How to stay productive in isolation day in and day out can be challenging. As the days and weekends pass by on the calendar, they tend to blur together. It can be difficult to differentiate one from the next. If you want to maintain a decent level of productivity without totally losing your sanity in isolation, try taking some proactive steps.
Following some of these tips can go a long way toward helping you work at a healthy pace during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Set a Schedule, but Allow for Flexibility
When thinking about how to stay productive during the pandemic, consider the type of routine you had before the pandemic arrived. Chances are, you performed a series of tasks at certain times during the day or in sequential order. You also probably had techniques in place to filter out distractions from colleagues, the phone, messaging, etc. Now you need to filter out all these same distractions at home.
Here are several steps you can take:
- Make a daily to-do list. Having a thought-out plan provides structure and keeps your mind on the tasks you need to focus on.
- Create blocks of time dedicated to routine tasks and intensive project work.
- Leave ample time in your schedule to accommodate video calls, web conferences, or other virtual meetings.
- If your employer allows for flexible hours (i.e., work whenever you want as long as you get your work done or use your allotted hours), take advantage of this and work when you’re more focused mentally or when it’s quieter in your house. Early mornings or late evenings might enable you to be more productive.
- Schedule “free” time to allow for the unexpected—impromptu teleconferences, addressing unanticipated customer issues, or other surprise events that might interrupt your scheduled tasks. If your schedule is too inflexible, you could find yourself missing deadlines or falling behind on tasks.
- Make sure you schedule ample time for breaks, too. The pandemic has created new levels of stress, and we need more time to respond emotionally. Even though social restrictions keep you isolated, you can still leave the house if you practice social distancing. Go for a walk, a jog, or even a barefoot car ride at least once a day. If these pastimes don’t appeal to you, try some yoga in your yard or meditate on your patio to siphon off some nervous energy and clear your mind.
If you’ve got your schedule under control and you’re still wondering how to stay productive, there are a few more things you should consider.
1. Set Up a Workspace
You’ve gone from working at a job site to working remotely. Sitting on the couch plugging away on your laptop won’t necessarily cut it for the long term. And, what if other people in your household have transitioned alongside you. Do they have their own remote work or school lessons? You’ll all need your own practical spaces to work.
If you’re able, clear some functional space for a home office. If there’s a lot of clutter in your house, you can even rent a cheap dumpster and do an extreme makeover on one or more of your rooms. If several members of your household need to use the same space, establish a rotating schedule to ensure that everyone gets a turn.
2. Establish Physical and Digital Boundaries
Setting boundaries is extremely important during this period. If you’re the only person in your household working remotely, your family (or roommates) might not fully grasp that you need to put in the same hours you did while working at your place of employment. Isolation isn’t time-off for you, so let your family know when you’ll be working. Inform them you are “off-limits” during those hours.
Another way to keep productivity consistent is to limit your digital distractions. Most people don’t pull out their phones at work to check email, browse social media or do some retail therapy. But, these activities are common at home. To avoid temptation, silence your phone and turn off web notifications (i.e., Facebook or news feeds) for sites that aren’t specifically tied to your work.
3. Pay Attention to Your Finances
Right now, you’re working, but do you have a plan in place if that were to suddenly change? To date, more than 22 million people have applied for unemployment benefits since the president declared a state of emergency in the U.S. Each week that passes shows millions more applying. The long-term shocks to the economy might be staggering if the pandemic doesn’t ease soon.
Even if no one in your family gets sick or is laid off, the Coronavirus pandemic is creating major economic impacts across the nation. It’s riskier than ever to live from paycheck to paycheck if someone in your household could lose their job tomorrow. If you don’t have a financial plan in place, it’s a good idea to make one ASAP.
Start by putting aside some cash and checking your credit rating. That way, you’ll have a cushion if you need to withdraw money or have some borrowing capacity if you need a loan down the road. If your credit is on the low side, take steps to improve your score.
These times we’re facing are unlike anything we’ve ever confronted before. It’s impossible to know whether we’ll be required to shelter in place for weeks or even months longer. So take stock of your resources, understand how to stay productive, put a firm work plan in place—and stay safe!
By Guest Contributor: Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life