When countries across the world started to lockdown this year, an infinite number of blog posts pushing quarantine productivity popped up. A lot of quotes were reposted on Instagram implying that there are no excuses to accomplish what we’ve been putting off because of the busyness of our lives pre-COVID. Thankfully, just as quickly as those posts were published, messages prioritizing self-care and mental health were published, too. I guess you could say that under ‘normal’ circumstances, I live for productivity… but adjusting to life in the time of COVID-19 forced me to learn how to balance productivity with my mental health.
Here are some tips that have helped me stay sane, yet productive while in quarantine.
Develop a routine.
I have always appreciated routines, but I didn’t realize how detrimental an interrupted routine would be until I started working from home. I had great routines going, including preparing for work and listening to podcasts on my drive, and studying for an hour then going to the gym after work each day. I functioned like a well-oiled machine during the week, and the machine came to a grinding halt when my employers announced my team will be working from home until 2021.
My morning and nighttime routines went downhill to the point where my insomnia came back. I found it nearly impossible to dedicate time to school because my brain had a hard time separating working and studying in the same space, and I couldn’t leave the house to go to the gym. I eventually got back on track with a fitness routine first, then a nighttime routine that relies on skincare and lighting candles. I’m still working on my morning routine, but I feel better than I did in March and April.
Aim for realistic expectations.
Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who is having a hard time accomplishing everything I used to be able to do during the workweek, and I have to lower the expectations I set for myself. This is probably the hardest thing for me to accept, especially seeing other people thrive during this odd time. At the end of the day, I’m not doing myself any favors by trying to push myself to take on 20 tasks each week, so I’ve been setting monthly goals and breaking them into smaller, more attainable weekly and daily goals.
I like to schedule room for error (read: anxiety-fueled procrastination) and give myself a few extra days before I absolutely need to get those tasks done. A lot of jokes have been made about how there is absolutely no use for a planner this year, but my planner has helped me greatly. It really helps to write down small tasks that I usually procrastinate with, like chores around the house.
The most important tip of all: remind yourself that surviving a pandemic is productivity.
This year has been unprecedented for nearly everyone, and we all cope differently. Staying well (defined on your own terms) is an amazing feat, and if that’s all you manage to accomplish this year, I’d say you’ve done your best. You don’t need to come up with the next viral product if your main struggle is getting out of bed in the mornings. Spend time with yourself and get to know what makes you feel good, how to take care of yourself, and the best way to reset.
I hope these tips were helpful; I plan on sharing more productivity for those of you who would like to dive into organization and learn about a lot of the tools and methods that have helped me get through school and work over the years.