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We are, as I write this, living in a truly unprecedented reality. Many of us are working from home, operating under very real stress, managing the impact of COVID-19 on our businesses and facing great challenges; but, today, I’m writing for those of you forced away from your work and other normal daily activities. Many of us are now at home for an undefined period of time, facing many uncertainties with a lot of time on our hands. Though my favorite advice for what to do with the downtime made possible during this time of social distancing is to reconnect with those closest to us, I also understand the emotional benefits so many of us gain from being productive. The truth is that we’ve just been given the gift of some unplanned free time. There are actually a number of ways to take advantage of this downtime, and, importantly, take a break from all the dire news coverage. So, if you’re looking for some “I’ve been productive today!” endorphins, read on.

Take Advantage of Online Learning & Research

It’s a safe bet that you have a software program or other professional tool you’ve been wanting to learn how to use – or learn how to use better. Chances are you haven’t had the time to educate yourself given other, more pressing obligations. Now is a perfect time! There are excellent tutorials online for virtually all commercially available programs, from Excel to Canva to WordPress to my productivity favorite, Evernote. Maybe you’ve been wanting to become more proficient in your sales funneling. Jump online and learn more today. Or, maybe you’ve been looking to switch accounting or payroll software, or have been wanting to implement some new automated workflow. Use this time to do a little research. Vet the programs. (Contact me if you’re looking for some professional guidance.) Research the deployment tools available to make the transition easy when the time comes to implement the change. Have you always wanted to learn graphic design? There are so many quality tutorial programs available to get you going. And, creativity is a real stress buster.

Importantly, if you haven’t yet explored video conferencing, now is a good time to do so, as this will be the way most of us will be connecting over the coming weeks. Check out Zoom or Skype. Many of these offer excellent, free versions for virtual meetings and conferences. Want to be prepared for a work conference? Let grandma be your guinea pig! She’d love to hear from you!

Digital Organization During This Downtime

I’m a big fan of digital storage. It frees up valuable space and enables you to organize better and ultimately find what you need in the fastest way possible. Sometimes finding the time to transition to digital is the biggest hurdle to going paperless. Guess what? You likely have the free time now to scan those documents. Don’t have a scanner? Tools like CamScanner, Scannable (iOS only) and Genius Scan are free to try and simple to use.

Or, maybe you have been limping along with a less-than-ideal file storage situation on your PC. Is your computer desktop cluttered and unordered? Have you been wanting to reorganize your file hierarchy? Use this time to organize your digital world. Rework your folders and clean out the old stuff. Really take advantage of this downtime. You’ll welcome the organization when you get back to normal work. (Contact me if you’re looking for some professional guidance.)

Professional Updating & Writing

When was the last time you updated your resumé or CV? Now might be the perfect time to go in and update skills and recent accomplishments. Maybe you’ve seen some resumés with creative layouts or other elements you’d like to incorporate into your own. Perhaps it would make sense to pull together a few cover letters you can pick up when the time is right or the need is there. Do you have some project pitches in mind? Get them down on paper. Even if they aren’t what you’ll use down the road in their entirety, you’ll likely have parts you can pull from. Even simply starting a wish or goals list for yourself or your business can be lucrative and emotionally rewarding.

Linkedin

With this downtime, you can update your LinkedIn profile. Did you know you can customize your banner (the image behind your profile picture) to stand out? Free tools, like Canva, offer many templates. What new skills have you yet to include in your profile? Maybe it is time to update your profile image. It is advised you keep your image current. For that matter, is your profile complete? Complete profiles rank higher in LinkedIn searches.

Have you had a professional article rolling around in your head? How about sitting down and drafting it today for LinkedIn sharing. Or, do you have an article you’ve already written but want to deploy for greater exposure? Publish it on social media to have it become part of your profile. Here’s straightforward direction on publishing articles on the LinkedIn platform.

SEO Writing

Speaking of writing, have you been putting off writing blog posts, a critical component to SEO? Now would be a great time to get to writing. I can’t think of a better way to take your mind off things for an hour or two. Why not get a few in the pipeline? They’ll be prepared and ready to deploy, freeing up your time for other activities when we get back to “normal.”

Capitalize on the Downtime by Organizing Around The Home

Un-cluttering and organizing reduce stress. These activities are great ways to capitalize on the downtime. The closets and drawers are obvious places to start, but you might find real satisfaction in cleaning out and organizing your pantry or the refrigerator. You open these places daily and will get the benefit of seeing the fruits of your labor often. When was the last time you cleaned out your spices? Spices do expire. Invite your kiddos to organize the spices alphabetically for a fun, educational challenge. Challenge yourself to find a way to use each spice you have over the coming weeks.

Do you have a box of printed photos? Now might be a great time to organize them into albums or otherwise group them for better storage. This is another great kid-friendly project! It’s also a really fun way to pass the time. If you’re of a certain age, you likely have duplicates of the same picture – a byproduct of the days of double print buying. Toss out what you don’t need. Or, try pulling together a bundle for a grandparent.

There is a lot of uncertainty and a lot we cannot control in our present environment. But, we certainly do have the ability to control what we do with the downtime that has resulted from the COVID-19 crisis. I encourage you to pick a project or two to complete over the coming days. Give yourself the chance to feel productive, and prepare yourself for even greater productivity when this season passes.

Sara Genrich is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop.  She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.

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