Last Updated on May 18, 2022 by Thalia
It’s about time I shared a life update with you to show the not so stress-free side of my highlight reel.
It’s a personal one today but hopefully, you find comfort in my words and save these tips on how to balance productivity during challenging times for when you need them most.
Near the end of August, I was raving about how much I was looking forward to September. I’m one of those people who still sees September as the beginning of a new school year.
I was ready to show up with new goals, new energy, new content, and new ideas.
Throughout the summer, I had been working on my business.
I had signed my first two paying clients for design projects and was finally starting to make some sales on Etsy.
But it wasn’t all work and no play.
I managed to go on trips and was able to successfully balance my productivity with self-care in a way that worked for me.
I was allowing myself to take breaks, have fun and spend time with loved ones.
It finally felt as though I was getting somewhere.
But then news that you are least expecting can make everything fall apart and lose balance.
Table of Contents
- Taking a step back
6 ways to balance productivity during challenging times
- 1. Reassess what productivity looks like to you
- 2. Carve out a mindful morning routine for yourself
- 3. Reduce “to-do list overwhelm”
- 4. Create a shutdown routine to encourage a healthy work-life balance
- 5. Leave a little white space in your schedule
- 6. Use healing sentences to help support you
- And remember, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry
- Final thoughts
- One last note
Taking a step back
Unfortunately, my partner John lost someone extremely close to him and so September turned into an immensely tough and challenging month.
At the time, I was finishing up a client project, packing and getting ready to move out of my house as well as trying to do a bunch of other things.
Although I was good at hiding it, I was stressed, exhausted and heartbroken.
In the end, I had to take a step back from certain parts of my business so I could reprioritise where I put my energy. I needed to process the news, support John and grieve myself.
It was a strange time filled with life lessons, finding comfort and creating a new way of taking care of my mind and body.
So, how did I manage to balance my productivity during these challenging times?
By going easy on myself, taking on less and putting my well-being first.
By learning that it’s ok to be unproductive. That I can’t expect myself to show up with high energy and motivation every single day.
Productivity isn’t always about what you can achieve in a day and hitting goals.
Sometimes, productivity looks like making sure you’re in good health and doing something every day that makes you feel good.
And in all honesty, doing less allowed me to find clarity and prioritise what was truly important.
6 ways to balance productivity during challenging times
If you’re currently going through a major life change or challenging time then follow these mindful tips to help balance out your productivity so you can still feel slightly accomplished.
I’m in no way an expert in this area but I write this post from my own experience and how I choose to cope in the hope that it will give you comfort.
I also invite you to bookmark this page so you can refer back to it when you need it most.
1. Reassess what productivity looks like to you
When you’re going through a rough time, you need to be aware that the last thing you might want to do is work towards your business goals.
Or do anything that requires a lot of brainpower.
And that’s absolutely fine.
Let’s say on a normal good day your productivity is at 90%.
But on a bad day, you need to expect that you won’t be able to give 90%.
You might only be able to give 50% or 30% or even 10%.
Give yourself grace and don’t beat yourself up if that is the case.
Productivity doesn’t have to be about what you can tick off in a day but can mean something else entirely.
It might simply look like making it out of bed in the morning and having a shower.
So at the start of each day, I encourage you to ask yourself, “what does my best look like right now?”
Be realistic and honest with yourself.
And stick to what you say.
By establishing your “daily best” you are able to reduce expectations, making your current situation a lot more manageable.
2. Carve out a mindful morning routine for yourself
I know the first thing you want to do when you open your eyes is to check your phone, but take it from me, no good will come of it.
Instead, ease into your morning by taking a moment to pause, breathe and set your intention for the day.
Set aside some time to read for 30-mins, journal or practice gratitude.
Drink a big gulp of water, stretch or do some light yoga.
Spending your morning being mindful will help to clear your mind and relieve stress so you can take on whatever life has to throw at you that day.
Don’t stress over what time you wake or how long it takes you to get started on the day.
Everything will still be there for when you choose to get out of bed.
So adapt your schedule to better suit your mood and needs when necessary.
This was one of the first things I learnt to do during my bad days.
My daily routine was becoming a burden and I was struggling to stay consistent.
I was waking up a lot later than usual as I was emotionally drained and required that extra time to sleep.
So I adjusted my routine to accommodate my new sleep pattern and allow myself a longer morning to just do nothing.
And it goes without saying, but make sure you are also spending time in the evening unwinding and relaxing.
I find that spending a couple of hours taking care of myself at the end of my day really helps to calm me down and recentre my thoughts. An evening routine also prepares you for a better night’s sleep so don’t ignore it.
3. Reduce “to-do list overwhelm”
When you’re going through a challenging time, you don’t want to look at your workload and feel overwhelmed by it. Instead, you want to look at it and feel empowered because you know you can comfortably get through it.
So don’t overload your to-do list with a bunch of unimportant business tasks when you have a shit tonne of life admin to get through.
Focus on what is a priority only. Yes, you may have urgent business tasks that need doing so schedule in the time to do them.
But don’t give yourself tasks that are not urgent like social media, or ones that you can outsource.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a super simple technique that can help you to organise your priorities and eliminate non-important tasks.
All you need to do is draw four squares, two up and two down.
Write urgent and not urgent above the top two squares and important and not important along the left side of your two squares.
And then separate your to-do list into the right boxes.
Do your urgent and important tasks immediately.
Schedule your important but not urgent tasks for later.
Delegate your urgent but not important tasks to someone else.
Eliminate neither urgent nor important tasks.
And remember to take one task at a time.
After each task, pause, breathe, wiggle your toes and then crack on with the next task.
what my Eisenhower box looks like today:
Another to-do list hack to consider is the 1 3 5 rule
I’ve used the 135 rule in the past and it has really helped me take back control of my to-do list.
All you need to do is organise your list of tasks into big, medium and small. You then give yourself 1 big task, 3 medium tasks and 5 small tasks to complete in a day.
Here’s how to apply it:
Step 1: Brain Dump
List down all of your tasks for the week on a piece of paper.
Step 2: Categorise
Group your tasks into big, medium and small. For reference, I would suggest a big task takes 1-2 hours to complete, a medium task takes 30 – 45 minutes to complete and a small task takes less than 20 mins.
Step 3: Organise
Now it’s time to arrange your tasks across the week. Allocate each day 1 big task, 3 medium tasks and 5 small tasks and you’re good to go.
4. Create a shutdown routine to encourage a healthy work-life balance
It’s important to note that when you are going through a challenging time you need to balance your well-being just as much as your productivity.
In fact, your well-being should always come first.
Don’t work more hours than you need to and always shut down at a decent hour so you can spend the evening resting and recharging.
A shutdown routine can help switch your brain off from work mode, calm the mind and ease you into the evening.
Your shutdown routine can be anywhere between 5 – 30 minutes but I suggest making it simple enough to remember so you can easily apply it every day.
Typical shutdown habits can include:
- Setting an alarm to prompt you into shutting down
- Reviewing your email inbox and checking that important emails and messages have all been sent
- Reflecting on your day and celebrating any small wins
- Moving any unfinished tasks to the next day
- Planning your to-do list and schedule for tomorrow
- Tidying your workspace
Save these shutdown routine ideas on Pinterest
5. Leave a little white space in your schedule
During seasons of change and uncertainty, it’s important that you are mindful of your capabilities and don’t force yourself to do too much.
Especially if you are unable to cope.
Don’t force yourself to work if you’re not in the mood. Only work when you feel productive as you’ll be more time-efficient and you’ll procrastinate a lot less.
And don’t fill up your day with mindless tasks every hour either. Leave gaps in your schedule.
White space is dedicated time for you to do whatever and is essential in allowing you to pause between tasks or meetings, etc.
So pencil in some white space and take the time to have a break, get some fresh air, reflect, relax and recharge.
Just maybe stay off social media.
You’ll also find that scheduling in these little moments for yourself will make the biggest difference to your mood.
Sometimes it’s the small things that mean the most.
6. Use healing sentences to help support you
I recently read It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn. Although I had mixed feelings about the book in general, there was one page that stuck out to me the most.
And still remains with me.
It’s a collection of healing sentences that help support “the parts of ourselves that feel most vulnerable.”
I’m trying to practice self-love more and more every day and these healing sentences really help me be there for myself in tough or challenging situations.
I’ve made a note of them so I can refer back to them whenever I need to, and I encourage you to do the same.
Write down these healing sentences somewhere in a notebook or on your computer or even create your own collection. Lean on them during dark times for support.
And when you start to repeat one or more of these healing sentences, place your hand on your chest, breathe in deeply and find calm.
- I’ve got you
- I’m here
- I’ll hold you
- I’ll comfort you
- Whenever you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed I won’t leave you
- I’ll stay with you
- I’ll breathe with you until you’re calm
Save these healing sentences on Pinterest
And remember, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry
It’s so important that no matter how shitty life gets, you still allow yourself to make jokes and have fun.
Laughter is honestly the best medicine as it releases endorphins to make you feel happier and more positive. So don’t be afraid of taking yourself a little less seriously and making yourself laugh. It will make all the difference!
Like Ricky Gervais always says, “if you think of something funny, you’ve just got to say it.”
And don’t feel guilty about laughing if everyone around you is crying.
Because if you don’t laugh you’ll probably end up crying too. And your infectious laughter might just lighten the mood and help them out a little bit.
Plus, laughter is known to boost creativity and productivity so it’s a win-win either way.
I hope you find comfort in these tips and are able to better balance your productivity the next time you go through a challenging time.
Just be aware that productivity does not define you.
If you are unable to show up and do the work that is completely fine. Learn to take a step back when you need to and give yourself time to rest and heal.
And remember, just like with all my tips, what works for me, might not necessarily work for you.
I suggest testing out these methods first to see if they suit you and if they don’t then adjust them accordingly.
And if you ever need any further guidance, my inbox is always open.
One last note
During this challenging time, I’ve also been reminded that life is short.
I cannot waste it by doing what others want me to do or being how others want me to be.
Instead, I am on a path of following my own dreams and version of success.
My happy place.
A place which I’ve longed to be in for the past year.
A place where I am able to swim in the sea every morning and adopt a simple, more relaxed lifestyle.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve wanted to escape life in the UK for the past two years.
It was always my plan to live a nomad life.
To live abroad and explore new and exciting cultures and spend every month in a different place.
To work remotely.
So as I settle into this new chapter I wanted to gently remind you that whatever path you choose to take in life, make sure it is coming from the heart.
Don’t be influenced by what the social norms say you should be doing.
Create the life YOU want to live.
And don’t let anyone stand in your way.
Until next week,
♡ Thalia xx