A lot of us are struggling more now with motivation to do anything, finding ourselves distracted easily, procrastinating and generally feeling like we’re not doing what we think we should. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are beating themselves up about it and are allowing it to negatively impact how they feel. If this describes you then hopefully you will find some of these tips useful.
You Do You!
Before we get into the tips, I think it’s important to remember something:
It has never been more important that “you do you”. We are all in different circumstances. Some of us are still working with clients, some of us aren’t. There are people who live on their own, others are working out how to coexist with more people around the house than normal. Some have vulnerable people relying on them or are working in key worker roles, others have suddenly found they don’t have any responsibilities. Some people have a mostly life as usual set up, Some have had their normal rule book torn up and scattered to the winds. If you haven’t read my blog on how our psychological needs have been impacted then I recommend checking it out here.
With that in mind please take what it useful from this article and ignore the bits that don’t apply to you.
1) Set Your Expectations
This is a big one. A lot of us have high expectations of ourselves and feel we are falling short right now but it is important to remember those expectations were set in different circumstances. I recommend setting some new ones for the current circumstances. Take into account all the things you are dealing with and set them appropriately. If you haven’t read my previous blog on how our psychological needs have been impacted then I would recommend doing so. Even if you are usually a “work hard / grind is good” person then you may find that now you need a more relaxed approach right now.
For a lot of people, I think identifying the real essentials and separating them from the optional tasks and the stuff you “think you should be doing” is a good idea. Anything in the essentials list needs to be accomplished, the optional tasks are those bits you can work on when you are in the mood and the “I think I should be doing” stuff needs to be removed from the mental space.
The “I think I should be doing” category is best removed by reviewing the items and deciding if they will genuinely be of use to you and your business now, later or not at all. If they will be of use now then the items will either go on the essential task list or the optional one, if they may be of use later then add them to a “some day” list and if they aren’t of use to you then they definitely don’t deserve to be taking up mental energy and putting you under pressure as a “I think I should…” item, by acknowledging them and putting them in their appropriate place it will relieve that issue.
Task: Write 3 lists of tasks:
- Essential tasks
- Optional tasks
- Feel I should be doing tasks
Review the 3rd list and put everything in the essentials, optional or forget about categories
2) Set Up Your Environment To Support You
This one is split into multiple areas as there is more than the physical environment to consider but let’s start there. I know for some people this is easier than others but where possible creating separate spaces / set ups for work vs everything else is a good idea. Whether that is a desk in a particular room, a time when the rest of the household know you are not to be disturbed, noise cancelling headphones or something else that works for you, it really helps to have a few elements that tell you as well as everyone else that you are “at work”.
It’s not just our physical environment that impacts us and a lot of the “I feel I should be doing” stuff can come from things we see online. As always, the online environment can be a good thing, sparking ideas, giving us connections at a time when they aren’t as available in an offline way, allowing us to keep up to date with what is happening elsewhere and giving us access to explore new things. However, if we are letting it impact us negatively on a regular basis then it might be time to review how we use it and how we limit our exposure to the things that are getting us down.
Even at the best of times distractions can come from both online and physical environments. Address it by identifying what you are particularly prone to being distracted by. Do you need to put your phone in another room? Use a social media blocking tool for certain hours? Remove yourself physically or virtually from a distracting environment for a set period of time? Once you have identified your distractions it is easier to identify the solutions, although of course you will still need to put them in place!
If you aren’t feeling in a great place then it can be a good idea to amend any plans you have to suit the approach that works best for you at that time, maybe lighten up on expectations or choose a project or task you find fun and rewarding over one you find challenging in a negative way even at the best of times.
If you are finding that your mind is all over the place at the moment then having somewhere to write things down as they occur to you may help (this is a big one for me right now, my usually reliable memory has gone on strike and I’m needing to write more things down to save myself from stressing over them). It can also be used to park those ideas that can lead you off track down a path of procrastination. Wondering if there’s a recipe for making biscuits without eggs or when the next episode of your favourite series will be available? Write it down, stick to the task at hand and then when it’s done / at the end of your current focus block turn to Google.
Task: Review your physical, online and psychological environments, identify what you can change to help you focus right now and put anything in place you need to do.
3) Add Structure But Allow Yourself To Relax
We don’t need to work 24/7, we don’t even need to work 9-5 or 8 hours a day (unless we are being paid to do so of course). If you are working on you own business you have all the advantages of being self employed here – you get to choose what you do! Revisit the expectations section if you need to. Work out what the essential jobs are and when and how you can do them.
For most people these will be in the client facing areas, session delivery / check ins / programming depending on your service. It is also a good idea to post about what you are doing / what a client has achieved / how clients are enjoying their sessions / what clients are getting out of your service / positive feedback you’ve had or similar.
These posts act as reinforcement for existing clients as well as potential marketing tool but they don’t need to be anything fancy. Work out what your minimum frequency is and how you can meet that with minimum pressure. For most people now is not the time to be setting big goals around stuff we don’t like doing so approach it like you might a client. Pick a frequency that you are 90-100% certain you can do.
We tend to like routine and at the moment our normal routines have gone. With this in mind it can be a good idea to create some new ones remembering that just because we used to do things at certain times it doesn’t mean they have to stay there now. We all like different amounts of structure so you’ll need to find what works for you but having a plan will allow you to review what’s working and change what’s not far easier than having no plan at all.
If you are struggling with procrastination then it might help to break your time into shorter slots, maybe 30 mins or an hour. Know what you are going to do in that timeslot and limit distractions as far as possible (headphones, agreement with older children to leave you in peace, agreement with someone else to look after younger children or waiting until younger children are in bed etc. I know some of these are easier than others so it will be a case of finding what works for you) and focus.
Then have a break, if that’s your essential stuff done then give yourself the freedom of not working for the rest of the day, keep everything a choice. If you still have some essential tasks for the day decide when your next focused time slot is going to be. You may want to work on some of the optional stuff, you may prefer to check out your latest boxset or go for your walk / run / cycle.
Treat all your tasks in the same way – remind yourself you have a choice. Other than the client sessions you have booked, you get to choose what you do when. You don’t have to work, you don’t have to train, you don’t have to go for a run, BUT you can do all or any of it if you want to.
And, if you want to procrastinate give yourself permission to do so. The Minimum Effective Dose approach doesn’t need to just be about exercise 😊
Task: Identify if you need more structure or less right now. Review your diary for the week ahead, put in the time slots for client sessions, essential tasks, project tasks, study, any home based or personal tasks and downtime. Work out your perfect day(s) under current circumstances and see what you can do to line things up. It will take time to find the right answer so try what you have set out and tweak as you need to until you find what works for you.
4) Find Your Positives
Now more than ever it can help to identify some positives, things you can focus on when things feel a bit rubbish. We know that as humans we are more prone to focus on the negative than the positive and that we need multiple positives to cancel out a negative (5+). We can address this in different ways; some more obvious like creating a list of positives we can go back to when we need it, a positivity jar, a file of positive comments from clients we can read when we get a cancellation that knocks us etc; some by knowing what positive experiences lift our spirits, maybe playing with children or a pet, maybe calling a friend or family member, escaping into a good book, watching a film, working on a skill and some by looking externally, googling “positive stories”, asking others for good news etc.
Alongside this it is important to make the time to do things that rejuvinate you. Do you need to take a couple of days off from work? Would it help if you took a walk on your own instead of with the rest of your household a couple of times a week? Do you need more fun things you can do together as a household or do you need to factor in some more space? Look at what is lacking from your life that normally gives you an extra energy or mood boost and see what you can do to replace that within the current restrictions
Task: Create your own list of positive resources you can use when you are feeling negative e.g.
- Challenge yourself to find at least 5 positive things when you are feeling negative.
- Go for a walk and smile and say hello to anyone you see.
- Find at least 5 nature photos you love.
- Keep a file of all the positive feedback you’ve had from clients
- Read your reviews and testimonials
- Put on a fun playlist and sing / dance along
Then work out some if / then statements to help you use them when you need them! e.g. if I feel down when a client leaves me then I will read my testimonials and play my feel good playlist.
5) Try New Approaches
Now is a good time to explore different approaches, maybe even stuff you’ve disregarded in the past. With all the changes going on a lot of things that may not have worked for us before may have value now. Whether that’s introducing new self care practices, exploring completely different projects, learning new skills and reviewing entire areas of our life or making tweaks to our time management, internal dialogue and letting go a little, we still have a lot of control over how we approach different aspects of the current situation and exploring the different options can really help.
Ask for help if you need it, everyone needs help at times and we are no exception to that. Speak to your family or friends or seek professional help as appropriate.
Task: Identify which areas you are struggling with right now.
Once you have the list, rank them in terms of importance / impact on your life then brainstorm different ways you could address them. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. If you can, talk to someone, get their input on different options and see what you can come up with. Work out what you are willing to try and give it a go, if it doesn’t help explore one or more of the other possibilities.
Remember you are not alone. We are all having times when we feel down and the best way to deal with those will depend on the individual and may vary from day to day. Sometimes you might want to go with it, have that pyjama and ice cream day, sometimes you might want to work on self care practices and sometimes you might want to do an activity that brings you into a more positive frame of mind. These will be personal things and there’s no right or wrong, although if you do think this is more than “feeling a bit down” at times then it is recommended to seek professional support.
Self compassion is something a lot of people benefit from working on generally and the current situation makes this even more important. The “Be Kind” message is a really good one as right now I can guarantee that everyone is trying to work out how things work but it is also really important to remember that the message applies to how we treat ourselves too!
If you have any questions or have found solutions that work for you then feel free to drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)