On 22nd February 2021, Boris Johnson has outlined the plan for the easing of the UK lockdown. As we near its end, I wanted to reflect on home and work life during lockdown and the pressure that some of us may feel to be overly productive.
I often see motivational posts, photographs, and ‘inspirational’ quotes and phrases, encouraging people to have a productive day, filled with talk of hitting daily goals and targets. People are being urged to learn new skills, to be creative, to learn a new language, to read more books, to become the next Star Baker, to become a DIY expert, or to embark on a new business venture. These are all brilliant suggestions, but are not always possible. One specific example that sticks in my mind was a Daily Wellness Planner that was posted on one of the social media sites. Whilst I appreciated the positive intention behind the post, I questioned the impact it may have on some readers. Followers were invited to populate and record a suggested list of daily goals and achievements. I wondered what that said to people if they hadn’t been able to complete X, Y and Z that day? They may have felt like they’d wasted the day. In all honesty, for me, making the bed in the morning sometimes feels like an achievement – and I live on my own, so I’ve probably got it easier than most. Many people are juggling a full-time job, children, home schooling, food shopping, cooking, meal prep, exercise, cleaning, checking in on family and friends… the list goes on. To feel the added pressure of having to ‘achieve’ and to be productive during this perceived extra down-time, unsurprisingly may seem overwhelming.
I try to exercise regularly, but even finding 30 minutes can feel like a mountain to climb. I believe that some form of structure and exercise is really helpful during these uncertain and stressful times but I also believe in people giving themselves a break. Let’s be realistic, the global pandemic and economic crisis is distracting. Perhaps we’re not as productive or motivated as we can be, perhaps we’re not eating as well as we should, or not doing enough exercise. We often feel the need to justify our time, whether at home or at work and the pressure to achieve and succeed was present well before COVID-19 was in our lives. There’s an overwhelming perception that one should fill the days with exceptionally productive tasks and activities. I often hear ‘let’s not waste the day’, or quotes such ‘a Sunday well spent brings a week of content’. But what does this actually mean? Let’s not put too much pressure on ourselves or each other during this time. Being more productive may be even more difficult. Many may lack the motivation given the disruption to their daily routine by the lockdown and the pandemic.
For those that are now working from home, there may also be the pressure to prove to employers that they are still capable of delivering. I’m fortunate that I work for an incredibly supportive company that trusts its employees, and focuses on the end result. However, some may feel the need to work extra hours or send emails late because they’re at home and think they have to be seen to be active.
The lack of physical social contact, seeing loved ones, having the respite from life with a drink in the pub, a meal in a restaurant, being able to go to the gym, or have a coffee or shopping trip with friends takes its toll. Whilst we may feel guilty or ‘unproductive’ for sitting down and watching TV, watching sport, having a long bath, or having a drink, I’d argue it’s essential. Before we know it, (I hope) lockdown will be over, let’s embrace this time to ourselves (where it’s possible) and be kind to ourselves and each other.
The reality is, we’re all muddling through lockdown in whichever way works for us. There’s no right or wrong way, we all have different coping mechanisms and that’s fine. But let’s not fall down the trap of comparing ourselves to others and their ‘Best Bits.’ Let’s take time for ourselves in whatever form that may be, and celebrate what we’ve all achieved, however small it may seem.