With most of the UK back in lockdown restrictions, many journalists are struggling to remain positive – which is why we’ve put together some inspiring pieces of advice on how to stay motivated during lockdown.
We’ve reached out to people at different stages in their media careers, from editors and reporters well-established in their fields to News Associates alumni and journalists who are just starting out.
Whether you’re struggling with writer’s block or wondering how to structure your day from your bedroom, you may find some pearls of wisdom from the quotes below.
Olivia Crellin, journalist, documentary maker and founder of PressPad.
‘I was asked to provide information on how I’m staying motivated but right now “getting things done” is not necessarily the most important or even possible aim.
‘If you have a clear set of objectives, roadmap or achievable tasks then go for it but learning self care, how to pace yourself and what resilience looks like could in fact be the most valuable long-term learning you take from the pandemic – and one that will serve you incredibly well in the intense, competitive, often gruelling world of non-stop news.’
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Mhari Aurora, multimedia journalist for Yahoo News.
‘When I was studying during lockdown, I found the best way to stay motivated was to take breaks often and pamper myself.
‘I used to take lots of lavender scented baths and I would experiment with new hairstyles which was super fun and a great conversation-starter at my Saturday zoom yoga classes!’
Louise Hall, US politics reporter at The Independent.
‘Living and working through the current news cycle is exhausting. Where you can, I’d say focus your energy on the things that make you feel fulfilled and find little moments of happiness to help you push through the day.
‘I would say if anything don’t feel pressured to be above and beyond motivated or productive at the moment as right now just getting through daily essentials often feels like a win. Practically, I find habit tracking apps can remind you to keep some form of schedule when working from home.’
Martin Booth, editor of Bristol24/7.
‘I won’t sugar coat this: motivation can be hard during lockdown. Especially with a six-year-old tugging at my shirt every few minutes demanding snacks. Tip number one: have multiple snacks to hand at all times.
‘On days where motivation is low, I advise my small team to clock off early. Shut the laptop, turn off social media and come back the next day feeling refreshed. I like to clear my own head by going on a cycle ride. On my bike away from electronics I often get my best ideas, so come back to my desk with more vim and vigour.
‘I am constantly motivated by unearthing and telling good stories, and being a journalist is all I have ever wanted to do since I was at school. Fuelled by expertly made coffee by my wonderful wife and copious amounts of snacks, I remind myself how fortunate I am to be gainfully employed within this extraordinary trade.’
Kate Pounds, multimedia journalist at SWNS media group.
‘When I was training with News Associates, we had just completed our first set of exams when we went into the first Covid-19 lockdown. I was so relieved and grateful to be able to keep studying.
‘Journalism is a fairly recent career change for me, and I was so keen to finish this course, which marked the beginning of a future I was so excited about. If we hadn’t been able to finish our course remotely, I might not have the job I love so much now. I honestly believe I was able to get through the first lockdown because I was able to continue with my studies at News Associates.’
During lockdown last year we published this blog on how to manage your mental health during the Covid-19 crisis. Read below to find out some ways of looking after your wellbeing 🧡 https://t.co/AKGJ1EW1FM
— School of Journalism (@TheJournoSchool) January 14, 2021
Ethan Davies, local democracy reporter covering Cheshire East and Cheshire West & Chester
‘In the hours of Zoomageddon I endured, the idea that kept me going was that I was entering the industry at a time of great change, and while there are scary stories of job losses, it also means new trainees with bright ideas are more likely to be listened to and taken on.
‘Also remember local papers need people on a short-term basis! Editors always need copy, and now we can’t travel you can ask for work experience further afield. It makes no difference if you’re writing for the Northwich Guardian or Hull Daily Mail if you’re in your bedroom in Bury.’
Beth Kirkbride, founder and editor of The Indiependent magazine.
‘During the first UK lockdown I was definitely suffering from news fatigue. A technique I developed to combat this and stay enthusiastic about journalism was using the Bookmarks tool on Twitter to save articles I want to read.
‘Then, on the weekend I create dedicated ‘reading time’ where I read everything I’ve saved during the week, helping me stay abreast of the news without getting too bogged down.
‘For early career stage journalists I think it’s really important to give yourself some time to switch off from the news agenda and look after your mental health, in the current climate especially!
‘Another way I’ve stayed motivated is with the help of amazing support groups like the Young Journalist Community on Facebook, and various freelance WhatsApp groups. Most people struggle with imposter syndrome at some point in their career, but join a supportive ecosystem and you’ll realise very quickly that you’re not alone.’
Meera Navlakha, freelance journalist with words in The New York Times, Vice, The Independent, The Times and more.
‘I think the pandemic has taken its tolls in many forms, especially in the realm of mental health. Many people – including myself – speak about feeling burnt out or facing the notorious writer’s block.
‘I would say that keeping an eye out for stories relevant to yourself and your community can be an incredible starting point for overcoming this. I do small things such as keeping a running list of notes and potential ideas for pitches, which I develop later.
‘Building and nurturing relationships with editors is also essential, regardless of whether a pitch is accepted or not. There are always those who are willing to take a chance on new writers and seeking to hear your thoughts. At this time, there are so many stories to be told, and publications who will you allow you to do them justice.’
Ellen Halliday, journalist for Tortoise Media.
‘While completing the NCTJ diploma with News Associates during the first lockdown, I found that connecting with my course mates really helped.
‘Don’t be afraid to reach out to journalists in the #TeamNA network either – in my experience they were always happy to share their advice about aspects of the course or the job market that may be worrying you.
Above all, don’t forget to step away from your screen and get outside when your Zoom classes end! The course is intense and the pandemic is deeply distressing – make sure to take care of yourself.’
James Moules, co-editor of Redaction Politics.
‘The days are dark and gloomy right now, so staying motivated can be tough. Keeping a routine is key, set yourself goals for each hour of the day.
‘It’s hard at the best of times, so never be afraid to ask for help from anyone. And remember, each evening is steadily getting brighter.’
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Laura Garcia, multimedia journalist for First Draft News.
‘For some reason #Lockdown3 feels harder than the ones before it. I’m trying to replicate online the things that used to be fun offline. A journo friend and I watch a silly movie every week together and text throughout it, or we motivate each other to work out.
‘Recently, I also bought some skates …..cause why not? At some point, the sun will come out and I want to listen to music or podcasts while I wheel around. I even made a TikTok out of it! For journos in lockdown – find strength in doing things with others even if it’s weird and online. We’re going to be in this for a while, and it doesn’t matter if it’s weird if it makes you happy! Plus we can all write our Covid memoirs one day and tell the world about it.’
You can find Laura on TikTok @tiktok_journo.
Fatima Hudoon, journalist at the The Bristol Cable.
‘I always try to have something to look forward to at the end of the day or week, small or big. Whether that’s a walk in a park, cycling along the river bank or watching the next episode of my favourite crime drama – SOKO Leipzig. Or simply a tub of ice cream! It gives me a finish line to aim toward.’
Ed Southgate, reporter for The Sun.
‘It is a big change up having to work in lockdown and it can be a challenge to keep motivated, but breaking up the shift by making sure you take a break and going for a short walk to take your mind away for a bit I have found really helps.
‘Also try not to look at emails when you’re not on shift so you can create separate zones for work/leisure.’
Eve Bennett, founder of The Meridian magazine.
‘For me, the key to staying motivated is to split my work and leisure – even though we can’t leave the house at the moment, I find working and relaxing in separate rooms (or different parts of the same room if that’s not possible) helps me switch off in the evening.
‘I try and stick to a cut off point, meaning I don’t do anything work related or check any emails after a certain time, to make sure I don’t burn myself out!’
— News Associates (@NewsAssociates) January 12, 2021
Francesca Hughes, freelance journalist and BBC Young Reporter of the Year 2019.
‘I am staying motivated during this lockdown by trying to amplify overlooked issues that I am passionate about through my writing.
‘To anyone interested in pursuing journalism I would encourage them to pitch and write what they care about. Individual interests and ideas are what will make you unique. It will also make you a better writer who editors are more likely to commission.’
Rhys Noye-Allen, trainee sub-editor at The Daily Mail.
‘I stay motivated by setting goals for each day which helps me feel like I’ve achieved something. Being able to use Zoom and Slack has helped me stay connected with colleagues and makes me feel part of a team.’
‘I’ve kept motivated by reading more high-quality journalism for inspiration by signing up to newsletters from publications such as the Guardian and New York Times. I’ve also listened to more journalism related podcasts like The Climate Question and Axios Today.
‘Another way to stay motivated is by separating my day between work and relaxation time. I have a cut off at about 7pm and usually watch a film or The Office. If I don’t do this I burn out quickly.’
If you’re struggling with your mental health, you can find guidance and support on the following websites:
- Samaritans https://www.samaritans.org/ – you can call 116 123 for free or email [email protected]
- Mind https://www.mind.org.uk/
For more journalism top tips, check out our ultimate A-Z guide to journalism.