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Personal Development During Furlough

Given the news furlough has been extended until November I have pulled together everything I have been doing to keep myself busy and work on personal development during this time. I need to have a structure and projects to work on to benefit my mental health. Before we get into it, I want to be clear I am a firm believer in the quote below I have seen going around social media,

'you are not working from home right now; you are at home trying to work during a pandemic.’

The same if you are not working but trying to find projects to work on because it looks like everyone else is or because you feel unproductive. We lived in a world that was all go 24/7, if you were not working you were at the gym, if not at the gym seeing friends, going on holidays, catching up with family, working on side hustles, redecorating your house the list is endless. Everyone deals with a situation like this differently, it is hard to not compare our lives given the social media world we have become but just because some people deal with a crisis by throwing themselves all into ‘upskilling’ themselves does not mean everyone has too. My motivation levels vary some days I need to be on the go, learning new things, completing projects and other days I lie in bed and binge Netflix. Both is perfectly normal and don’t think any less of yourself if your way of coping is just getting through each day.

'We are only unproductive by the standards we set ourselves 3 months ago, and that world no longer exists.’

Along with millions of people in the UK at the moment I have been on furlough since the start of April, which means I am unable to do any work for my company. Amazing you might think but I am one of those people who need something to do to keep sane day to day. At the start I did take a couple weeks to completely switch off and come to terms with not working, the weather was great so reading Harry Potter in the garden was a great activity.

Then I needed to start working on something again but what? I think the best thing to do when looking for a passion project or something to keep you busy is to look around you. Is there anything you have always wanted to learn? A new language, how to make brownies? Or is there a part of your job you feel you could be better at but just never had the time or money to go on a course? Even getting better at make up or gardening, all these things are personal development. You don’t have to be signing up for an online degree, starting a business or running a marathon, it's better to start small especially in times of crisis when you’re mental health could also be taking a hit and dip in and out when your motivation levels are up to it.

If you are feeling good and or are a person who needs to be busy and haven’t been sure where to start or what to do I have complied some top tips based on my own experience and personal development during furlough. Please remember do not do all of these at once, or even a few of them. Rachel Hollis says as part of her Next 90 personal development plan, the best way to see results is to choose one thing, one thing to get better at and dedicate yourself to that for 30 days.

Online Courses

There are loads of online courses around at discounted prices right now, not all of them are accredited by official education bodies but if you just fancy improving your knowledge a little then that won’t matter. You can do anything from Digital Marketing to life coaching to pet first aid. I have been doing the digital marketing course by New Skills Academy.

Attending online events

If there is one thing we are not short of in the events industry its online content, there have been many great educational webinars like IMEX, HireSpace & Untethered all of which you can still access post live. Don’t just stick to industry events though, a lot of international events that usually charge hundreds for a ticket before you even get there have pivoted. I attended Rise x Live a conference that is usually in America and costs hundreds of dollars for an online cost of $40. Same content just without having to fly to the USA. Have a look online, events like women health have also gone virtual.

I also took part in the Mice Blogs - Event Planners Talk hackathon, it was a new experience and outside my comfort zone but led to me connecting with many new eventprofs and learning how to pull together a business plan. They have announced they will be hosting another, I would recommend getting involved once they release the date.

Utilising your network or starting to build one

There is definitely a we're all in this together feeling right now, and many experienced professionals have been offering free services. Robert Kenward from You Search and Select has opened his diary for you to book in a slot to discuss anything from interviews to CVs. Sabrina Myers @hothospitalitye has been giving one to one social media masterclass all via zoom. If you don’t already have a strong network now is the time to start building one, there is a lot more traffic on social media and a lot of people willing to help you out or just chat.


Through networking you can build relationships with some great professionals and then build on that relationship by working together on a new project. I started a new blog series, Exploring the Events Industry where I have connected with a range of professionals in the events industry to share their journeys into their current job role. This is to help those looking to get into the industry see how others have done it and the wide variety of role we have in events.

Working on Digital Events

If you are on furlough you cannot work on any events for your company and right now events are changing left right and centre to digital. So how do we stay up to date with our skills if we need to learn how to host online rather than live but no one is paying us too? Well there are a lot of charities out there that need to find new ways to fundraise and they are looking for volunteers to help them do it. For me I was part of Fast forward 15 and our charity event that was supposed to take place in April had to be pivoted to digital, its involved finding new sponsor, working with existing suppliers to change up our offerings, researching platforms. All skills as an event professional we will need to do for the rest of the year (Facebook & Google for instance have banned f2f events till 2021 and staff will WFH for rest of the year).

If you can’t work on digital events event, attend as many as you can and see what platforms people are using, how it seems to work, if there are recommendations for what to use and what not too. Most platforms will offer to schedule a call with you and show you through their offering, if you want to, take them up on it to see how they work.

Personal Development Books

Reading those books, you’ve been meaning to for months. I find I never make the time to read but I have had a list on amazon as well as some downloaded on my kindle I have meant to read for ages. My recommendations include

Girl stop apologising

The chimp paradox

The multi-hyphenated method

How to own the room

The life changing magic of not giving a f**k

The Discomfort Zone

Little Black Book

How to win friends, and influence people for the digital age

Staying connected to your company

Speak to your manager or HR frequently, you may not be able to do any work on furlough, but you can get updates from your company or department on what they are working on, how business is doing & stay in contact with colleagues. My company has weekly update calls for everyone furlough or working to attend, they also have coffee mornings & wine Wednesday, HR send weekly roundup emails for everyone on furlough to our personal emails of how business and ourselves are doing, they have sent surveys to check how we are doing & they share recordings of other meetings that involve key business updates. If your company are not offering these kind of things, reach out to them. Contact your manager or HR team and ask them how everything is going. You will feel less isolated from your job if you are kept in the loop how the business is. I realise this is not possible for some companies, everyone might be furloughed, or they are struggling so maybe just get in contact with colleagues and see how they are doing for a chat.


If you are on Instagram you may of noticed the glow up in everyone’s content, the secret behind all of this. Canva. A magical little app that lets even the most technophobic person look like a photoshop wizard or close enough. Canva have a design school, with tips on how to use the app to its best abilities, they even have CV & Presentation templates. Job applications and pitches are never going to look so good.

Nearly everything you want to do, has a YouTube tutorial

More inspiration from Rachel Hollis, she learnt everything she knows about her business from google not from an MBA. If she thinks of something new she wants to learn she types in into google and thousands if not millions of free resources show up. So if there is something you think you might be interested in learning, google it. Learn make up from YouTube, learn something about psychology from TedTalk, try a recipe from BBC good food.

Update your CV

Its that thing everyone puts off until they are looking for a new job, but how long have you been in your current role? How many new skills have you learnt? During this pause in your work life take the time to reflect on how far you have come and write it down in a new CV. The exercise can make you realise the skills you have and your worth to your company as well as preparing you if you need to look for a new role in the near future.

That may seem like a lot, and it is but I have been blessed with time to dedicate to all my new ideas and projects and only work on them when I am in the right headspace. Some of these I already did before furlough around my day job so I have added more into it to replace the work I would have been doing, the events I would have been attending & the weekends away I can no longer go on. I also have no children to try and home school or other responsibilities. It’s ok to live your life on the go if that’s what you need to survive, it’s also ok to not. Please remember don’t compare your productivity to anyone else's.

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