If you're anything like me, you'll be suffering from - or at least going through phases of suffering from - lockdown brain. An as-yet undiagnosed condition, symptoms include lack of concentration, heightened procrastination, and over snacking. For the first eight weeks of UK lockdown, this seemed to be fairly acceptable, with many people working at a slower rate than normal. But now as England heads back to work, I'm realising that I need to find a way back to a more focused self. So I've been exploring some ideas that might help.
Get the crayons out!
Anyone who knows me will also know that I'm not artistically gifted. Don't get me wrong, I love a good craft. Give me a sewing machine, some clay, or an axe (not necessarily at the same time), and I'll come up with something almost recognisable. But drawing, painting and other artistic expression has never been my friend. However, since attending a Visual Facilitation workshop last year, I'm now never far from my marker pens, crayons and flip chart paper, and take every opportunity to get creative. I usually do this to make materials for workshops but they've been thin on the ground, so I decided to make some materials for myself. Ahead of reviewing some research impact case studies, instead of written notes, I made myself a poster! The lightbulb might look more like a mushroom, but it's colourful and captures what I need to remember in a much brighter way.
Get it done, woman!
I'm a master procrastinator at the best of times, so lockdown has been a real test in keeping the brain cells working. If you've read my post on being productive, you'll know that I really value procrastination as an important part of my way of getting things done, but I've recently realised that there are limits to this. I seem to have been unable to remain at my desk for more than about 15 minutes at a time! So, I've been trying to be a bit stricter with myself to make sure I just get things done. I'm now setting myself deadlines (not something I normally do) and making every effort to stick to them. I'm back to my to-do lists, which have really gone out of the window since early March. And I'm cutting down on the snack breaks - or at least trying to - and using them as a reward to myself when I've finished a task. It's hard work, but it's starting to pay off.
The last branch I'm exploring is giving myself a break. I'm a passionate advocate of flexibility in the workplace and wax lyrical about its benefits to whoever will listen. But, from time to time, even I worry about whether I've done enough work in the day. And that's pretty unsettling. I really want to learn something from the lockdown and give myself a bit more space to breathe. If I'm on track for a deadline, then it doesn't matter if I relax the pace a bit. If I've got all my admin done in a morning that I thought would take all day, then I can either take the afternoon off or do something productive - or a mix of both. And if it's a lovely day outside and I'm not up against a tight schedule, I can go for a walk or a bike ride without getting stressed.
These three things might not make me the world's most productive person, but having some wee reminders about what works for me is helping me get back into my stride. I, for one, don't want to go back to the world before Covid but I do need to find more of a balance. These few small things might just help.