We are still dealing with a whole lot of uncertainty in the future about how we work, socialise, travel and live. So I want to write this week about focusing on the positive things that we can control within our own choices, thoughts and actions. Creating habits to help you through lockdown.

The last few months of lockdown in the UK have been hard for everyone. I’ve been very lucky that I have not lost my job, struggled with childcare and have not lost a loved one, like thousands of other people. Nonetheless, I have experienced my own struggles with the changes in my lifestyle and wanted to share them with you.

It’s taken me a few months, but I have found a set of habits which are helping me move positively forward in both work and at home. We are also halfway through 2020 so it’s a good time to take stock and think about how I want the second half of 2020 to look like for me.

Why I have had to make changes

As many of my readers know, I spent the majority of 2019 focusing on building betternotstop into a travel community. This website has always been something I enjoy working on and after closing my previous business and wanting to move away from freelance project management work it seemed like a great idea. This presented a huge amount of challenges and unsurprisingly the onset of Covid-19 stopped this immediately. I took on a new job, yet within weeks this was stopped also due to lockdown.

I don’t think I am the only person who has struggled with the feelings of failure, loss and anxiety over what is happening in the world. But we are looking at some major, long term changes in how we live so now is the time to start looking at what we can control and take ownership of how we decide to live our lives.

1. Reduce time online and on social media accounts.

I have had a difficult relationship with my social media for a few years now. Since being told by a friend in China about the coronavirus crisis back in January, I became obsessed with checking the news.

It wasn’t healthy, and it reminded me of a time when I had become very conscious of how I came across on social media, especially on Instagram.

“The key to living well in a high tech world is to spend much less time using technology.” Cal Newport

I did a big digital declutter a year or so ago (You can read my guide about how to do this here) but with the start of a new business, I did feel the pressure to be more present online. Over the course of 2019, it slowly grew to a work Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn company page.

At the beginning of the lockdown, I had already started a new job and wasn’t sure what would be the best direction for betternotstop. I decided to read Digital Minimalism for the second time, a great book about how to use technology by Cal Newport.

I highly recommend this book to help you determine the best way to use technology in your life. It will help you realise what digital pursuits really add value to your life and which you want to keep.

Personally, I chose to disable my Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. I’ve kept my LinkedIn Company page and profile as I feel that this is a platform reserved for work. I only check it twice a week and use it to share my articles, learn what’s going on in the business world and to support my fellow Entrepreneurs.

I also installed the Forest App on my phone. It works as a gamified timer set for as long as I like (I prefer 120 minutes) which plants a virtual tree to grow while the app is on. If I leave the app before the time is up, the tree dies. Its a simple concept but does make me more conscious of when I pick up my phone and why.

This has been the most important habit that has helped me through lockdown.

2. Take a good, hard look at your finances.

As someone that has been in a huge amount of debt before and got debt free, taking out a business loan last year was a difficult decision. And now I am in debt again with no clear plan of how to pay it off.

I spent a full morning looking at my bank accounts, standing orders and direct debits I had in place and looking at ways in which I feel I have been overspending. I  also wrote about this in detail in last week’s article ‘How to gain financial independence through budgeting’.  As a result of this, I have been able to reduce my monthly outgoings in both business and personal accounts and put together a realistic budget to work with moving forward.

I’m lucky that I have been able to be furloughed, but like many of us, I am worried about what the next few months will bring and when I will be able to go back to work.

Having a clear idea of how much I owe and where I can make savings has made me feel a bit more in control of my own situation. My budgeting article should help get you started, or if you want some inspiration have a read of how I got out of £20,000 debt and saved £15,000 to go travelling.

3. Review your goals for 2020.

Halfway through the year is the perfect time to review your yearly goals. As I run an accountability group, I’ve already been working on my own goals since the beginning of 2020. The onset of Covid-19 meant my focus was on making sure my group were supported in updating their business and personal goals.

I decided to take my own favourite piece of advice and reset my goals for 2020.

‘Put your oxygen mask on first’

If you are thinking of creating some goals for yourself for the end of the year, a good place to start is to review the last 12 months using a free worksheet like Year Compass. This worksheet is created to be done at a year-end, but I believe it can be done anytime to reset your planning both in work and life.

I’ll be sharing my Midway 2020 goals next week and how I plan to achieve them.

4. Keep to a routine (Weekends do exist!)

Like many of us, the shock of lockdown sent me off-kilter. With no structure to the day, I definitely had a few days just in my pyjamas, playing video games and ignoring the opportunity of a daily walk outside.

It didn’t take long for the lack of purpose to my days to get me down. I decided to write a list of things that I could be doing that makes me feel motivated and positive.

Ok, I’m not getting up at 6 am every day and doing a 5km run but I have instilled some healthy habits which include:

  • Getting dressed and showered before 9 am every day
  • No coffee after midday
  • Getting outside every day
  • Making sure I eat three to five portions of fruit and vegetables
  • No alcohol during the week
  • Leaving my phone plugged in upstairs (Not carrying it around with me like an extra limb)

I don’t manage them all every day, but if I manage four out of six, I feel pretty good about myself.

My routine also included things that I classed as ‘High-Quality Leisure’. Unsurprisingly watching T.V, playing video games and spending time looking at social media or apps on my phone does not cut it.

High-Quality Leisure Activities are things that make me feel creative, purposeful and useful. I’ll share with you mine, but yours, I’m sure will be different. Have a think about at least six things would be great for you. Mine are:

  • Reading a non-fiction book
  • Learning the piano
  • Writing an article for the blog
  • Yoga class
  • Gardening
  • Playing a board game with Phil
  • Learning a new recipe
  • Walking in the Peak District Park
  • Speaking to a friend on the phone (texts don’t count)
  • Speaking to a family member on the phone (again, texts don’t count)

Out of the ten activities I class as high-quality I try and manage at least three a day. It keeps me occupied with things I enjoy which make me feel more connected to myself or my friends. I highly recommend spending a bit of time working out what your high-quality activities are, and focus on doing some of them every day.

You don’t have to throw away your TV Remote completely (although leaving TV to the evening may be a good move) but doing less passive activities and more high-quality leisure activities will make you feel better. I promise.

5. Keep your living space clean.

It’s all about respecting your space as much as you should respect yourself.

Lockdown has meant that we are spending more time at home than ever. It’s a great time to look at your home and work out if there are any changes you want to make. This isn’t about spending lots on DIY projects or new furniture, but about clearing your home of clutter and making it a relaxing and peaceful space to be in.

I can’t go too deep into the benefits of minimalism in this post but many of you already have heard of people like Marie Kondo helping others create relaxing and calm home spaces. It’s all about making sure everything in your home has a purpose. Whether that’s a picture you love looking at, clothes you love to wear or books you love to read.

Phil and I moved into our new rented home at the end of last year and we’ve had a chance to finish a few DIY projects. Overall we just wanted a lovely space to enjoy, part of that is keeping our house clean and tidy.

Zen Habits has a great guide on decluttering that can get you started. But in general, I recommend just trying to put in place a cleaning routine that works for you.

Simple things like making your bed in the morning, choosing a specific day to do laundry and making sure the dishes are done every day are all things to help you feel calm and relaxed at home.

I can guarantee that relaxing in a clean house will make you feel good. I have to admit I am a bit of a clean freak, and a quick once over of the house once a day before dinner takes me less than fifteen minutes. It also means I can relax for the evening. Just before bed, I do the last of the day’s dishes and tidy the lounge.

Simple quick habits that I have developed over the years that help me and that may help you include:

  • Making my bed first thing in the morning
  • Putting last nights dishes away while I make the coffee in the morning
  • Washing meal dishes straight away and wipe down kitchen sides
  • Not letting the bins overflow and taking out recycling straight away
  • Before I make dinner, spend 15 minutes tidying up rooms upstairs and downstairs (dishes etc)
  • Vacuum carpets and sweep floors at least once a week (Usually Sundays)
  • Clean bathroom at least once a week (Usually Sundays)
  • Wash laundry whenever the basket is full
  • When laundry is dry put away straight away

These are habits to help you through lockdown and beyond

I’m sure you all have your own habits or changes that you have made since the lockdown. I wanted to share these five with you as these are what I have found most helpful in keeping a positive mindset and looking after my mental health during the lockdown.

I’ll be sharing with you the specific things I have been looking at in regards to business in the coming weeks, so let me know if you have any thoughts or questions below. I would love to hear them. Perhaps you could share the habits that have helped you through Lockdown?

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