What day is it? How long have I been indoors? Is it still 2020?
You’ve likely asked yourself at least one of these questions over the last few weeks as we’ve all settled in for either self-imposed or government-imposed social distancing or quarantine in light of the Coronavirus.
You’ve probably also asked yourself:
How to be productive at home?
I’ve been working from home for over 4 years now and I’ve been working for myself for 1 out of those 4 years, so the struggle to stay motivated, organized, and focused has been one I’ve had to grapple with and overcome many times over.
Throughout that time, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me remain focused and productive that now double as very useful skills to have during quarantine.
So perhaps you’re struggling to stay motivated with work, or you just want to be more productive in terms of your self-care and exercise routine.
Or maybe you’re not even sure how you want to be productive. That’s okay too. In that case, you can check out my post on 10 ways to be productive and feel fulfilled during the quarantine.
Whatever your purpose is for wanting to be more productive, here are 10 things you can do during quarantine to get you on track and get more done:
1. Create a WORKSPACE
I spend a lot of time in my bed, whether it’s working and chilling. However, when I’m settling in for hours of work and things to-do, I go into my home office.
Putting myself into that space immediately shifts my mindset into a more serious and work-oriented mood and I find that having a space like this is super useful.
You don’t have to have a separate room as an office to create this space. Perhaps it’s your dining room table and you set up shop there. Or maybe it’s in your living room with one of those folding tables. Just find a place where you feel that you can focus and stay alert and let that be your workspace.
And if you can, dress it up: add a candle, bring your notebook, put your vision board nearby. Anything that you can do to make the space more welcoming and motivating will help to make it a place you’ll love to work.
2. Reduce distractions
Distractions are EVERYWHERE and every social media platform, app, and website these days is trying increasingly harder to get and keep our attention.
In order to focus, I close and silence EVERYTHING.
Here’s exactly what I do:
- I put my phone on ‘Do not Disturb.’ I can’t just put it on silent because when it vibrates it distracts me and I want to know what the notification is.
- I close any communication apps on my Desktop (Whatsapp, Slack, iMessage etc).
- I put on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature on MacBook. This prevents any notifications from popping up on my desktop.
- I close off all tabs on my browser that are unrelated to the work I am doing at that time.
- I put on headphones and listen to instrumental music (no words). I love the ‘Deep Focus’ playlist on Spotify or this Study Music video on YouTube.
- If someone else is at home, I let them know that I’m about to focus and to please not disturb me during that time unless it’s necessary.
3. Screw the routine
Just a quick disclaimer here: This system probably works best for those who have a flexible work schedule, work for themselves, or don’t have kids. It’s less easy to implement this strategy if you work specific hours during the day or have to be up at a certain time to care for others. Okay, now back to the blog post:
We’ve pretty much spent all of our lives getting routines drilled into our heads:
- Wake up at 6am
- Breakfast from 6:15am-6:45am
- Work from 8am-4pm
- And so on and so forth.
The message has always been: you have to work up early, you need a rigid plan and you need to stick to it in order to succeed.
And on some level and for some people, this is true. For others, like myself, this does not work.
Routine actually hampers my productivity. That’s why I’ve decided to screw the routine and work on what I call a ‘To-Do list system,’ which has been especially helpful during quarantine.
I use a project management app called Asana and I add EVERYTHING there — from personal items like “Clean makeup brushes” to professional tasks like “Create a proposal for x client.” At the beginning of every week I sit down and go through my to-do list and I pull out the tasks that I deem priorities for the upcoming week and I add them to a ‘THIS WEEK’ section.
From there, I go through them and I add due dates. That way I know I need to get this done on Monday, I need to get this done on Tuesday etc.
And that’s pretty much where my routine and planning stops.
This is because when I tell myself I’m going to wake up at 6am, workout until 7:00am and then work from 8:00am-4pm, I’m often setting myself up for failure.
I end up waking up at 6:30am instead of 6am and then I feel guilty about not waking up on time and “now my whole schedule is off” and it affects the entire mood of the day.
Instead, I now wake up when my body wakes up (unless I have meetings or a deadline) and I wake up with the purpose of getting my to-do list done. I then spend a few minutes deciding what I’m going to work on first based on how I’m feeling.
What I mean by that is that instead of waking up and saying “I need to workout because it’s the morning,” I figure out what I am most motivated to do at that time and I do that. It may be working out, but maybe I delay my workout until later and I use the time do work for clients because I’m more zoned in during that time.
The to-do list gets completed but the order in which it is completed is in sync with the ebbs of flows of energy and emotions throughout the day, which ends up helping me to be more productive AND produce more high-quality work (or complete higher intensity workouts!)
So if you’re anything like me and get overwhelmed or feel guilted by routine, try the ‘To-do list system’ and see if works for you. It has worked wonders for me.
(Woo – this section took me a long time to write! So many details. I think I may need to make a more detailed video about this. Let me know if you want one in the comments below!)
4. Take breaks
When I do settle down to do work that requires prolonged focus, I like to use something called the Pomodoro technique.
The Pomodoro technique a time management technique that helps me to stay focused for hours on end. Put simply, it involves breaking up sessions of work with small breaks.
Personally, it’s pretty much the only way that I can sit down and focus for that long without losing my mind (my therapist is convinced that I have ADHD – you can understand why I believe her!).
Here’s how it works (from Wikipedia):
There are six steps in the original technique
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
If you prefer to work for longer spurts, you can do the 50/10 system instead of the 25/5 system. For 50/10, you you work for 50 minutes and rest for 10 instead of working for 25 minutes and resting for 5 minutes.
As you can probably guess, I prefer the 25/5 system.
5. Find aN accountability buddy
I have to say that during quarantine, this has been one of the most important factors in helping me to be productive. Having an accountability buddy for normal life and working from home has always been important but during quarantine, it has been essential.
Quarantine for me, like many others, has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Some days I’m motivated and feel like I can take over the world and others, I feel like I can’t get out of bed.
It’s those days when I feel like I can’t get out of bed that an accountability buddy really saves me. We balance out each other because sometimes on the days she doesn’t feel like getting out of bed, I feel the opposite and I support her (and vice versa).
For me, my accountability buddy has been one of my best friends who I’m in touch with everyday. We check in with each other about how we’re feeling, what we have to do, and what we’re planning to do that day. We then check in periodically throughout the day.
It doesn’t have to be every day. It could be every other day or maybe once a week.
6. Set goals
At the beginning of every month, I like to sit down and spend some time outlining my goals for the month. These goals are inspired by my Vision Board and also connected to the way I plan my weeks. The whole process is almost done backwards.
My Vision Board helps to outline my overall vision, which influences what my Goals are, and my Goals dictate my tasks on my To-Do list.
Examples of monthly goals I have include:
- Workout 4x a week
- Release 4 blog posts
- Create a YouTube video
- Spend more time outside
- Meditate 3x a week
- Complete x number of hours of work per week
7. CONSUME MOTIVATIONAL CONTENT
Sometimes we wake up and we’re just not feeling it. We’re not in the mood to get things done, to be productive or even to get out of bed. I’ve been there.
On some of those days, it’s good to listen to your body and just rest because that’s what your body may need.
However if you need to get things done that day and you need to get into the mood, one thing you can do is look at or listen to content that kicks you into gear.
And you can tailor the content you’re consuming based on the tasks you need to get done.
For example, on days when I’m not feeling motivated to get work done, I love listening to Alex Beadon’s podcast called ‘On Purpose by Alex Beadon.’ It’s all about entrepreneurship, success stories and great tips on running your own business etc. and once I’ve listened to an episode I can’t help but dive into work because I feel so motivated (P.S. her podcast is listed in my blog post about the 6 podcasts I’m bingeing right now).
On days when I don’t feel motivated to work out, I look at Instagram accounts like Jenna DeLeon who is a personal trainer, or I look at some of my favorite fashion influencers and that motivates me as well
(Note that this last one about influencers can be tricky because some influencer profiles tend to make me feel worse about myself than others so I’m pretty careful about who I follow to keep those vibes positive. I recommend that you do the same and ensure the people you follow anywhere across your social media accounts bring you good vibes at least most of the time — hopefully I’m one of those people 😉 )
8. Create a vision board
I have to be honest: I have always been pretty skeptical about the idea of vision boards. They seemed like a cool project or craft but I never really believed in their effectiveness until recently.
I created my first adult vision board this year and I have found it super motivating to have a daily, visual reminder of my dreams and what I am working towards.
For me, it was a relatively simple process. I went onto Pinterest, created a ‘Vision Board’ board and I started adding pictures that portrayed my goals and dreams in various aspects of my life: career, relationships, dream home, fitness etc. I then printed them out and stuck them on a piece of bristol board.
I hung it up on the wall that is parallel to my bed (where I honestly spend most of my time whether it’s working or chilling) so I see it ALL the time. On numerous occasions, I’ve looked at it and saw a picture or read a quote that encouraged me to get up and workout or settle back down and do some more work.
I can clearly see what I’m working towards and it makes a big impact on helping me to focus on what I’m working on right now to get there!
I’ve found that a lot of the times when I can’t focus or get something done it’s because something is on my mind or bothering me that perhaps I haven’t processed or dealt with.
And even if just subconsciously, those emotions take energy away from the task I’m trying to accomplish and make it harder to get things done.
I’ve found that journaling has helped a lot with this.
I don’t journal every day even though I’d like to but I do write a few times a week. What I’ve found is that the process of taking things that are just in my mind at that moment and getting them onto paper is incredibly cathartic and in many ways helps me to process and create space within myself. That space then allows me to do more and to be open to more opportunities.
Meditation is a powerful practice for centring yourself and getting in tune with your mind and body, both of which can positively impact your productivity.
Much like journaling, I do not meditate every day even though I’d like to. When I do meditate though, it helps me to be more intentional at the very least. It also helps to calm me down and gets me into a mindset of staying calm throughout the day even as stressful moments or tensions arise.
I use an app called Calm (honestly one my favorite and most used apps on my phone) to meditate. They have a WIDE range of meditations on a number of different themes and topics like Staying on Track, Dealing with Boredom, or Easing Anxiety. I HIGHLY recommend Calm!
I hope that these tips and tricks that have helped me get things done while I work from home are useful to you!
Let me know down in the comments if you plan to use any of these strategies.
And let me know if they are any strategies that you’d suggest for staying productive.
For me, it took 2 weeks to be able to get out of bed once the pandemic hit “home,” and I imagine I’m going to have more weeks like these in the future. Perhaps for others it may take a month to get out of bed. Maybe for some, it may take the entire quarantined period. This is also okay.
Quarantine is not a productivity contest and while I am coming here to share ways to be more productive, getting things done during this time outside of dealing with anxiety, stress, and uncertainty of our current state is not for everyone.
For some, the best we can do during this time is to survive it and THAT IS OKAY. In fact, it’s the most important thing. I am saying that because I don’t want you to walk away from this blog post with a sense of defeat or inadequacy because you’re not turning your hobby into a business or learning a new skill.
Do what you can do and that is ENOUGH.