How to stay productive AND creative during a lockdown. I spoke to friends and peers and got their expert advice on what works for them. There were some great insights, too many to include in just one post, so later I’ll post them all in full!
Let me just set the scene…
I’ve sat down to start this blog, the phone rang. “Do I want to switch my energy supplier?” I politely declined. I hung up. It rang again, a work call. 20 minutes later, I type one word and I hear squeaky banging, I look up. The dog wants to go outside. As I open the door, in comes another member of the household.
“Have you seen my socks?”
“The black ones?”
My phone rings. I hear my name being called from the front door “Eve! Eve! Eeeeeeeeve! EVE! EVE!” It’s the repairman letting me know the dog is outside. I locate some socks and answer the phone. I take a deep breath, I flick on the kettle, ready to start again….it is 3 days before I start writing this next bit.
One of my biggest challenges has been staying focussed. In a creative industry you have to let your mind wander, let your thoughts explore. The downside to this is that your brain is not particularly discerning about what it lets in. There is an abundance of large concerns right now: family safety, health, business, mental wellbeing, cashflow, weight, Christmas shopping, pasta supplies, the list is endless.
So how to marshal that focus whilst feeding creativity in what is essentially a hermetically sealed world the size of my house without external stimulus or routine, other than a dog. I am now, essentially, feral no?
Across the creative board, people everywhere have found their own ‘new normal’, so I wanted to share with you the thoughts of some of my favourite industry peers for hints and tips to survive this next lockdown.
For me, the impact on my productivity during the first lockdown was equivalent to someone pulling the handbrake while travelling at 70mph. I singlehandedly increased my own cortisol production tenfold but ultimately came up with 5 strategies that work for me.
I read a lot of articles and tried a lot of routines, but those maxims worked for me. You do you – That’s the best advice I can give you. Some days I may be business on top, leisurewear on the bottom but that’s fine ; )
To find out more about Sam’s work, click here
I spent five years in a dressing gown writing screenplays, so I know a thing or two about procrastination. The more disciplined you are (goals, timelines, etc), the more productive you’ll be. Chaos is a stereotype in the creative industries (‘oh, I’m spontaneous – I do my best work at 4am after several absinthes’) but in my experience, it doesn’t work in the long run.
Being productive is all about setting objectives. Don’t make excuses, don’t let yourself off the hook…
I try to get as much creative work done as possible by lunchtime because I know my brain is on a downward spiral from 2pm. I try to arrange calls and zooms in the afternoon because they perk me up. Nothing like a human face or voice to fire the synapses. Easy stuff – admin, research, buying stuff – I leave ’til the end of the day.
To find out more about Simons’ work, click here
Having a good old-fashioned analogue to-do list is a godsend for feeling a sense of achievement. There’s nothing like crossing off a completed task to make you feel like you’ve got your sh*t together. I also like to plan tomorrow’s tasks the night before, to avoid 10-wasted-minutes of ‘what am I doing today?’.
The Pomodoro Method helps so much with battling that dreaded afternoon-slump. Spend 25 minutes working without distractions followed by a 5-minute break to do whatever you want (make a tea, stand up and stretch, scroll through social media, brave the latest news headlines). And repeat! It aids focus while avoiding burn-out, great for when your brain just says “no”. My favourite app for this is Forest!
If you keep finding yourself working late, make plans in the evenings! Parkinson’s Law is the theory that a task will take as much time as you give it, so give yourself ‘deadlines’.
To find out more about Amy’s work, click here
The main thing I found to help really was to just ‘lean into it’ and not get too stressed about keeping to exactly the same patterns and rhythms I had before. Every day now looks slightly different and will start and end at different times, but that in itself has been far more productive overall than trying to make everyone else fit around my old way of working. It took me a little while to realise this, to begin with, I tried to keep things as normal as possible but found that in reality I was stressing myself out and beating myself up when no one else was. My clients were all dealing with the same situation. Once I stopped worrying about my schedule it made for a more productive, harmonious day to day relationship with both my family and my work – it also really helped my mental health.
To find out more about Ben’s work, click here
A solid 9-5 routine is still what works best for me, but I go do other things at least twice a day. I’ll get away from the computer and do something else. This could mean reading a chapter of a book, it could mean making and eating lunch, and it could mean putting on a load of washing. Doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it gets you thinking about something different. I usually take a break like this if I’m facing a problematic part of an animation or feeling a little work burnout. Thinking about something else for a while always gives you a bit of fresh perspective when you come back to work.
One of the biggest hurdles in adapting to lockdown was communicating ideas. It took a good deal of time to work out how best to get over this. One of the largest changes I’ve made in terms of workflow is that I will now take several screenshots at every stage of every project to help review progress with colleagues as not everyone has time to screen share every 5 minutes. This keeps us both on the same page in terms of style, and it means we can quickly course-correct something if we don’t think it’s working.
To find out more about Tom’s work, click here
Creativity at home was hard but utilise the things marketers use every day, Social! Get on YouTube, engage with groups on Facebook, scroll the Twitter-sphere; there is some great inspiration on there and don’t box yourself into just your industry! See what’s happening and apply it to what you do.
The other thing is creating a comfortable separate space. Forget the kitchen table or sofa. Get a desk, a chair and sit in a separate room or somewhere with low traffic to help be productive!
To find out more about Adrian’s work, click here
We had to think quickly and differently and designed many fun and effective campaigns – without the usual photocalls and events associated with them, but with masses of social media, mini-films and fun graphics and excellent results.
For one of our clients, we ran a competition campaign aimed at key and essential workers. It was so successful we did something we don’t normally do, we decided to put ourselves forward for an award. We regularly encourage and support clients to enter awards, but never before follow our own advice. It paid off and we are now a finalist – for Marketing Strategy of the Year!
The awards event, of course, has been postponed, but the recognition has proved motivating and exciting. It’s easy as a PR company to neglect your own PR – the lockdown and subsequent months have motivated me to promote our business. This change of perspective has really helped us to reflect inwards, so my advice is to do the same. With chaos comes opportunity.
To find out more about Jess’ work, click here
Creativity and Productivity can be the two biggest challenges, your brain lets you make excuses because of what’s going on, so I actually had a few sessions with a mindset coach to help me stay on track.
Now what I do try to do especially on my working days, I get up at the same time every day, do my exercises, shave, etc. Basically, run a fixed routine to set myself up for the day. It can be hard, but it helps your head in the long run to have a routine and a sense of normality and purpose. We need to still feel responsible for the days’ and not just let it take us over. You don’t allow your brain to say ‘I can’t be arsed today’ or get into a downward spiral of inactivity. Don’t give yourself a choice, the path is laid out, just hop onto it.
The biggest challenge though is creativity. Normally, in normal life, you automatically come across a lot of natural inspiration, that sparks creativity, but now, basically, my whole day is sitting at my computer screen.
You need to deliberately factor in a non-work activity. I mean in April, it was the first time I HAVE EVER, gone for a walk. I would normally never go for a walk on my own, because, well frankly, I can’t be bothered, but in these times, you have to try new things to keep your brain moving, it helps to process your thoughts. It helps to reset your mind a little bit and I think that’s vital.
Times are ‘a-changin’ and it’s not over yet. There’s been weird sh*t happening that’s for sure!
To find out More about Pims’ work, click here
And on that final point, dear reader, the takeaway from all this is you’re not alone on this struggle. It’s very real.
You may feel more tired, like you’re underachieving, like you’ve lost your drive and purpose, you may feel discombobulated to the point of distraction, but all these things are natural side effects. The general consensus seems to be proactiveness in finding a process that works for you.
For the first time ever in the history of our commercial world, we have been given the gift of choice. Choose how to work, when to work, and what success for us looks like. We are no longer under the cubical shaped yoke of creative oppression (ok, that’s a bit dramatic, our office is actually quite nice) but the message is the same. Choose your own adventure, you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just doing it differently.
Thank you to everyone that found the time to write a little something. I hope these insights into other people’s worlds have helped you get out of your funk and given a little food for thought.
And now for the obligatory sales bit -If you’d like to know more, or have a specific question about video marketing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can try our brand new Online Chat at the Gnu Films website or we’re still available on our office number 01604 422911. More than ever, we need to #keepcommunicating, so we can inform, educate and reassure people. Let’s do it safely, together.
If you’re ready to get started, then get in touch! Call us on 01604422911 or email [email protected]. We’re a full-service video and animation company serving the whole of the UK and more!