Ways to keep yourself busy during self-isolation

Ways to keep yourself busy during self-isolation

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Publishing manager Courtney Nicholls recently polled our office to find out how people are spending their time in lockdown.

Courtney Nicholls

Much has changed for all of us over the course of the last month. During this unprecedented time toilet paper and hand sanitiser have become the new currency, ‘social distancing’ has entered all of our vocabularies, and most of us have found ourselves occupying a shared workspace with our partners, housemates and children.

The team at Hardie Grant Media moved to working from home measures a number of weeks ago and I’m very proud of how we have adapted to the new normal as a business – client service remains front and centre as we work to create interim content marketing strategies, and the HGM team remains connected, engaged and motivated.

But what about after hours? No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ about it, we’re all in the same quarantined boat with an unprecedented level of downtime bookending our nine to five routines. Adapting to this cosmic shift in structure has been a challenge for many of us: we’re not only adjusting to a new normal, but we’re also left with hours previously occupied by a commute, by friends, by outings – by life – suddenly wide open. 

A man and woman in the kitchen
Cooking is just one of the ways we're keeping entertained in lockdown. 

As a working mother, every minute of my day was accounted for pre-COVID-19 so I find myself in unfamiliar territory with my routine, which is normally carried out with military-like precision, thrown out the window.

While I’m passing the spare time easily enough – I’ve mastered the art of homemade chicken noodle soup, have streamed many true crime podcasts (Gladiator was utterly fascinating), am enjoying catching up on my reading list (my current book is The Shining by Stephen King, which in retrospect, may have been a bad choice), and have watched far too much Disney+ with my three-year-old (please, no more Elsa) – I’m struggling with the massive shift in daily sequence. I suspect there are a lot of people in the same position.

So how are we all getting through? How do we adapt when the world as we know it is turned upside down? How do we fill what feels like endless periods of time?

I posed these questions to a number of my colleagues at Hardie Grant Media and found the responses, which ranged from pensive reflection to light-hearted advice, illuminating. How do we react in times of crisis and where do we turn for a bit of familiarity and comfort? There’s no one response. 


Kate Thompson, strategy director

What did our strategy director Kate Thompson think a period of self-isolation would mean for her? “An opportunity to spend time finding more balance… I imagined I’d meditate, read, switch off and slow down,” she says. 

The opposite has proven true. “I’m exhausted and have definitely fallen victim to the pressure to be productive.” True to her colours, Kate has picked up new habits and old pastimes including:

  • Online and live classes with her local yoga studio White Dog, where she has started Surya Namaskar classes to keep up her fitness and Pranayama classes to help get off to sleep
  • Dusting off her ukulele and signing up for three months of free lessons with Fender
  • Jigsaw puzzles! “I bought a New Yorker jigsaw puzzle for the first time in my life and I honestly have no idea what I’m doing or where to start (edges first right?)”
  • Being crafty in the kitchen using pantry staples and/or whatever is in the fruit and veg box. So far she has made things like gin and lime marmalade and “healthy” Anzac biscuits

Scott Elmslie, account director

Like millions the world over, our account director Scott Elmslie misses the sports, guys. While lamenting the ghosts of football (soccer) seasons past, Scott has been sucked into many YouTube rabbit holes watching highlights of his team in bygone years. But even he acknowledges that there are only so many times in a week he can watch the highlights on the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup.

“I’ve been trying to amuse myself in other ways,” he says. ”I’m currently reading two great books. Stop Listening to the Customer by Adam Ferrier, and, while only a few chapters in, it’s a really engaging read with an interesting perspective. I’m also working my way through all 570 pages of the Beastie Boys Book, which is brilliant.” This is interspersed with Spotify, his usual roster of podcasts and episodes of Bluey. “I’d like to say it’s for my three and five-year-old but I love those little dogs”.



A woman lounging in a chair with a book
Searching for book recommendations? Try Instagram, says Hannah Louey. 

Hannah Louey, account manager

Our account manager Hannah Louey is a thief. She’s stolen Peppa, her sister’s dog, to keep herself entertained while working from home alone. Why? “Talking to a dog is more socially acceptable than talking to myself”.

All jokes aside (Hannah is law-abiding citizen), Peppa the pooch is serving a more important purpose – keeping Hannah healthy. “She gives me the push I need to get outside for some much-needed vitamin D and exercise,” she says.  

As a self-proclaimed lover of all things books, Hannah, to the surprise of no one who knows her, has been reading to keep herself entertained. She’s joined a book club (founded by the Hardie Grant Media editorial team) and is in the midst of reading the club’s first selection, Where The Crawdads Sing.

Where else is Hannah getting her book recommendations from in a time where bookstores across the country are closed? “One of Hardie Grant’s authors, Jaclyn Crupi (a voracious book reader and seller) has put together a series of personalised book recommendations on her Instagram page which has given me another excuse to place a book order.”


Jo Davy, managing editor

Managing editor Jo Davy started March like most of us, completely transfixed by the news. “My days in the office (remember those?) were spent greedily refreshing live coverage and interrupting my colleagues with the latest headlines: ‘apparently it’s pretty bad in Italy’ or ‘Tom Hanks is down’.”

But as the situation worsened, and we all began isolating in earnest, Jo made it a point to switch off and avoid her regular sources of news and commentary “… because, quite frankly, nobody seemed to know what to say – and that was scarier than the curve.” While disengaging with traditional news outlets, Jo has connected with content that simultaneously acknowledges this challenging reality while also offering her an escape, if only for a couple of minutes.  

What are Jo’s top picks?
As an organisation, Hardie Grant Media is working to ensure that the company culture we’ve all worked so hard to build stays intact and that our team feels supported as we adjust to the new normal.

Whether this is through Friday night drinks on Teams, virtual lunch hour, or weekday virtual team workouts, we’re focused on ensuring that our team feels connected and that we’re promoting an inclusive and safe working environment for everyone as we carry on with business as unusual (thanks, Scott Elmslie for that Dad joke).

I hope our team has helped to give you a few ideas to keep yourself and your teams entertained and engaged.

And if that fails my daughter Noelle recommends that you watch Frozen 2.

Courtney Nicholls is publishing manager and heads up Hardie Grant Media’s custom books division. 


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