How To Stay Focused During A Global Pandemic
Things are weird, and they are only getting weirder. COVID-19 has thrown a massive wrench into our lives, and we are all trying to figure out what the future holds. For the time being, we are all doing our best by staying home and working to maintain a sense of normalcy.
Easier said than done, amiright?
Even if you have a perfect working from home set up in a separate room, with an ergonomic chair, desk, and a shut door- you are still left with your wandering mind.
Times like this when there is so much uncertainty and fear floating through our minds, it can be challenging to stay focused. Toss in having to deal with kids running around, spouses working across from us, and having to work from the couch or kitchen table-- it can seem nearly impossible to get anything done.
I've been feeling a bit like a goldfish for the last three weeks, and it makes the days seem endless. I'm procrastinating in ways I never do, I'm mindlessly scrolling through social media, and I'm daydreaming about cappuccinos (I miss coffee shops so much). I haven't been as productive as I would like, and that makes me feel bad. I usually have so much get-up-and-go…. What's happening to me?!
These feelings are likely a minor symptom of depression, and that's okay. We are all transitioning into this new routine, and with that comes grieving the way things used to be. Everything feels out of our control and, well, it is. It is okay that we aren't okay right now, and it's important to remember that taking care of your mental health is just as important as physical activity and eating nourishing food.
This past Monday, I decided I was going to approach this week differently. One thing that is in our control is making small adjustments to our daily routine that will allow us to enjoy a happy brain. I decided I was going to make an effort and set clear goals and boundaries for myself, and I was going to end each day feeling good about what I had accomplished and that I would be okay with anything I didn't get done.
I figured since we're all collectively going through the same thing right now and experiencing the same level of discomfort and lack of focus, I would share my best tips for staying on track while working from home...during a global pandemic.
I'd love to hear from you about this, too- are you feeling unfocused? Are you doing anything to remedy this? Let me know, I'm hungry for my old productive mindset, and the only way we are going to get through this is to band together and help each other out.
Here are my best tips for staying productive at home during quarantine!
1- Be Kind To Yourself.
This is so important, okay?! You have to remember that it's OK not to be moving at your usual pace. The whole world is in a state of limbo, and we've been giving a once in a lifetime opportunity to taking things a little bit slower. Let's try and embrace it by prioritizing what's most important today. Set realistic goals for yourself, and don't get down on yourself if you're not hitting them. You will feel back to normal eventually, I promise.
2- Set a Schedule.
Over 40% of people say their flexible schedule is the best part of working remotely. If you're new to remote work, one of the simplest things you can do for yourself is to keep on a schedule. Especially a sleep schedule. I urge you to try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You should also set clear working hours and off-hours during the week. And don't forget to schedule breaks- working from home also makes it easy to become a workaholic, and the last thing we need right now is for you to burn out.
If you're not currently working, I recommend filling your usual work hours with something that will make you feel accomplished. Learn a new skill, organize that scary closet you've been ignoring for two years, start an at-home workout regime. Whatever it is you decide to do, giving yourself a bit of structure will help you regain a sense of normalcy. Routine will help give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose and help keep your spirits up.
3- Do Not Disturb.
This is something I do even when the world isn't in crisis. Step one to these techniques is to tell whoever needs to know that I won't be available for the next 60-90 minutes. Step two is I put on my noise-canceling headphone. Step three is to close the door. Step four is to fully dive into my list of tasks until the timer goes off.
A hot tip for tracking your productivity is to download the app Rescue Time onto your computer. I find just knowing that my every move online is being monitored and I am going to be sent a progress report at the end of the day helps me stay more on track then when I know I'm not being watched. It's a sort of a placebo effect because the only one watching is you... But it really does help!
4- Reverse To-Do List.
To-do lists are great, but sometimes we can be overly ambitious when we build them out. We often have such high hopes for the day at 8 am but once 2 pm rolls around we can feel a little fried. What I've started doing is writing down every task I complete as I go along my day. This allows me to keep track of everything and be able to look back at the end of the day and see that I was way more productive then I remember being. Even when there's not a pandemic, it can be challenging to feel like you've been productive when you're working from home. I'm not sure what it is- maybe it's that you don't get that instant gratification you get when you complete something with your team band you can all high five each other (remember high fives… those were the days).
The "reverse to-do list" is an excellent tool for preventing you from feeling like you've let yourself down at the end of each day. It's nice to have tangible proof that you crushed it each day.
5- Reward Yourself.
Nothing is more motivating than treats!!
I've gotten into things like relearning French on Duolingo, battling my friends on Scrabble Go. Maybe you want to join in the sourdough craze that's taking over the internet- or perhaps you want a bag of chips in the middle of the afternoon…
Whatever it is that's giving you pleasure right now, use it to help you get the hard stuff finished. Set a time limit, you want to accomplish it in, and if you hit that goal- you get a treat!
Now more than ever, we must take care of ourselves ad each other. Not only do we need to be eating and sleeping well and be understanding with ourselves. This is brand new territory, and we don't know what the future holds. The best thing we can do is make our home a safe, healthy place and find a routine that makes us feel good.
I'd love to hear what's working for you right now. Are you running on a schedule, or has all structure gone out the window? Let us know in the comments or reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.