Lockdown is a new way of life we’re all having to grow used to. Across the world, people from almost all countries are being encouraged to stay home, only leaving when absolutely necessary, such as to buy food or to pick up medication or seek medical help. Many of us are struggling to feel productive during this time. Not only are we not used to being in the house all day every day and may feel like there’s nothing to do, but we may also be feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, which can easily lead to procrastination or listlessness. So, to help you keep your chin up and get things done, even under these odd circumstances, here are a few tips and tricks that can help to keep you as productive as possible!
Working from Home
Some people have been forced out of work by coronavirus, as they’re unable to work on a remote basis. But if you can work remotely, you’re in luck! You can still generate an income and get by more easily. However, working from home is very different to working from an office. You’re going to have to make sure you’re productive of your own accord, as you’re not going to have a manager watching over your shoulder during your working hours. Take a little time to read up tips to work from home. It’s also a good idea to try to maintain as much of a routine around work as possible. Still get up early, shower and eat breakfast before sitting down to work for the day. Make sure you still take sufficient breaks. Make sure you still finish at your usual time. If you find that you’re struggling, or can think of anything that will help you to be more productive, reach out to your manager or boss and make some suggestions!
Now is a great time to pick up some new hobbies. They can simply be fun. They can teach you a skill. They could prove to be something you continue even once the lockdown restrictions have been lifted. No matter what your personal interests, there’s bound to be something that suits you down to a tee! Some popular options include baking, learning a new language, reading, writing, painting, arts and crafts, jigsaw puzzles, learning to play an instrument and much more. So, give a few different things a try until you find something that you can really focus on!
The current time could be a chance to work on the relationships in your life. Reach out to friends you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Talk to family members who you don’t usually get the time to catch up with as regularly as you’d like to. There are plenty of ways to do this from home. Most people are now enjoying video call apps, like Zoom and Houseparty!
You don’t have to complete any gargantuan feats during lockdown. But this can prove to be a productive time if you handle and face things the right way and with a positive can-do attitude!
There are more and more people that work from home. And this is not just because government has mandated or suggested that people work from home at this time. Even before this, we had a lot of freelancers and online digital workers who work from the comfort of their own home. There are approximately 1.5 million freelancers who work online as virtual assistants, writers, tutors, etc.
So for this particular segment, not much has changed in terms of the working habits that they have.
I’ve been an advocate of professionalizing this industry and I love the Filipino freelancing community. I, too, have been freelancing (also was a full-time freelancer for a time) continuously since 2010. I just focused less on it when I decided to put up my own business back in 2013.
With this, there are a lot of tips that we can actually get from the people in this community. So feel free to follow the them by joining different freelancing groups on Facebook.
For today, I thought of giving you some things that you can try out a home. So just to give you a background of what I do, I’m currently running a SaaS tech company with my husband. I also have an events based business. I am and have been a professional blogger since 2008 and I’m also a mom to a little girl.
So fo the tips that I’ll share with you today, I personally and obviously do and follow these things. As a mompreneur, I juggle a lot of things so these may be applicable to moms and dads who are reading these, too. Some of them are even probably shared by a lot of productivity gurus, but I’ll try as much as possible to share my personal experience together with these tips.
I wake up at least an hour before my first task (in my case, it’s usually an online call for daily syncs with different departments of my business).
Lying on the bed for an additional hour or so is such great temptation, especially if you’re not used to working at home. I can’t stress the importance of following a daily routine and building a habit from that. From what I have experience personally is that if I don’t follow a routine and just go through the motions and follow how I feel on a daily basis, I feel depressed after a few days. That feeling came from thoughts like “what’s the ‘plan’ for my life?”, “why am I so unhealthy? or I feel so unhealthy!”or “How can I be so incompetent and unproductive?”. And when you’re in that state, it’s harder (at least for me) to get up and grab that rhythm again.
I track all of my tasks, online calls/meeting using Google Calendar
What I’ve noticed when you’re working from home, you easily lose track of time and easily get distracted. I have had a few times that I was late to online calls, because I was doing something with my daughter or watching a video online that suddenly caught my attention. So my tip would be to have all of these calls in an online calendar that you can track and set notifications so that it pops out on your screen.
Also, I keep different kinds of Calendars. You can go to the lower left of your screen and add your own calendar. You can even share this calendar with other people.
Eat a tech-free meals.
To be honest with you, eating for me is more of fuel to get me through the day rather than an activity by itself that I enjoy. So usually, it takes me less than 15 minutes to finish a meal. Working from home even cut this time into half. I’m done eating in under 10 minutes. My husband is the total opposite though and he loves having a good meal. He actually taught me how to enjoy eating and be present while eating.
We also made this rule at home to leave gadgets in our work / study area when we would go for a meal. I’ve noticed that having a tech free meal encourages conversation with the family, and we get to talk to each other (and I mean really talk… as compared to us “sort of” listening to each other). So this is actually one thing that I encourage you to do. Have a quiet meal time (when you live alone) or have conversations with your loved ones.
Working from home mean that you have limited space to move around (no pantry area or a workmates to go to). You should move and get blood flowing through your body. I would see a lot of IG stories of videos of people who work out, and they’re all so glamorous and nice looking. But don’t let that stop you from exercising. You don’t have to look fab, before start working out. Exercising is not just for fit people or people who would normally go to the gym. You don’t have to do burpees, 3 minute planks or 10 push ups at home.
If you’re just starting out this whole relationship with fitness, start by just stretching. A simple routine that I personally do is the following:
Crawl to plank (10 times)
Stay in Plank position (try to stay for 10 seconds than gradually increase time)
Jog in place for 1 minute or Jumping Jacks
Air squats (10 times)
Air Jabs – Front (alternate at 20 times)
Air jabs – Twist to the side (alternate at 20 times)
Cruches – 10 times
It’s important also that you encourage your kids to workout, too and to move and stay active.
Fix your files in your computer and sync it with a cloud storage facility
Most of us, including me, know where to find things even if our desktop and document folders are a mess. But I recently fixed all of my folders and had time to fix my files that are stored in Google drive, too, and I feel and I “think” I am more productive.
Having a cleaner desktop leads you to find files faster. I recently just used the Use Stacks feature of my Mac. It basically, stacks in one pile all of the same kind of files based on how you sort it. Super cool! My desktop is so clean now.
Make it a point to learn something new everyday!
What I like about reading a chapter of a book or going through 1-2 sessions of an online course is that I feel like I did something “substantial” for the day.
I take down notes every time I go through sessions or when I read a chapter of a book. I store it in an online tool also. You can also use a notebook if you like writing using a pen and paper. What I use is my Notepad that syncs to iCloud. My notes sync in all my devices, so I get to access it everywhere I go.
I hope this list helps you.
One of the people that I follow is Thomas Frank. I usually watch his YouTube videos.
If you want to check out his course on Skillshare, here is a link to a free 2 month subscription:
I highly recommend that you look for these two courses.
You can experiment on it these different things that I mentioned, combine it with what you have learned in Skillshare, and try it out. Some tips may work for some and might not work for others. The important thing is you try to find what will help you work happily from home.
Let me know if you have questions on productivity or how to be productive while working from home. I’ll be glad to reply.
P.S. Here are some other articles that you may want to read:
Few and far in between are the freelancers who do just one thing. Because we are essentially one-man (or one-woman!) companies, it means that whatever our specialty, we often are required to do other things, perhaps as additional services for customers, but also marketing our services to potential clients, making bids and proposals, doing our own bookkeeping and accounting, accepting payment for services rendered, and so on.
Previously, I talked about the importance of (and how to find) your niche market and the skill set to succeed in it, which forms the core of your business as a freelancer. But there are also other, auxiliary, aspects of your business that you can’t afford to ignore or neglect if you want to become a successful self-employed professional. And there are skill sets you need to develop to supplement that core business and make it more profitable.
Let’s take my life as a blogger for an example. Apart from MommyGinger.com, I also blog for ManilaReviews.com, so one way or another, I’ve been blogging for several years now. It’s all too easy to think that setting up a blog only requires that you be a good writer, but you’d be wrong about that. Here are a few basic skill sets every blogger should have:
Writing: You don’t have to have perfect grammar, but having the skill to effectively communicate what you want to say is vital to attracting and keeping readers. You also need to develop a particular voice and style for your blog, one that helps you connect not just with your readers’ minds but with their hearts as well.
Photography: In this day and age, not many people will read a solid block of text on a blog without any pictures to speak of, so you’ll have to know what attracts the eye so you can take or select good photos. This becomes even more important for food, travel, fashion, and other lifestyle blogs.
Technical: Yes, you can hire a designer or buy a template for your blog, but while you don’t need to learn to code, you still need to know enough to make small tweaks and adjustments to make your blog your own and troubleshoot when need be. It can be time consuming and expensive to go to a designer for every little change you want to make.
Marketing: If you want your blog to pay for itself, you’re probably going to be looking at advertisements and sponsorships; for personal blogs, endorsements are great too. If you want to maximize earnings and preserve the integrity of your blog, you need to have the marketing savvy to understand how the content you publish as well as the products and services you endorse fits your brand.
So just from this one example, you can see how I need to wear many hats as a blogger—and my blog is not my only business, so you can only imagine the madness that results if I don’t manage my time and my clients’ expectations properly!
Still, this multi-hatted nature of freelancing presents a two-layered challenge if you’re just starting out. First, you need to determine which skills to hone so they do you the most good and you earn the most money, and second, you’ll need to actually learn and sharpen those skills.
For the first, think of drawing a flower the way we learn it in kindergarten. The center is your core competency or specialization — your niche in the market place. Inside that “center” are the skills you absolutely need to keep your business robust. Then draw the petals around the center. Each can contain a skill set that attaches to that specialization and makes it more appealing to your clients. Now, you may need to focus on certain “petals” over others, but it’s still good to know what those other aspects are—and where to source people with those skill sets should you need them. One way to do that is to expand your network, to talk to people who are experts in those fields, join meet-ups (the Freelance Blend monthly meet-ups are great for these) or online groups.
To get a crash course in necessary skills, you can do your own research or look into workshops. In fact, you may want to check out the PayPal Freelancer Community Workshop series—more on this later. Apart from workshops like these, you can also join online courses such as those offered by Udemy, Coursera, and more. You can also find lots of video tutorials on YouTube as well as informative and inspiring information from TEDTalks and the many, many podcasts produced around different industries and interests. In this day and age, you don’t need to go back to school to go back to school, if you know what I mean!
I will always encourage exploration as a freelancer: Learn a little about a lot of things so that you can make an informed decision about the few things you want to learn a lot about. And you never know when those little bits of knowledge will come in handy when dealing with a new client or business opportunity.
And yes, you may find yourself feeling like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland from time to time, especially if you’re a mom! We are constantly putting on and taking off different “hats” or roles, sometimes even wearing more than one at the same time.
But one of those skills you’ll have to learn is organization and time management—to find a method to the madness. In the same way you try on many different hats, then settle down with a collection of headgear that complements your looks and personal style, you should also explore the different skill sets that relate to your career, then develop the ones that you are comfortable with (or which you actually enjoy), as well as the ones that help you grow your business.
Do you have any tips or resources you’d like to share with me and other Mad Hatters reading this? If you’re keen to learn more about things that you’ll need to flourish as a freelancer, i’ll be having another session on November 18, 2017 for the PayPal Freelancer Community Workshop series. The details are on this link: http://bit.ly/PayPal5thFreelancerWorkshop
Continue to follow also the other freelance experts Fitz Villafuerte, Abe Olandres, and Liz Lanuzo. Check out the full schedule below, and join the PayPal Philippines Freelancer Community group on Facebook for updates on the venues. Hope to see you there!