Not being able to work is an immense frustration, but there is a silver lining. Consider that, for many of us, never again will we benefit from this amount of downtime before we hit retirement. You can’t travel (even locally), but you can use this time to tick off some of the other things you have always wanted to do – our tips will help you better yourself and improve your productivity so that when the time comes you can go back fighting and ready to win.
Don’t get lazy – and stay motivated
I’m already finding myself staying up and waking up a little later each day, now that I no longer have to commute into the office. It’s a dangerous habit that is going to be difficult to break when life returns to normal.
One of the most difficult things we are all going to have to deal with over the next few weeks or months is keeping ourselves motivated and staying optimistic.
Set an alarm for each weekday morning, then get up, get washed and dressed, even if you’re not going to work. Make sure you’re not staying up too late either. Stick as closely as possible to your normal routine, taking your lunch when you would normally have your break, and potentially timing your daily exercise to coincide with when you would usually travel to or from work. If you don’t want to leave the house, check out the many home workout apps and YouTube shows available.
Even if you have no work-related things to put on them, get in the habit of using a to-do list app such as Any.do or Todoist to prioritise what realistic tasks you want to achieve each day, and get a sense of satisfaction when you cross things off the list. Give yourself rewards, too, whether it’s a bar of chocolate, a beer in the garden at the end of the ‘working’ day, or something as simple as watching your favourite TV show at lunch.
There are plenty of things you are able to achieve even now, and we’ll consider some more of these below.
Finally organise your email inbox
Some of my colleagues – I won’t name them – have more than 3,000 unread emails in their inboxes, and it actually makes me want to cry. To me, an unread email signifies something I still need to action, and having over 3,000 is one very long to-do list.
Before you laugh this one off, consider that sorting out your inbox and getting yourself more organised is one of the first steps in becoming more productive. Imagine how many missed business opportunities could have been lost within that sea of mail, or how many friends are wondering why you are too important to reply to them. And just wait until you need to actually find an old message to dig up some info.
A better way to manage your inbox is with labels or folders that allow you to separate mail into more manageable groups – all email clients support this in the settings – then leave your inbox solely for the things you still need to action.
If those unread emails are simply junk, now is the perfect time to unsubscribe rather than keep allowing them to enter your inbox. Look at the foot of emails for an unsubscribe link, or use the email client’s settings to automatically unsubscribe, report spam and block the senders who are repeat offenders.
Keep in touch with clients and partners
While you are unable to work, many of the people with whom you regularly do business continue without you. Don’t let them forget about you, and don’t assume they know why you have gone quiet – tell them. Make plans for when you are able to return to work.
It’s important to maintain regular contact, regardless of whether or not you can physically act on anything, and you can file all that correspondence in your newly organised inbox.
Build or improve your small business website
Continuing that communication theme, now is the perfect time to create a website for your small business if you have not already done so – or perhaps your existing site could use some fine-tuning or you haven’t posted to it in a while. Those taking their first steps in web design should check out our guides to the best web building services and best web hosting services.
Learn a new skill
There is literally no better time to improve your knowledge and what you can offer a company. Always wanted to know how to use Photoshop, or do your Excel and PowerPoint skills need brushing up?
Udemy and LinkedIn Learning offer a range of professional online courses that can help you to hone existing skills or learn new things that will put you in a better position when you finally unleash the new and improved you on the world. Go get ’em, tiger.
Learn a foreign language
In the UK, we are notorious for expecting the rest of the world to speak English, but imagine how much it could benefit professional you if you were to do as our foreign cousins have done and make an effort to learn Spanish, German, French or Italian.
Rosetta Stone, one of the best-known language-learning platforms, is also notable for having offered students a three-month free trial of its software – but anyone can take advantage of a three-day trial to see if this is the platform for them. If it’s not, there is a range of learning-language apps available.
Work on a happier, healthier you
Meditation and mindfulness apps such as Headspace can help you to take full advantage of this break from normality. By working on improving your physical and mental wellbeing you can go some way to ensure you are in the best postition to take on any new challenges when they arise.
Learn how to play an instrument
Knowing how to play a musical instrument might not directly help your professional life unless you’re about to start gigging or releasing an album but, as we noted above, finding new ways to step away from work and relax will ultimately help your productivity when it is time to work.
Fender Play, a guided learning platform for guitar, bass and ukelele, caught our eye for its offering of a free three-month trial during the current situation, but there is a ton of online resources – both paid and free – for teaching yourself how to play various musical instruments.
Admittedly you will need to have access to the instrument at home in order to start using it. For me there is a drum kit in my spare room that has never had the attention it deserves. Please take a moment to spare a thought for my poor neighbours.