How to Be Productive During a Pandemic
What a time to be alive.
None of us know how to navigate pandemic waters and there are so many things going wrong right now as a result of Covid19 that’s crippled the entire world. None of us know the answers. We don’t know when it will be over, we don’t know if we’ll have jobs, livelihoods and sanity when it will be over. We have no clue what the new normal will look like on the other side of this craziness.
This was supposed to be the year of travel for me. I had it all planned out. We all had plans. Now we’re all cooped up at home trying to flatten the curve and keep our loved ones safe.
Some of us are still lucky to be working right now, whether for yourself or someone else. And if you’ve lost your job, you may be wondering what now. You may be trying to learn something new or pivoting to a new industry that’s in demand right now. Or maybe you’re like me who already worked from home but now you’re trying to keep jobs coming in, keep income sources alive, while homeschooling a bored kid.
Now I wished she had siblings because having an only child at home for almost a month now has been hard on us both. But that’s another post. Today I have some tips on being productive during a pandemic when really all you want to do is sit on the couch with a tub of ice cream in hand and Netflix in the background.
How to Be Productive During a Pandemic
Why is it so hard to be productive? The news. Stress. Anxiety. This will of course all take away your ability to focus. It consumes your mind the more you absorb it. The western world is about three weeks into stay at home orders now so it will take time. At first, you might have taken a f*ck this attitude, doing nothing at all but staying glued to the news, however you consume it.
Now, you may be slowly adjusting your schedule to make sure you’re still getting work done. You’re realizing that this isn’t gonna blow over anytime soon and you still gotta eat. It took me several days to figure out a routine that allowed me to stay informed without going crazy (well, crazier), and get a little work done. I am still remaining flexible and adjusting things as needed, but these tips are what has been helping me so far.
Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself.
This is the most important thing to remember right now. You need to give yourself a break and some grace during this time. We are all just trying our best. Try to take it easy and give yourself a break when your mind needs it. Now is not the time to be rigid and beat yourself up over not getting everything done.
Have a Plan for Getting Your News.
I, like most people, spent the first few days of this pandemic just watching the news and scrolling social media. Literally HOURS spent just absorbing the same information from like 10 different news outlets. And why? I think there was some anxious part of me that felt like I was going to miss something important. That I needed to know immediately what was going on, how many new cases there were, what was being shut down. Just obsessive about it. My poor anxious brain was in a permanent state of overload so I knew I had to do something. I changed how I get my news. Here are a few tips I highly recommend:
- Pick ONE News Outlet – You don’t need to have CNN on the TV while watching a live press conference on NBC on your computer, and scrolling Twitter on your phone for updates. They are all going to give you the exact same information. Pick one way to get your news, and turn off all notifications that aren’t essential. Just be sure your source is credible. This is not the time for fake news.
- Don’t Check the News in the Morning – Try to start your day positively, even if it’s just for the first 10 minutes. Don’t check your phone or turn on the news until you have gone through some sort of morning routine. Write in a journal, go for a walk, make your kids breakfast, it doesn’t matter what it is. Just try to do something good for your mental health before you start to feel the doom and gloom from the news. Here’s how I quickly get back into a good mood if something goes wrong along the way.
- Have “No News” Time Blocks – You don’t have to work during these time blocks, but keep the news off, including avoiding any social media that is throwing Coronavirus updates at you every 5 seconds. Take this time to connect with yourself or your family members. Play a game. Create a gratitude list. Cook something indulgent. Bake. We’re all the best bakers lately.
Use Time Blocks or a Pomodoro Timer.
Yeah.. my normal work routine is basically laughing at me right now. Don’t stress yourself out because your sleep schedule is off, and you can’t seem to keep up with your normal routine. Most of us are feeling it. Instead of trying to force it, I am kind of just working with what I have, and what I know helps me. My biggest problem right now is not being able to focus, because my thoughts are just all over the damn place. I personally am using a Pomodoro timer, since it’s only 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5-10 minute break. It’s enough of a break to help me kind of regroup, but I can still get a lot done during each 25-minute work increment if ALL I am focusing on is work.
If you have more time to work, you might prefer time blocks. This is when you choose a block of maybe 1-2 hours, where you focus on one type of work task for that time, without breaks, and just power through it. It’s an awesome way not only to get more done but to break up your day if you have multiple tasks you need to get to.
Focus on Your MITs (most important tasks).
This is something I already put into practice, but it has been even more helpful during this time. These are your most important tasks – the ones you NEED to get done. The ones you should be working on first, before you even think about anything else. What you choose as your MITs, and how many you have each day, is completely up to you. As a blogger, I have 3 categories of MITs:
1. Writing – The main MIT I have is writing blog posts or content for my freelancing clients.
2. Brainstorming and Planning – Coming up with new post ideas, social media posts to promote my content etc.
3. Communication – sending out emails, responding to emails, engaging in my Facebook group for bloggers etc.
This isn’t even close to everything I want to get done in a day, but I have to start here. And I even order my MITs each day based on priority. Typically, since I know writing takes the most focus, I do that first thing in the morning. Your brain only has so much capacity before it taps out so you want to do the most important task at the start of the day when it’s firing on all cylinders.
Get Up and Do Something Else.
This last tip is for when you are struggling with focusing and concentrating on your work tasks, but you also don’t want to just sit and watch the news, or waste your time watching Netflix (it’s not always a waste of time! You need breaks too).
Typically, when I notice I am just staring at a blank screen for a while, or I keep opening the same social media sites just to scroll mindlessly, I need to get up and do something else. This is when I get away from my computer, put down my phone and find another activity. For me, it usually involves cooking or baking but you can do anything that brings you joy. Walk your dog, go for a run or a bike ride, get up and dance to some DJ’s IG live, do some yoga. Literally anything but sit at your computer or watch the news. You need to get your energy up with a good distraction. The change of pace does seem to work tremendously for me, so try to do this when you find yourself getting stressed or just completely unable to concentrate. When you come back to your work, I bet you will have a much better mindset.
How are you staying productive right now?