Optimizing Your Output during COVID-19
How to Truly Be Productive Even in the Time of COVID-19
In the face of COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, and now phased reopening for many businesses, many of us have needed to redefine what productivity looks like in both our work and our personal lives. Between figuring out how to work from home effectively, helping kids with remote learning, preparing to return to commutes and office hours, and simply trying to navigate an uncertain situation, it’s been all too easy over the past few months to feel like we’ve lost control over our time. You might have found yourself becoming easily distracted, procrastinating more, or taking longer to finish simple tasks.
So how do we battle the distractions and get back to a place of balance and productivity? While there are countless tips, tricks, and hacks out there to help us better manage our daily to-do lists, the best way to become truly productive is to take a holistic approach. Such an approach can help you be more productive in all aspects of your life and in all situations – even after COVID-19 becomes a distant memory.
Here are a few key concepts to help you regain control over your time and optimize your overall productivity.
Identify your priorities
While we all experience those rare days of superhuman productivity, most of the time it’s just not possible to accomplish absolutely everything we might need and want to do. Trying to do so will only lead to burnout. The path to true, sustainable productivity lies in prioritization.
Spend some time each morning going through your to-do list and identify the top 3-5 things you most want to accomplish that day. They could be related to your work, your family life, your personal hobbies and self-care, or a combination of all these. You can still identify more tasks that you want to accomplish that day, but think of those as more of a wish list. If you don’t get to them, it’s not a big deal because you’ve already taken care of the most important things. And if you do get to them, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
In other words, stop trying to do it all. And while you’re at it…
Many of us take pride in our ability to do two (or even more!) things at once. But the truth is, that’s not how the human brain functions best. We’re not designed to multitask. When we try to focus on too many things at once, we make more mistakes, are less creative, and actually take longer to accomplish anything at all.
If you struggle to stay focused on just one task at a time, start with small increments. Set a timer for 10 or even 5 minutes and commit to focusing on the task at hand for that amount of time. When the timer goes off, get up and do something else for a couple of minutes. Take a walk, get a cup of coffee or tea, say hello to a co-worker, scroll social media, play with your dog. This will help you to come back refreshed for your next segment of focused work.
Pay attention to your environment
The world around us provides near constant distractions: clients and co-workers, family, pets, technology, chores, the list goes on. Paying attention to your environment and making it more conducive to calm and focus can help you stay on track.
When you’re engaged in an important task, whether it’s writing a report or helping your kid with their homework, silence your cell phone or put it away in a drawer so you won’t be distracted by messages or social media. A clean workspace has been shown to help increase focus, so try keep your work area, whether at home or in the office, clutter-free. Natural light and fresh air can help keep you awake and alert, so try to spend your focus time near a window if you can.
If possible, establish “quiet hours” with your family or co-workers; these should be times when you aren’t to be interrupted except in case of emergency to allow you to focus deeply on your top priorities for the day.
Be accountable yet flexible
Being accountable for your priorities plays a key role in long-term productivity. Accountability can be as simple as writing down your to-do list and checking things off as you go along or downloading an app that tracks your daily progress.
If you really struggle with procrastination or prioritization, consider enlisting an accountability partner. This can be a friend, spouse, co-worker, or even supervisor – just choose someone who can commit to regular check-ins, can be your cheering section when you accomplish your goals, and can give you tough love when you lose focus.
However, it’s also important to remember that you’re human. Some days we are just not as productive as others. Other times, emergencies or unexpected opportunities pop up during our day that require us to reprioritize. Giving yourself some wiggle room will help make your productivity goals more realistic and thus more attainable.
Take care of yourself
We’ve all heard the airplane analogy – you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others with theirs. The same goes for being productive. In order to accomplish any of the things you want to do in life, you first need to take care of yourself. We perform at our best when we feel our best, both physically and mentally.
Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Stay hydrated, eat regular, nutritious meals, and get fresh air and sunshine. Take time to rest if you are feeling ill or burnt out, and reach out to loved ones or a professional mental healthcare provider if you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed. While making time to take care of yourself might seem like just one more thing on your to-do list, at the end of the day, it’s the most important thing that allows you to accomplish everything else.
Workplace Solutions is a group of dedicated professionals who provide assistance and resources to individuals and families to create a satisfying and meaningful life. We’re counselors, attorneys, financial professionals, and experienced specialists in a wide variety of fields. Because life’s challenges and opportunities show up in a range of different areas, we provide assistance in a number of different ways.
If you do not have an EAP at your company, Workplace Solutions is happy to help you with this process. Fill out the form below or give us a call today at 224-353-2780.