8 Tips for Staying Productive During a Pandemic
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
By Beata Fourmanovskis and Komal Patel
Working from home is a challenge that most of us have had to embrace in the past few months as the world defines a “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re struggling to stay motivated and productive at home, here are a few suggestions to help get you out of a slump.
Break up big tasks
For larger tasks, break them down into goals that can be easily accomplished in one to two hours. This could look like an hour of research, finishing half a page of assignment questions, or breaking a ten-page paper down to writing one page per day. Breaking up your big projects makes them a lot less daunting to tackle, and before you know it, you will have made significant progress!
Try the Pomodoro technique
If you can’t work without being distracted every ten minutes, then the pomodoro technique is a must-try. Work for 25 mins with no distractions, then take a five minute break. Try physically disengaging from your work during those five minutes by walking upstairs, grabbing a snack, dancing to some music or otherwise getting out of your seat while you check your phone. After 4 sessions (2 hours of work) you can reward yourself with a longer 25 to 30 minute break.
Go to tomatotimer.com or look around on the app store to find timers that are pre-set to 25 minute work and 5 minute break intervals. Want to focus for longer? Try working for 45 or 50 minutes with a longer break afterward!
Host a deep focus session over zoom
If you’re stuck in a productivity rut, your friends might be feeling the same way. Pick a few hours out of the day to get work done and invite your friends to join you on a (muted) zoom call. Just like how the environment at work or school makes you more productive, simulating that environment where everyone is working can help you feel motivated to get your work done. Put the call on mute so nobody gets distracted, and if you feel the urge to check your phone, look up at your hardworking friends to keep yourself accountable.
Schedule some time to catch up and talk at the end of your call so you have something to look forward to! This will also stop you from getting carried away with talking at the beginning of your focus session.
Even if you’re not following the pomodoro timer, it’s a good idea to take breaks every 30 minutes or so. Getting up and looking away from your screen reduces eye fatigue, gets your circulation moving, and lets your mind reset so it’s refreshed when you get back to work. Feeling tired or lethargic? Take a 10-minute walk to clear your mind and boost your energy before returning to work.
Turn off digital distractions and notifications
Before you start working, remove and turn off all distractions such as your phone, social media, and TV. If you must have your phone, put it in airplane mode so that you won’t be disturbed by messages or notifications. There are also apps such as Forest, Siempo or Digital Detox that will block specified apps for a certain amount of time to allow you to focus. That being said, feel free to play music off of Spotify or YouTube that will help you focus on your work.
For your laptop, apps such as Cold Turkey will allow you to block certain sites for some time. By turning off notifications and removing digital distractions, you can focus on your work and use social media or other content as a reward for completing your work.
Start 5 minutes of a task
Woody Allen famously said that “80% of life is showing up”. Starting a task is always the hardest part, so tell yourself that you will study or work on that assignment for only 5 minutes, and set an alarm for yourself. Once that alarm goes off, you’ll probably want to continue working because you are in the zone and want to finish.
To motivate yourself to get started, remind yourself why the task is important to you, and remember that done and imperfect is better than dragging your heels and waiting for perfection.
Choose 3 things to accomplish each day and write them down
There are only 24 hours in a day and we spend a lot of that time sleeping, eating, and socializing. That’s why choosing three specific and realistic tasks to accomplish each day can improve your productivity without sacrificing your personal time. For example, rather than aiming to finish your 10-page paper today, make it a goal to write two paragraphs.
Commit to your three tasks by writing them down on a piece of paper, in an agenda, or use an app on your phone, such as Google Keep. Make sure your list is easily accessible, so you can cross off tasks once you’ve completed them. Google Keep is fantastic because you can add notifications on your phone and laptop to remind yourself to work on a certain project at a certain time.
Tackle the toughest task first thing in the morning
Out of the items on your to-do list, pick the hardest task that will require the most time and effort and do it first thing in the morning. You have the most energy in the morning and by choosing the most difficult task, you will finish it sooner and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Plus, by choosing the most difficult item in the morning to complete, you are giving yourself maximum time to complete it and can finish it without stressing about the deadline.
Working in the morning gives you more time to relax later on, and by doing the hardest task every morning, you will become more efficient, more productive, and have a great attitude for completing your work. To quote Nike, “Just Do It!”
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