PRODUCTIVITY DURING LOCKDOWN- YAY OR NAY?
In these times of a worldwide pandemic, most of us are experiencing a storm of emotions even as we sit at home. On one side are anxiety-inducing news crashing at our docks and on another are howling winds of suggestions to 'make the most' of our alleged extra time, pushing us further out in unchartered waters. It's thus completely understandable if you feel pushed in multiple directions at a given time, in such a hostile and unascertained environment out there.
We're navigating through huge emotional hurdles and tides of uncertainty never really previously encountered. The challenge for our boat of productivity to stay afloat is exigent.
Some of our parents or even our seniors may be an active part of the COVID-19 task force. With the number of cases rising every day, we’ve seen more and more hospitals being converted into COVID centres. As medicos, we’ve seen our college faculty working day and night, balancing their duties as teachers and doctors. With so many things running through our minds, it has obviously become difficult for us to stay focused.
Even though we have a lot more time now, we may find it difficult to get things done. The foremost thing we need to do is accept that you are in a challenging situation at the moment! There was a sudden shift from attending lectures and practicals or spending hours in the college library studying, having group discussions about difficult topics, revising your basics, balancing all the subjects plus attending postings- to social distancing, staying home all day, and having very few distractions to get away from the helplessness of this situation.
These emotions can make you feel unsettled, lethargic, paralyzed, and unable to focus or be productive. You need to accept that you have no control over the situation. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can create the room for your mind to focus on other things.
The first step is identifying why you may be feeling gloomy. If you find yourself Netflix-ing or binge eating all day because you are stressed or feeling down, locate the root of that feeling. Call a friend and talk about the situation to get a different perspective. Sometimes, we succeed in convincing ourselves that our study break is just a day long. At that moment, we need to remind ourselves that our future self may regret wasting this time. You probably won’t even realize when your one day break becomes a habit and gets manifested into a conspicuous trait if left unaddressed. The long term aspects of non productivity should be considered, lest one falls prey to them.
If you stop being productive today, you may surround yourself within a cocoon which would be difficult to get out of. The idea that it’s okay to not make any progress at a personal or professional level during this period may hinder your growth as a person. If you stop studying regularly or disconnect yourself from the real world, it’ll be harder for you to get back on track once everyday life resumes. Not doing something right now and postponing it might not cause a significant problem at this stage, but getting used to living like this would surely affect your long term goals. You'll probably find yourself stuck in a situation where you have a huge backlog of tasks to be completed with very little time in hand and zero motivation to start because you're now stuck in a rut. Therefore, it is necessary to make a few changes which might appear insignificant at this moment but will surely help you in avoiding such situations.
Fear, anxiety, and anger are evolutionary tools and this is a great time to use them to your benefit. Imagine your future self managing a hospital along with its entire staff, handling patients, and ensuring you give them the best treatment, saving lives every single day, and living the dream that we all are working so hard for. There’s a fair chance you’ll have to encounter these emotions again in that phase of life. Therefore, it is necessary to use this time to make things easy for your future self!
Because individual circumstances differ and people process difficult experiences in a variety of ways, we need to understand that there’s no ‘right way’ to get through this, other than allowing yourself to be your own way. If you respect the range of coping styles and view people’s behavior as their way to manage their anxiety, you can feel less judgmental — of yourself and others.
Everyone is going to have a different approach to go about the situation. You may have noticed people starting their own ventures, writing blogs, posting dance videos, learning a new skill, starting a food channel, and so on. It might be their mechanism to cope with the inordinate amount of free time at their disposal, which varies from person to person.
In the current situation, you may find it challenging to jump into a new routine or get started on bold ambitions. That is the reason you must do a few things to build a mindset and a state of being to thrive in these conditions. This will help you process the situation better and create the space to be productive, learn new skills, or explore areas for personal growth.
So what you need to do is identify what needs to be changed, give yourself time to change it and get back on track! Here are a few tips to boost productivity in these testing times:
1- Make self-care a priority
Self-care becomes critical during a time when your nervous system is overactive from stress and anxiety. Find a self-care routine that works well for you and don't skip it. Common items include relaxing baths, self-massagers, yoga, stretching, and meditation. Meditating regularly will help calm your mind and provide clarity of thought during this challenging time. If you don't know how, try apps like Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace for guided meditations.
2- Rethink your to-do list
It’s hard to get stuff done when you don’t know what you need to do. Thus, starting your day with a to-do list is advisable. Focus on completing these tasks, and then permit yourself for a break. Break down big tasks into smaller components and schedule it into your calendar in pieces.
Set short term and long terms targets. Think about what you want to achieve and then plan steps going back to what you can do right now. Your targets don't necessarily need to be academic. They can be related to personal growth too. For example, if you plan on learning how to draw, say within a few months, you can set a goal of drawing something every couple of days consistently. If your target is to score good marks in your exams, you can divide the time available for completing each topic and also setting some time aside for revision. Prioritize your goals. Choose what is most important right now and focus mainly on that goal.
Planning out your day is not a big task. It should only take about 10-15 minutes of quiet time. Do the most difficult and most important things first and work your way down to the easier stuff in the afternoon. Many people do say that the physical act of crossing things off their to-do lists gives them the motivation to get things done.
When you are planning for longer periods like a week, plan it just enough to loosely schedule in some of the big things you know you want to get done. Sometimes procrastination happens simply because a task is not scheduled.
Try this mobile app for making your to-do lists.
3- Overcoming procrastination
i) Schedule time blocks - If you know that some tasks are coming up as due and you have a lot of work to do on them, take out your calendar and schedule some time blocks. This will give you a set time to work and help you beat procrastination.
ii) Set deadlines - An end in sight always makes work easier to accomplish. Tasks tend not to be concrete in our minds without a clearly defined deadline. This lack of clarity needs to be dealt with.
iii) Set up reminders - Set daily, weekly as well as monthly reminders using Google calendars. You can also post sticky notes in your study place to remind yourself the tasks to be completed. For longer, more time consuming tasks set " 50% completed " reminders. This will give you some leeway for adjustments without disrupting your set deadline and will also help you avoid the last minute grind.
iv) Take breaks - You can give the 'pomodoro' technique a shot if you're the kind of person who doesn't like working in longer time slots. Be productive for 25 minutes, without any distractions at all and then you can take a 5 minute break. After 4 such cycles, you can have a 15 minute break. If you’re feeling stuck, take some time out to try something new like reading a book. It is a great means of joy break to get some time away from all the digital tools that we are exposed to.
v) Journal your thoughts - If you have time, make a habit to journal your thoughts. It will allow you to keep track of your life and the events that took place. Make sure you do not write only about the restrictions you have to face. If you are complaining about 3 things, write 5 other things you are grateful for!
4- Get good sleep
Sleep helps you address two big things during a time like this: mental health and a healthy immune system. It's so much easier to deal with the emotional and mental demands of this moment when your brain is rested and healthy. On the physiological side, sleep helps your body maintain a strong immune system, which is imperative for fighting off the coronavirus or any other illnesses that may come your way during this time.
Check out our other blog on sleeplessness and insomnia and ways to tackle it better.
5- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Cardiovascular exercise will help you maintain healthy lungs, which is important because coronavirus is a respiratory illness. Exercising four times a week is scientifically proven to be highly beneficial for mental health too! It also keeps your body flexible as your range of motion diminishes from staying at home all day. So, if you’re physically able to exercise, it’s a good idea to give all those home workout videos that you have saved for some other day a try! ;)
Junk food not only affects your weight; but also causes decreased productivity and causes energy crashes. So the next time you think of grabbing a Snickers bar, consider the existence of an alternative healthier option like a protein or fruit and nut bar.
Check out these links for more such tips on maximizing productivity :
This is a unique opportunity to slow down and honor your emotional and mental needs. By doing so, you can create the space necessary to reach the level of efficiency you desire.
In turbulent times like these, adding productivity to your vocabulary and chalking out an action plan might bring much better results than you could expect when it comes to coping with self-isolation and maintaining motivation to push forward.
Everything else aside, do not be too harsh on yourself. Often, we forget that it is okay to not be okay in times like these. Be gentle on yourself- reward yourself with things you like after productive sessions. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!