Not too long ago, I wrote about a few ways we can level-up our daily commutes and spark creativity in one mundane and “unavoidable” aspect of our days.
Let me be the first to say that recent events have led me to question my understanding of the word “unavoidable.” With a majority of humans around the world working, learning and existing at-home, we seem to have found a way to avoid the unavoidable commute altogether. Talk about unprecedented times.
As a follow-up to my original story, I thought it might be wise to tailor those “best practices” and provide some meaningful tips on amplifying creativity during our “new” commutes as we all adjust to the world amid COVID-19.
Indulge in a Guilty Pleasure
Originally, I encouraged commuters to indulge in a guilty pleasure (true crime podcasts, comedy, celebrity gossip, etc.) on their daily drives/rides into the office. Now that our daily routines have shifted and we may not find ourselves with the same constraints or priorities, I wouldn’t take guilty pleasures off the table completely – in fact, I’d argue they are more important than ever.
With more time on our hands, I’ve found that there is an unspoken societal expectation to be as productive as humanly possible. I’m sure you’ve seen the memes encouraging you to learn a new language, start up a side hustle, write a novel and solve world hunger. If you have the energy and attention span to cross those things off your bucket list during quarantine – who am I to stop you?! But for the rest of us who are finding it challenging enough to complete our 9-5 workloads, home-school children, supply enough toilet paper for the family, check in on loved ones and manage to eat three square meals a day … I give you permission to kick back, relax and treat yourself to a guilty pleasure (or two, or three). Whether it’s watching an archived season of The Bachelor with family, baking three dozen cupcakes and sharing them with neighbors, working on an irreverent coloring book, learning a TikTok dance or obsessing over the office plants you’ve rescued and given a new home – have at it!
Again, you might be surprised by the psychological and physical benefits. Breaking up the mundane with things that bring us joy is important. Not to mention, studies have shown that baking, planting, coloring, etc. have shown positive health effects like decreasing stress-levels, boosting mood, combatting loneliness and increasing dopamine levels. Naturally, these advantages often carry over to our professional work – allowing us to be more creative for our clients.
According to the World Economic Forum, with more than 2.6 billion people around the world in some type of lockdown or shelter-in-place, we find ourselves in arguably the largest psychological experiment ever. Experts believe a secondary epidemic of burnouts and stress-related absenteeism will manifest in the second half of 2020. However, psychologists argue that the long-term effects can be mitigated now with a few small steps and a mindful attitude.
A recent study has shown that low mood and irritability are the most common symptoms of isolation – and I can certainly attest to accuracy of those claims. However, it’s also been found (pandemic or not) that practicing a little something called “mindfulness” throughout the day can have direct effects on decreasing stress levels and elevating mood. Initially, I recommended a simple, in-transit meditation to get the day started on a good note. As I see it, this is another practice that may be more important now.
For optimal mood-boosting effects, refreshed perspective and ultimate creative performance, check-in with yourself each morning before you get out of bed. If you need to, set your alarm five minutes earlier to accommodate this. It might feel daunting to be entering day XXX of quarantine, or you may be experiencing anxiety at the thought of another WFH day spent multi-tasking your new job as a homeschool teacher. It is important to acknowledge those feelings, then set an intention to remain positive throughout the day. Regardless of what challenges you may face or things “gone wrong,” challenge yourself to choose a positive response instead. You’d be surprised with how simple this is to practice and what profound benefits you’ll reap.
Founder and CEO of Coyne PR, Tom Coyne, echoes this advice. “I’m proud of the way we’ve come together,” he says. “Now more than ever, it’s important to take care of ourselves first so we can perform for our clients and our colleagues. During this time, we all need to be kind to ourselves and realize that it’s all good.”
Tom continues, “so we have some distractions – our kids, our pets, the news – but we also have a lot more free-time to channel our energy into something beneficial. If we keep our positive mindset, I think we can achieve some amazing things and come out of all this as better, more creative and more compassionate human beings.”
This one rings true even now – Motion stimulates creativity. Whether that’s moving your body with an at-home morning yoga flow, taking a leisurely (and socially-distant) walk around the block at dusk, or dancing around the kitchen with the family while you make dinner – it’s been proven that movement stimulates our brains.
In my original post, Executive Creative Director of Coyne PR, Rob Schnapp, encouraged workers to hop in the car to get the creative juices flowing. This time, I’d urge you to embrace our new sense of normal and lean on virtual connection and physical movement to generate those same effects. One experiment found that you are twice as likely to come up with a creative solution while moving than you are while sitting down – so get going!
Steve Jobs and several other successful entrepreneurs recommend taking meetings outdoors whenever possible. Walking meetings, virtual brainstorms and even remote happy hours are great ways to connect with others outside-the-box, keeping our social connections strong and our ideas sharp!
Beam Us Up
These are certainly unprecedented times, and I’d like to take a moment to applaud each of us for doing the best we can to get through these times together. Stay home, stay motivated, stay connected, stay safe and stay positive! Before we know it, I’ll see you on Rt. 287 North heading to the office.