There’s a huge amount of talk about the “new normal” at the moment. The reality is that nobody truly knows what it means.
Despite that, this article suggests some strategies to help you make the most out of the remainder of 2020 – a year it’s hard to describe without using the word “unprecedented!”
What we DO Know
While some countries are easing lockdown measures and allowing people to get back to a more normal (yet still very different) life, others nations are experiencing new coronavirus surges and reintroducing lockdowns.
Despite this continuing uncertainty, there are some things we DO know:
- Covid-19 is far from over. On a global level, the situation grows more serious each day.
- There may well be further waves and lockdowns – even in countries that are currently on a positive trajectory.
- Tough times are ahead. However optimistic we try to be, few disagree that we’re heading for the worst global recession since the first world war, and one that will dwarf the 2008 financial crisis.
It’s an undeniably depressing picture. But I’ve always believed it’s best to know where you stand and make plans based on the facts. It’s a huge cliché, but it’s wise to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
With that in mind, this article looks at some ways to not just survive but thrive during the daunting times ahead.
A Reason to be Positive
Putting aside the somewhat grim reality, there is one big positive:
The year to date has taught us all an awful lot about ourselves, our priorities and our challenges. For those of us in countries where the graphs are currently pointing in the right direction, we now have the chance to take stock, refocus, and learn some lessons from the challenges we’ve already endured in 2020.
We now know a lot more about what we face. This is very different to what happened earlier in the year when life unexpectedly changed beyond recognition in the space of a few weeks.
That not only means we have a lot more information to base decisions on. We also have a bunch of very recent individual data about which strategies worked for us and which didn’t.
So with that in mind, let’s move onto some ideas to make the new normal less stressful and more productive.
1. Give Yourself a Break
We’ve all spend the last few months running on an almost permanent state of high alert.
I’ve personally found that it’s not sustainable in the long term to function as if everything’s normal. Levels of patience, productivity and energy seem to wax and wane endlessly – and that gets immensely frustrating.
I’m slowly trying to learn to go easier on myself, and remember that it would be ludicrous to expect to function as normal.
We’re now living in a world with an enormous amount of background anxiety and uncertainty; My wife and I have the same amount of work to do, but our children are at home all the time instead of spending 30+ hours per week in school or childcare; Long term plans are on hold or being reconsidered; We’ve not seen our families since before lockdown; We’ve not been on holiday and we don’t have any planned; We’ve not had a “date night” this year.
I’m sure you get the picture. But I’m not having a moan. My point is that this is the same for everybody. The exact scenarios will differ, but THIS IS NOT NORMAL LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.
So with that in mind, forgive yourself for the unproductive days. Think about when you last had an actual day off and do something about it. Think about whether you’d be friends with somebody who gave you as hard a time as you give yourself.
Give yourself a break.
2. Concentrate on One Thing at a Time
A couple of months before lockdown, I bought a book called The One Thing by Gary Keller.
It’s essentially about filtering out “busy work,” secondary goals and unnecessary distractions, in order to work out which one thing is most important to you – and then finding the time and space to ensure that one thing is successful.
To be honest, I did feel like the book rather laboured the point. However, its wisdom has really been brought into sharp focus by the events of the last few months.
Many people I know, myself included, have been darting around from goal to goal, often getting none of it done properly. Lockdown seems to have left us all littered with unfinished courses, half-baked ideas and abandoned exercise regimes. It’s like an extreme version of what new year’s resolutions look like by 1st February.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You could buy The One Thing book – unless of course you risk it simply adding to your “unread books” pile! Alternatively, you could do some soul searching, really work out which of your projects is most important to you, and just get on with it.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve simply accepted that I won’t (for now) be carrying on with some of my lockdown whims, nor feeling guilty for abandoning them. It feels good.
3. Establish Some “Money Taps”
As I discussed in my recent article on the things I learned from lockdown, recent events have impacted everybody’s financial and working lives in different ways.
Many people have lost their jobs or seen reductions in income, and this has included my wife and I.
However, during the more wobbly moments, it’s been gratifying to know that foundations we’ve both built over the years have genuine value. I’m talking about something we’ve named as “money taps.”
So what’s a money tap?
Essentially it’s a source of work or income that you can turn on when needed. An established profile (with strong feedback ) on a freelancing site like Upwork is a GREAT money tap; Accounts on sites like User Testing, where you’ve already passed the tests and you can jump on and make side income are hugely useful; A presence on survey sites and consumer research panels means you can grab those little extra bits of cash when times are hard.
The more options you have, the better. Am I filling out surveys and doing user tests when consultancy work is piling in? Of course not. But knowing those things are there brings options and peace of mind.
So think about what you can get established ready for your next lean patch.
4. Consider What the New World Needs
I spend a lot of time shouting at the TV.
My particular bug-bear right now is how little imagination and innovation much of the world seems to be throwing at the “new normal.”
During lockdown, it was a delight to see the many ways that businesses evolved and adapted to accommodate how the world had to suddenly change. Things that spring to mind include:
- Local cafés that started door-to-door deliveries of afternoon tea packages.
- The school Spanish teacher arranging private Zoom lessons with her pupils.
- The mixologist in our town who records videos of himself creating gourmet cocktails and then bottles them up for home deliveries.
- Beauticians creating self-care packages and tutorials in place of doing their normal salon work.
Despite all of this inspiring stuff, the government focus now seems to be to get people “back to normal.” However, the majority of people don’t seem ready to comply, and many don’t really want the old normal back anyway.
This creates all kinds of opportunities.
In a period of such transition, think about what products and services YOU want, and what your friends and family want. Then think about creating these things, or what options there might be to work with companies that are doing so. It’s a much more productive way to spend your time than waiting to return to a “normal” that may never come.
Check out our article on hot new business ideas for more on this.
5. Think About How to Cope with Another Lockdown
I have no desire to debate the ifs, buts and maybes of Covid-19 epidemiology. But the reality is that many of us will see a second outbreak of coronavirus, and possibly some more quarantine and lockdown periods. In some countries, these things are already happening.
A second lockdown during the winter is something I’ve been dreading for months. It’s hard enough in sunny weather with barbecues and long warm evenings. The thought of dealing with it when it’s cold and gets dark at 3pm makes me shudder.
But that’s why it’s important to plan.
I’d suggest thinking about what you can put in place to make another lockdown more bearable.
Personally, I’m thinking about how to dual purpose the garden office and give it a Scandinavian log cabin vibe, complete with outdoor heaters and comfy seating! On a more basic level I’m deliberately holding back books and console games (for myself AND the children) so that we have some things to look forward to.
Again, this is about preparing for the worst whilst hoping for the best. I very much hope to be warming myself on a Spanish beach come October, rather than huddling below a patio heater. But knowing there are some ideas in place to make it more tolerable is definitely a good thing.
6. Grow Stuff
This was my wife’s suggestion for this list, and I was initially sceptical.
However, I cannot overstate the joy and sense of well-being we’ve gained this year from such simple things as home-grown strawberries and freshly dug potatoes.
You don’t need a garden, or particularly green fingers. Even a duo of basil and parsley on the window ledge is hugely rewarding. And during such complex times, there’s something very “zen” about the simplicity of just watching something grow.
7. Ramp Up the Exercise
I hate to be “that guy,” and this point is here as much to remind me as anyone else. But exercise is really important, especially in times where being as fit and healthy as possible is such a priority.
As an entirely home-based worker, I know how easy it is to become very sedentary. And I’ve certainly had my moments this year – switching between long runs of daily exercise and spells of sadness and comfort eating.
But what I can say is that I definitely feel better when I’m getting out and moving, and I definitely feel worse when I’m not.
I’d also suggest that – for many of us – a healthy and enjoyable habit is more realistic to sustain than a strict, boot-camp style regime.
Healthy eating is important too 🙂
8. Shed Some Clutter – In All Respects!
Over the past couple of months, I’ve increasingly come to realise that my biggest mental health boosts have come from having and doing less, not more.
- Giving up on new Netflix shows after ten minutes if I’m not truly enjoying them.
- Clearing out the bathroom cabinets and binning years worth of expired medicines and little bottles of hotel body lotion.
- Accepting I’m not going to finish a course I’m not engaged with instead of feeling guilty for not getting on with it.
- Accepting that a lockdown doesn’t magically mean I have time to learn programming at the same time as doing all of my work.
- Removing books from my book pile so that it only includes those I truly want to read.
- Giving up on Nintendo games that I’m finding frustrating instead of enjoyable.
- Deleting non-essential work tasks from my to-do lists.
I’m sure you get the idea.
When I go on holiday, I LOVE being in a hotel room or apartment with just one book, a limited selection of TV channels and only the clothes I need. It’s probably not a feeling I’ll get to enjoy for the foreseeable future, but removing choice and thinning down an endless list of objectives is a way to get closer to it.
I recommend it.
9. Refocus and Prioritise
Millions of people have had their plans thrown into total disarray by recent events.
One minute you’re thinking about where you might buy a house in a years time, the next you’re working out how on earth you’re going to get through the next couple of days of work and childcare.
But that doesn’t mean you have to completely stop dreaming and planning.
This years “unpleasantness” has caused everyone to rethink their priorities, and that’s no bad thing. It’s especially good to work on a firm idea of what those priorities actually are.
OK, so the five-year-plan may need to become a one-year-plan. You may be in position where your money and career situation has changed beyond all recognition. But that could also represent an opportunity to reinvent yourself and work towards a dream your old career wouldn’t have left you the time for.
If some of this resonates, then I highly recommend taking a look at this article.
These ARE difficult times. However, if you’re reading this, the chances are you’ve already endured months of those. By following the advice in this article, you’ll hopefully be well prepared for the next stint. I hope I will be too.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben is a long-established freelancer with a passion for helping other people take control of their destiny and break away from “working for the man.” Prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.