Working or studying from home is no easy feat for anyone, and many of us are all stuck in this same boat during this Covid-19 season. Having worked from home since the middle of last year, Natalie shares her top 5 productivity tips that have helped her conquer this season and a few thoughts about the Covid-19 epidemic.
Like what every other article or content post online starts with this season, let me just put it out there that it is no surprise we are living in such an unprecedented and uncertain time. It is crazy how in just a couple of short weeks, the entire world has changed. And the way we do life, or life itself, have changed along with it.
If you are anything like me, you would have started off this year feeling absolutely psyched for what this new decade would potentially bring. Little did I know, an entire reset would be coming my way. While it is only natural and easy to feel a little frantic over this situation as I have been feeling (I can’t count all the sleepless nights I’d had during the first few days when the Covid-19 cases were on the rise), I do think that ultimately, there is a breath of fresh air in all of this. Not to say that I am taking this situation lightly, but I think it has offered me some time and space to have the recharge and reset that I didn’t think I needed until now.
“There is a breath of fresh air in all of this…. it has offered me some time and space to have the recharge and reset that I didn’t think I need until now.”
One of the bigger changes that we all face is probably the fact that we aren’t able to go outside as much as we’d like. School and work have all been taken indoors and at home too. Unlike many of my friends around, I have actually been working from home since August last year (most of my work – both my job and ALESCE – is all done at home) and I have actually been enjoying it quite a bit. Not only do I find that I save a lot more time (yay to no travelling!), but I find myself being able to focus a little more as well, which gives me more space to do other things outside of work.
Over the past couple of months that I’ve been working from home, I’ve had to change various habits to suit this new schedule. And today, I’d like to share a couple of my top productivity tips with you! Disclaimer: I am no productivity expert, and while I can’t say these methods are scientifically/psychologically proven, they have helped loads with getting on top of the various everyday tasks.
1. Write a list of the top three things you have to do everyday – focus on the three!
Most days, I find myself having to juggle many different forms of work as my work arrangements are a little unique and a lot of multi-tasking is needed. I also tend to be someone who is very messy and disorganized in my thoughts, so having a long to-do list scares me a lot. I’ll easily get overwhelmed and eventually, run away from all the work that I have to do. Writing down only the top three things that I’ve got to do everyday helps to keep me sane and keep my mind focused on those three things alone. These three things are typically the most important and urgent tasks of the day. If I’ve got any longer a to-do list, I tend to try to do everything at once and in the end, not do anything at all. And this will only leave me feeling frustrated and lousy about myself.
2. Set out your next day the night before.
As a night owl, I tend to take an awfully long time to fall asleep every night. If there is something I’m nervous or excited for on the next day, or even something I’m stressed about at work, it can take up to three to four hours before I manage to get some sleep. Setting out my next day’s schedule every night from the different meetings and appointments I’ve got, my to-do list, or even what I’m going to cook does wonders for my sleep! Every night, take a couple of minutes to write down all your existing thoughts from the day too. If you’re already in bed, your “Notes” app (or the like) will help with this – treat it as a mindmap scribble of everything that is on your mind!
3. 15 minutes is all you need to get (most yucky) things done!
I hate cleaning.
I hate cleaning my room, clearing out my wardrobe, washing the bathroom… but
some things just need to be done. Especially now that we are all staying at
home a little more, cleaning has been on everyone’s Stay At Home to-do list.
Whether it’s cleaning that you don’t like or anything else, I’ve found that
setting a timer for 15 minutes works.
It’s like a game challenge to me: I’ll set the timer for 15 minutes, and force myself to get out of the inertia, and do as much as I can in the time frame. When the timer rings, more often than not, I would have almost finished doing the task or have done more than half of it… and so, it’s easy to just continue working on it. I’d say it’s psychological, but who knows. The most important part is that it helps to get all the ugly and yucky things I hate done!
4. Know when your “sweet time” is, and get work done!
We’re all different in the way we work, and we also work best during different times of the day. As a “later bird”, I know I stink at doing work in the morning. Of course, I still get work done, but it is not as productive and I won’t be as focused as I would like it to be. In the late afternoon, however, is my sweet time! 3pm-7.30pm is the best time period for me to work in, and I find that I get so much done and so quickly done in this period. It’s something about doing work after my lunch food coma ends and when the weather is just a tad cooler that I love.
I tend to do simpler and more brainless tasks in the morning like replying emails or editing photos. In the afternoon, that’s when all the tasks that involves more mind work begins, like writing and editing. I will often try not to schedule meetings or appointments during that time too since it’s my most productive. What’s your sweet time?
5. Have everything within a hand’s reach – and that means, everything.
Whether I’m working on my work desk or in the living room or in my dining room, I will always make sure that everything is within a hand’s reach: my tumbler, my headphones, my phone (with its charger and wire), my planner, and any other drinks or snacks that I’ve got for the day. It takes me a while to get into the work mode, and when I do, I absolutely must not be distracted. Going to the kitchen to get more water or to get a snack would disrupt this work flow, and I’d then have to restart and try getting into the mode all over again.
Make sure that everything you need is already with you so as to not distract yourself by walking around the house! My mini breaks throughout the day will then typically happen whenever I need to use the washroom or when I need to do a stretch since I’d already be out of my seat. Otherwise, I’m stuck on my seat and zooming through the day’s work.
This work (or study) from home season with its social isolation and never-ending changes and laws can no doubt be difficult. The best we can do is to try to find a routine that works for us, and it’s this routine that will be our new normal for the time being. In the midst of this all, always remember to stay connected with your community around you, and allow yourself the time to think and feel.
“The best thing we can do is to try to find a routine that works for us, and it’s this routine that will be our new normal for the time being.”
While everyone seems to be productive as they strike off the various things on their to-do list or get into a new habit or learn a new skill, it is also not wrong to not be all that. I’ve had days when I’m so focused and excited to be doing work, but there are also days when I’d rather just chill and not do anything at all. This is completely normal and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it. During this time, it’s all about figuring out what works for you and making sure that your mental health is also in check through all of it.
“I’ve had days when I’m so focused and excited to be doing work, but there are also days when I’d rather just chill and not do anything at all. This is completely normal and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it.”
As you figure out this new normal, remember that you’re not alone. Everyone is in this together and it is in our collective efforts (be it the community support we build or the following of various laws in the different governments or just in our prayers) that we will get through all of this together.
Hang in there! We are in this together.