It has been over ten weeks since the UK went into lockdown in response to the coronavirus. And, whilst the government is easing restrictions on what we can and cannot do, things are unlikely to return to true normality any time soon. Measures have been put in place for people to return to work, but this doesn’t apply to everyone. And, for those of us who will continue to be working from home, we must learn to navigate this new way of life. It can be tricky, but there are ways to stay organised and productive at home while feeling like a real human being, despite the fact that you’re likely working in an environment that was once reserved for relaxation and tranquility.
Reduce Your Screen Time
I recently wrote about limiting your screen time in order to look after your mental health during Covid-19. That’s because it is far too easy to get trapped scrolling through post after post on social media and freak yourself out. The subsequent pandemic-related anxiety can then distract you from getting on with the things you need to do, particularly if that screen time occurs in the morning.
I’m in a routine where the only coronavirus content I consume is the BBC News broadcast at 6pm each evening. By getting updates from a trusted source, I’m avoiding the dangers of sensationalising the facts. And, watching an evening broadcast means I won’t lose a day’s productivity being distracted by any anxieties that arise.
Create a Morning Routine
Whether it’s having a proper breakfast or changing clothes, take some time each morning to take yourself from your resting home mentality to your work mentality. Getting dressed every morning, even when you’re not planning on leaving the house, will also help you to feel centred and give a sense of normality to the start of your day. And, perhaps steer away from clothes you would typically lounge around the house in i.e. sweatpants. Stay comfortable but pick clothes that you don’t associate with resting, once again separating your home mentality from your work mentality.
Create a Distinct Workspace
Your workspace is a key factor in your work mentality so, while trying to be productive in lockdown, it’s crucial to create a separate space specifically for working. Whether it’s a separate room you can use as an office or simply a desk in a studio apartment that faces away from your bed and other distractions, it’s vital to keep your workspace away from your resting space. Avoid working from your bed at all costs!
In terms of the workspace itself, choose a space with plenty of natural light and opportunities for fresh air. Also, try to keep your workspace as tidy as possible. Clutter can be distracting so keep just the essential items for your day’s work with you and clear it away as much as possible. A clear space = a clear mind.
Make a To-Do List
I swear making to-do lists was the only reason I made it through my Bachelor’s degree. Whether it be your phone or a daily planner (I love CGD London’s ‘Getting Stuff Done’ planner), find a space to write a list of all your daily tasks. I tend to start by jotting down a comprehensive list of everything I want to do during a one-week period. This can be anything from applying for grad schemes and writing blog posts to simply clearing out my wardrobe. I then figure out the order in which such tasks need to be done and divide them up between individual days.
Creating a to-do list helps you organise your day and avoid missing tasks and deadlines. There’s also something about checking a task off a list that gives you a great sense of accomplishment.
Without your employer/teachers to keep you in check, it can be a real struggle to avoid being distracted while working from home. My biggest distraction at the moment is my 16-week old kitten, Ivy. The best way to avoid distractions is to set yourself some rules for while you’re working.
For example, while at my workspace, I do not check social media. In fact, I tend to put my phone elsewhere to lessen the temptation. I set myself 10 minute breaks every hour or so during which I’ll check my phone, but otherwise do not allow myself to fall down the rabbit hole of scrolling through Instagram in order to preserve productivity. I also have notifications from social media apps on my phone or laptop switched off to further avoid such distractions.
Take Productive Breaks
There’s this thing called the afternoon slump where midway through the afternoon it becomes so much more difficult to stay focused and you’d rather do just about anything than continue working. And, when it hits, it hits HARD. Instead of giving up on the day altogether, try to channel that energy into a productive break. For me, that involves some form of exercise. Whether it be a set workout for cheer training or going for a walk, I find exercising really helps reset my brain. You can also use the time to focus on any other tasks you’ve set yourself for the day. Whatever you choose to do, taking some time away from your workspace and changing your environment for a while really helps you get over that mid-afternoon lethargy.
Make Plans to Look Forward To
Create a reward for yourself at the end of each day, whether that’s meeting up with a friend (while socially distancing, of course) or binge-watching your favourite series. It gives you something to look forward too, plus gives you a deadline by which you need to get your work done in order to have a good time. Is it strange that my ideal evening consists purely of watching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy until I can’t physically keep my eyes open any longer?
Anyway, the last and most important thing to note is, look after yourself! We’re going through a pretty crazy time at the moment and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the idea that you’re expected to carry on as normal. While this post offers advice on how to be productive while working from home, it’s okay if you’re struggling. It’s okay to have days where you don’t do anything at all. Just take all the time you need to get into the right mindset and work in whatever way suits you.