Today’s post is a rant. I wanted to address something that I’ve seen creeping up on social media: productivity during the coronavirus lockdown.
According to so-called productivity coaches, you have to use the time in lockdown to increase your productivity. For example learn a new language, write a novel, start a website or reorganise your house. All activities that you didn’t have time to do before. The implication is that if you are not doing that right now, you are a loser and the lack of time is just an excuse.
Pardon my French, but this is a load of bullsh*t.
More Time, More Problems
For a large majority of people, this lockdown has brought a lot more problems than before. Speaking from experience: losing a job, applying to benefits, counting every penny, that’s not exactly how I planned spending my April. For many people, this situation has brought money problems, job problems or relationships problems.
The creative industries have been extremely affected too, with some people not only losing their day job but also seeing all their income from their art disappear. I have seen the sales of my book going down in the past month, because a lot of potential readers don’t have any disposable income right now. And I’m far from being the only one in this situation!
We often have to deal with more hardship than we had before the pandemic, and a lot of time might be spent trying to find solutions to these problems. And this is not even taking in account the people who are still working as essential workers. Often, they spend even more hours at work than before the pandemics.
So this idea of having a lot more free time than before is not an accurate representation of the truth.
Lockdown ≠ Holiday
This coronavirus pandemic is something that almost no one has ever been through before. Even if you haven’t been affected personally, you can’t ignore the non-stop news cycle that we are bombarded with. Every day brings new death tolls and information about the virus. Each country has had to see images of political storms, people ignoring the lockdown, and overworked health workers pleading for more equipment. This creates a highly anxious atmosphere that is very difficult to shake off.
The stress is compounded by the fact that you or your loved ones can STILL catch this disease at any moment and die from it. This is not a small risk. Covid-19 is contagious and kills people of all ages (even if the older generations seem to be more affected by it).
In addition to that, social distancing has weakened our usual support system. We can’t have a drink with a friend or a family member when things become too stressful. A lot of us had to isolate alone or with a partner. And yes, video calls can help, but they can’t replace a support system of people you see every day.
So, no, this is NOT a normal situation, and it should NOT be treated like an opportunity for more productivity.
Why It Is Dangerous
The problem with pushing for more productivity during this global crisis is that it makes people feel extremely guilty. I’m not immune to it! I felt guilty in the past few weeks because I had to postpone the release of my book, Happy, Not Tortured.
Guilt can easily turn into anxiety and depression. Trying to be productive and failing at it can bring a lot of negative feelings and be detrimental to your mental health. And that, even if you have never had mental health issues before!
Don’t forget that the social isolation created by the lockdown is also dangerous in these circumstances. Boredom and loneliness often provide a fertile soil that helps feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness to grow. The more this situation lasts, the more we will see a spike in mental health issues.
In that context, pushing for productivity at any cost is extremely dangerous.
It’s OK to Be Creatively Blocked
I’ve seen a lot of people on social media worrying because they haven’t been able to write, paint or create since the beginning of the pandemic. And if you are in the same situation, I want to say to you: it’s perfectly normal to feel that way!
Inspiration is influenced by what is happening around us. Creativity comes from having new experiences, being bold and trying new things. And at the moment, not only everything around us is extremely negative, we also are confined to our house/flat which makes experiencing new things much more difficult.
Being socially isolated can also lead you to question your art and its relevance in the world. Or questioning why you are doing it in the first place. It can be pretty overwhelming to reassess your whole life, but I think it’s quite normal to feel that way too.
Doubting yourself is often part of being an artist, and it keeps us on our toes. If your doubts become too much to handle however, and you think it might be time for a big change, check out my article about finding your purpose.
What You Can Do
This is not to say that you can’t be productive during this time. Sometimes, concentrating on a project can be beneficial for your mood and keep the boredom away. However, if you already feel overwhelmed and vulnerable, this is not the time to push yourself. Be gentle with yourself, nurture your feelings and listen to your mind and body.
I’ve written an article about tips to help you survive during this crisis, with things like limiting your time watching the news, exercising, keeping contact with your loved ones, etc. There are more tips on the NHS website if you are interested.
I think the most important thing you can do right now is to take it one day at a time. If you have a big project that you really want to do, plan it day by day. Cut it in pieces and give yourself flexible deadlines. Now more than ever it is important to reward yourself each step of the way.
Unfollow/hide people who make you feel guilty because they are productive and you are not. You don’t need that kind of energy right now. Avoid social media altogether for a little while if you need it.
And if you catch yourself feeling guilty because you haven’t accomplished everything on your to-do-list, take a big breath and congratulate yourself for making it yet through another day.
Your Only Mission During This Pandemic: Survive It!
The “hustle” culture would like you to believe that you need something to “show for” your time during this pandemic. That you need to use all this time for productivity otherwise it was just a waste. I urge you to refuse to play into this myth. You don’t need to do anything during this pandemic. If you want to spend all your time watching TV and reading books, that’s absolutely fine. You don’t need to emerge on the other side with new skills or new projects.
All you need to do during this pandemic is to survive it, physically, and mentally. There will be time later to do all those awesome projects that you dreamt about.
Let Me Know What You Think!
Do you feel pressured to perform during this crisis? Do you feel more depressed or anxious than normal? And what are your best self-care tips?
Céline is an author and podcaster passionate about helping fellow artists reach their potential and live a happy, balanced life.