It’s 10am on a Monday, I’ve just rolled out of bed and am now pondering which Netflix boxset to watch. I mean, lockdown is the time that allows people to sit around all day watching TV, playing games and stuffing their faces with chocolate. Or the time where people are learning Arabic, teaching themselves to play the bagpipes or practising being the next Mary Berry.
Sadly, these people are not me. Despite it being a bewildering and turbulent time, I find my business busier than ever. Working days that last 12 hours, and late-night emails to journalists on weekends make for frequent midnight-oil burning. Normally though, I would not also have a hyperactive five-year-old to contend with, nor would I be switching hats between teacher, kids’ entertainer, cleaner and PR professional.
For those in a similar situation to me (and who are finding that the only benefit of lockdown is the fact that you don’t have to leave your house in the morning), how do you cope with balancing the craziness of your career and your client obligations without working yourself into the ground? Here are some things I have found helpful:
1. Restructure your day
The concept of nine to five has never really been a realistic way of working for comms professionals, now even more so as people try to fit home-schooling and a day’s work into the same amount of time. My advice to get around this is to restructure your day. I find myself getting a couple of early hours work in at the crack of dawn, then having some downtime with the little one, then getting back on it. Think of it as work, break, work, break, work, break; yes, your days are longer, but those breaks in the middle doing something different that isn’t staring at a computer screen will give you the opportunity to recharge your batteries.
2. Be honest with your clients
A lot of this is about managing expectations. Whereas once it was possible to jump on a call at relatively short notice, this is no longer the case or – if it is – it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be interrupted by animals, kids or delivery men. Be clear about your situation with your clients and about the times when it is best to touch base, even if this might be ‘after hours’. Also, with many journalists furloughed and assigned to different beats, it is taking longer to land stories. Make sure that clients are aware that it is going to take more perseverance, time, flexibility and creativity to deliver those much-needed results.
At a time when many companies are tightening their belts, I’ve decided to invest. And what I mean by this is that I am not only still engaging my new business director, but I am investing money to hire additional support for my core team. In my view, this delivers greater value to our clients and helps to relieve some of the strain that other members of staff are experiencing. Of course, not every business will be able to do this but, if you can, I would recommend it. This isn’t just about money, though, it’s also about time; work out where it is best for you and your team to invest it. Given that the news agenda is pretty much being dominated by coronavirus stories, perhaps now is a good time to show value in other areas. For example, do your clients have issues management guides or does their tone of voice need work? By being focused with what you are doing and spending time on delivering tangible results, you will feel much more positive emotionally, which will help with the times where you do feel overwhelmed and burned out.
Now, I am not one for yoga – in truth I find it incredibly dull – but there’s something to be said for taking time out to take some deep breaths a few times a day. The same can be said for sleep. Even if your sleep is short, make sure it is good quality. And try to avoid nodding off on the sofa and waking up in the middle of the night having to stumble to bed. This does nothing to keep the brain moving in a productive manner.
Written by Julia Herd, founder and managing director of marketing agency Five in a Boat
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