve had a dream for a long time but are scared to take the leap, here are 11 inspirational reasons why you should go for it.
9. Asking for help when you need it
Under “normal” circumstances, many of us might try to shoulder our burdens alone. We might think they’re not worth sharing or that we should be strong enough to deal with them by ourselves. One of the biggest pluses of lockdown has been shrugging off this belief. It’s served as an extreme reminder that we all need help sometimes – whether that’s understanding from your landlord, a kind word from your colleagues or a virtual hug from your parents. It’s highlighted how crucial community is. Why we all need people we can trust and share things with. All vital stuff.
How can I keep this up?: I fear that this will be one of the biggest struggles of readjusting to “normal” society. Again, the trick to keeping this up is in your schedule. Pencil in a bi-monthly lunch date with a friend you know you can pour your heart out to. Alternatively, find a community online that shares your issues to connect with. There will always be people who want to listen to you – and they’re well worth finding.
10. Investing in self-improvement
Untethered from the regular duties that make up daily life, we’ve been able to try new skills. Coding. Design. Learning a language. Yoga, cooking or writing. It’s paved the way to discovering new passions, which is the zest of life. Learning new things and pushing yourself past the line of what you thought you were capable of. It would be a real pity to stop learning just because lockdown goes away, right?
How can I keep this up?: Habit building is the only way! Motivation comes and goes, but habits – if established properly – can last a lifetime. Carve out a chunk of your day every day – whether that’s ten minutes or an hour – to the skill you’re trying to build. Stick to it as best you can. That being said, don’t flagellate yourself if you fall off the wagon sometimes. That’ll only make you feel like you’re not capable, and you are. Be kind to yourself and keep going.
Summary action points
- Make “human” content the norm for your brand. Be dedicated to engaging with your consumers openly.
- Defend your new schedule. If you’ve struck a better balance in quarantine, make sure you stick to it even as the world returns to “normal”. Speak to your boss (if you’re an employee) to ensure this happens.
- Make maintaining your mental health a habit. By journalling, downloading a mental health app or speaking to a therapist.
- Be friendlier with the people you work with. Check in with them often to establish more emotional and fruitful connections.
- Focus on your brand more often. Don’t neglect your own brand as you pick up more client work. Ensure your website’s up to date and your social feeds are fresh on a regular basis. Put this in your schedule so you don’t forget.
- Always think of the bigger picture. Keep that valuable perspective you’ve picked up over the past few months for good. Be active with tackling big world issues and pay less mind to your day-to-day stressors. To help with the latter, keep a gratitude journal to remind you of the good stuff in your life.
- Don’t be ashamed of resting. We all have different bodies, minds and needs. Download an app to remind you to take time out, or design a schedule that helps you strike that perfect balance.
- Make careful, considered moves towards your future. Consider what you want to do – and then do it, without letting the minutiae of day to day life get in the way. Research your plans first, though, before investing tools.
- Lean on your loved ones. Open up to your friends and family often, or find a support circle online where you can share your worries without fear of stigma.
- Prioritise self-improvement. Keep pushing yourself by incorporating self-improvement into your daily or weekly routine, and find new confidence in your potential.