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Creative Productivity: Using Time Wisely During Shutdowns

Matrixx Ferreira
Mar 15, 2021

Throughout this pandemic, rolling lockdowns and territorial shutdowns seem to be a common occurrence in some capacity. For us in the iron game, most governments tend to view us as “non-essential”; we’re the first ones on the chopping block to be forced to close.

Here in Ontario Canada, we’re currently in our second state of emergency and are in complete lockdown yet again. It’s hard to put into words the frustration many of us feel while coaching during COVID. Seeing our athletes or clients thrive throughout the year only to have progress stripped away. Kids with scholarship opportunities or showcases denied their shot to shine, clients with mental health issues stuck in isolation. If you go looking for a tough story, you won’t have to go far to find one.

I’ll be honest, I’ve had my share of grumbling and cussing throughout this global crisis. I’ve played the “why me?!” card more than once and ranted to ears that we're probably tired of hearing about it. However, much like we preach to our athletes, we found ways to keep on track -- Move the dirt daily as we say. Whether with a shovel or with a spoon, find a way to move the dirt.

For us, that meant regrouping. I give full credit to my staff, they’re the brightest and most determined young strength coaches you’ll ever meet. Once lockdown hit, we shut our doors, poured some coffee and “whiteboarded” it.

Our focus was to write all the positive aspects of this newly discovered time. The time for negativity was over, it was time to take control of the reins.

We wrote down all the projects we wanted to accomplish, tasks we wished to complete and books we aspired to read. Once our list was complete, we set some benchmarks, made a daily schedule and got to work. We were in bright spirits and determined as ever; we didn’t plan on wasting a good quarantine.

It’s easy to get caught up in negative emotions and become overwhelmed. I consider myself a pretty rigid guy, I thrive off routines and schedules; I always work better with some set of directions. If you’re like me, plans produce productivity. Below I outline the 3 pillars we focused on as a staff to capitalize on our time in lockdown and how we set up a sustainable schedule for coaching during COVID.

1. Client & Athlete Care

Taking care of our members and athletes is always top priority. When we shutdown, the first item we discussed was ongoing client care. Some questions included:

  • How can we minimize de-training?
  • What equipment do the majority of folks have access to?
  • How can we promote engagement and feedback?
  • If folks are stressed, what are some ways we can assist them?

Once we brainstormed ideas, we took action. We put together graded home workouts for general members and sprint or jump programs for our athletes, all free of charge. We made daily fun workouts with silly names and offered prizes for the most consecutive completions. We posted weekly Instagram trivia or Q+A’s. We put a ton of work into ensuring our people knew that we were still there for them.

Our best action? Good ‘ol fashioned phone calls. Every week, we hopped on the phone and called everyone on our roster. Not to talk shop, just to listen. Listen to how they’ve been coping and what they’ve been up to. If nothing else, call your clients or athletes just to check in. The simple act of being human will do wonders, trust me on that one. 

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2. Company Projects

The next item on our agenda was to determine what projects were suitable to bring to the forefront. Like any business, we always have things on the go but we’re always on the go. Lockdown was the perfect time to get our projects underway. 

For us, we wanted to really revamp our internship program. We did a total overhaul and spent weeks putting all our knowledge on paper. We made an entire curriculum catered to our environment and even filmed video accompaniments. In 8 weeks, we created our internship program to launch. What’s crazy is that we’re now taking it a step further and using that same curriculum to create a course for all young coaches to access online. Call me crazy, but if it weren’t for a shutdown, I can honestly say we may have never made the time to fully invest ourselves into this project. 

Take advantage of the mandated time you have to think about the tasks you have in your own setting. Maybe its data analysis or workshops. Maybe you want to develop educational content for your students or colleagues. Heck, even cleaning and organizing your weight room could be on your list. Take advantage of the unique opportunity (yes, I say opportunity) to put any project, big or small, on your lockdown list.  

3. Professional Development

Once we prioritized clients and company projects, we decided to have some fun. Our creativity came to the forefront; we discussed personal avenues we wished to pursue. Everything was on the table, it didn’t matter if it was a training seminar or graphic design course. Whatever we wanted to focus our learning on, we wrote it down as a group.

At 12pm everyday, we dedicated one hour to professional development. Some of the staff watched seminars, some took courses, some listened to podcasts and some read books. When given the freedom to learn, our staff took full advantage of it. Lockdown meant brain gains. We decided to take it a step further to encourage group learning. Once a staff member finished a course, book or seminar, they would do a quick 5-10 minute presentation to our staff on what they learned. This not only educated the rest of the staff, it helped the presenter formulate their new knowledge into digestible bits, perfect for when they decided to create future content for company projects (see how it ties together?).

I would encourage any staff in a leadership or authoritative role to consider allocating time for professional development. With lockdown taking a substantial mental toll, I found the creative freedom (with some structure) for staff kept morale high and stress low. 5-9 days provide little time for creative development so encourage it as an opportunity with the mandatory circumstances.

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How We Set A Shutdown Schedule

Once our pillars were fully prepared, we had quite the whiteboard list. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming. We decided to use a top-down approach and set benchmarks for each task component. For client care, we set weekly dates for check ins and program design completion. With our internship project, we set deadlines for certain readings to be typed or videos to be filmed. With professional development, we set goals for when we wanted to finish certain podcasts or books. Whatever we strove to achieve was written on 4-week calendars. When shutdowns were extended, we simply added another 4-week calendar to the mix and repeated the same process.

Shutdowns are unpredictable, but politicians are not. Be prepared for the long haul.

Lastly, we set a daily routine for each business day. For us, it meant 3 hours of project tasks in the morning before breaking for lunch. After lunch, we digested lunch with an hour of professional development before crushing another 2 hours on client care and content creation. At 3pm, we lifted weights for an hour before heading home. 

This simple daily schedule gave us a new sense of purpose and excitement. We knew what we had to do and when we had to do it by. Not only that, we were pumped to expand our repertoires in the process. 

Lockdowns suck, no doubt about it. At the end of the day, we have no control over what the powers that be decide to mandate in our lives or livelihoods. However, we CAN control our attitudes. Shutdowns provide a unique opportunity to develop other avenues of your life, personal and professional. Take advantage of it. Get off your backside, quit your bellyaching and start brainstorming. Don’t waste a good quarantine.

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