The 2020 pandemic. A year of trying out home workouts, buying unheard of baking ingredients and participating in the notorious ‘zoom quizzes.’ People from all over the world, from every industry, from all backgrounds have faced the trials of the pandemic. Businesses have been born, and also ceased. It has been a year of enormous uncertainty, which has affected everyone, particularly the self-employed, to various degrees.
Each day the coronavirus roller-coaster forces us to exercise strength, courage, resilience and hope, whether we want to or not. We are having to manage our emotions and reactions to this new perceived ‘normality’ in a way that the majority of us have never needed to before.
Whether you’re experiencing a lack of creativity, your body feels slower and sluggish than normal, or you’re wondering why you even started your business – I promise that you are not alone.
Many of us have experienced a whole spectrum of emotions and experiences during this pandemic. We are currently living in a world that is unfamiliar and highly uncertain. This has had a greater impact on our minds and bodies than we realise, which means we have to go above and beyond to understand what is and what is not working for us.
This article covers 5 of the most common obstacles for the self-employed during the pandemic, and tips on how to take back control.
Let’s go back to your ‘why’. We all have one. The true intrinsic purpose and reason for your business or company. The dream that at one point felt so big, and now you’ve made it into a reality. Revisit your ‘why’: what brought you here? Take a bit of time to remind yourself of this and of how far you have come.
- Try and integrate a couple of activities into a morning or/and evening routine. These routines are trial and error – they are also individualistic. Make notes of how certain actions and activities make you feel. If they start to boost your motivation, then maybe keep them as a regular occurrence. For me, I don’t look at my phone during the first 15 minutes of being awake. The reason being that what we consume first thing can affect our emotions and thought processes. I also end my evenings with 30 minutes of journaling and a chapter of my book.
- Limit your news consumption – with everything going on, it’s understandable that it’s difficult to switch off. Perhaps consider setting app limits on your phone, or trying out a round-up news app such as This Much I Know, a totally independent news company dedicated to giving simple key facts and removing the stress from news consumption.
- Invest in personal growth. This can either be done with a coach or by yourself. For example, I invested in online writing courses and meditation courses to expand my knowledge.
- Set yourself deadlines – these could be deadlines for personal items or business items.
Inspiration and Creativity
You truly realise how beautiful the outside world can be when you’re working from home staring at four walls. So many self-employed people have noticed a dip with their creativity levels. This is completely normal and you are not alone with this. Try the below tips to tune into your creativity:
- Collaborate – who do you know or follow that you’d love to work with? Reach out to them.
- Embrace freewriting – set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes, grab a pen and paper and write without stopping. Allow yourself to write everything that comes to mind, just don’t stop.
- What’s trending on social media? What do your friends bring up in conversations? Sometimes tuning into what is occurring at your fingertips can inspire your own creative juices.
- Try meditating – Headspace have a creativity meditation series that might help you to connect to your inner creativity.
- Be kind to yourself – don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling as creative during this time. You’re working during a pandemic at home – not just ‘working from home’.
Attention – our most scarce resource. We don’t realise it, but our attention is always under threat. Our attention is constantly divided. There might be some irony in working from home away from the outside world, but feeling more distracted than ever before. We can become seduced by infinite scrolling, endless videos, and unlimited pages – there is so much stimuli screaming for your attention, take back that control and quieten that noise.
- Find yourself an accountability partner. I tell my friend who is also self-employed what I am planning to achieve during the working week. On Friday we check back in and celebrate our successes. We also go through our learnings, to see how next week could be even more productive.
- Mindfulness and meditations – apps like Headspace and Calm are more than just guided meditations. You can follow workout videos, listen to sleep stories and even receive a little morning boost with ‘today’s mindful moment.’
- Carry out an attention audit – look at the environment around you. What is hindering you? What could you bring into your environment that could cultivate a sense of focus? Keep a list of things that consistently distract you so that you’re more aware of this.
The Double-Edged Sword of Social Media
We have an abundance of information and images right at our fingertips. How many times have you found yourself down a rabbit hole in social media, when you only went on your phone to reply to a Whatsapp? We’ve all been there. The ‘infinite scroll’ can eat your time like nothing else. 10% of our daily thoughts involve making some kind of comparison and this can be worsened by social media use.
On the other hand, social media and technology has allowed us to retain intimacy and connection with the people in our lives. Like anything in life, it can be abused, so it’s a case of being aware of your relationship with something.
- Social media can be smoke and mirrors – we very easily forget this. I wrote this on a post-it note and stuck it on my desk – it always provides perspective.
- Set some personal boundaries around what type of content you want to consume. We are a product of our environment – what we see, hear and read. Keep note of what type of content triggers unwanted and unhelpful feelings.
- If you need to unfollow accounts that make you feel less worthy or don’t provide value then you are 100% allowed to do that. Make your feed a healthy feed for you – this looks different to each and everyone one of us.
- Set app limits on your phone for your social media and stick to them – iPhones have a ‘downtime’ setting where you can schedule time away from your screen and apps.
Respecting Your Own Boundaries
Boundaries are the foundation to honouring ourselves as individuals. They help to protect your energy and time in a way that is aligned to your needs.
One way to implement boundaries into your life is integrating non-negotiable acts of self care. Self care is actionable and focused on physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The reason why one person may take a hot bath, could be for the same reason why another goes on a solo hike. It is what the activity symbolises for that individual. One size does not fit all. This is individualistic – anything from ringing a friend, meditating, going for a hike, cancelling plans or putting a wash on. They can all mean the same thing to different people. Sometimes taking action can also be just sitting in stillness and connecting with your thoughts.
- Do you feel the need to justify your alone time? Make a note of when you catch yourself justifying ‘me time’ to other people – ask yourself how justifying it serves you. Are you justifying in order to please others, or to please yourself?
- Start voicing your thoughts when someone makes you feel uncomfortable. Open communication with family and friends can feel difficult, but it truly honours you as a person.
- Say no if needed – what is okay for you to say no to?
- What are your personal expectations – what are your expectations of yourself during the next week, month, quarter?
This pandemic has forced us to get to know ourselves better. It is forcing us to evolve. It is forcing us to look inwards in a way that feels unfamiliar. Begin by being kind and compassionate to yourself during this difficult time. Trust yourself and your process.
Whether this is the first time being self-employed and working from home, or you’re a regular, we are all going through this together. You are never alone.
Your mind becomes what you feed it – so choose your brain food wisely and gently.