Productivity & Covid-19

I am certain everyone’s productivity is different during this Covid-19 pandemic than what it was prior to it. Perhaps you now have more time to work on home projects and are trying to keep your mind occupied and you feel hyper productive. Or maybe you can’t focus on anything for any length of time as you are stressed about the state of the world and trying to let go of the panic that rolls over you like waves in a storm at sea.

[Picture of an empty storefront with a spray painted "Ghost Town." sign in the front window.]
[Picture of an empty storefront with a spray painted “Ghost Town.” sign in the front window.]

The entire world is anxious with many of us not only practicing social distancing and staying home but also worried about our finances. If we’re lucky, we can still work, and do so from home.

Everything has changed and very little may be the same ever again.

My productivity has been on each end of the continuum. At times I have found more productivity and focus with the aid of trying to complete a multi-year endeavor at Patagonia sparking a need to work longer days and well beyond my part-time role there. I have also had entire weeks where I felt like getting just a shower during the day should be seen as a major victory. I am sure many people are facing similar extremes in their productivity levels.

It’s really not mentally heathy to be stuck in either of these extremes.

For many, feeling productive is what makes one feel useful. We all want to feel we are useful to someone or perhaps something — it’s what gives us meaning in our lives. To help me get through this time of uncertainty and fear, I’ve turned to my skills with planning, GTD, and coaching to move from being aimless and unhappy, or hyperactive and overworked, to being useful while living more in the moment and being fully present.

Here’s what has worked for me:

  1. Starting the day with a solid workout.

    Prior to the pandemic, I got up early in the morning to guarantee I had the time I needed to get a quality workout in. That changed with the stay at home order. It’s hard to sleep when you worry about the future (and the present). For many of us, our normal schedules are also mixed up and simply no longer applicable. Much of the globe is having a harder time getting a full night’s sleep.

    Getting back to my early morning workout routine and having it be at nearly the same time as it was before the pandemic has helped me dramatically. My exercise routine has always helped me mentally just as much (and if not more) than it has with my physical health. This is again the foundation for my day.
  2. Lower your productivity expectations but still choose at least one important task to complete each day.

    The goal isn’t to become a super productive person. Without a doubt, it will be harder to complete some of our “next actions” for a long time; stores may be closed, money may not be available, we have social distancing to consider, etc. Don’t make what is already a stressful time more so by trying to be a super human; just keep moving in the right direction.

    Pick a task you can complete for any project you can move forward. Start with just one task from your “next action” list to complete each day and give yourself the permission to call that enough. If I can get my “one task” done early in the day, I often feel even better for the whole day.
  3. Connect with someone you normally would and reach out to someone you have not heard from in a long while.

    I got a note from someone I worked with on a project at Patagonia – a vendor, not a Patagonia employee – who I hadn’t heard from in some time via LinkedIn. He was the project manager for a company in Canada and while we never met in person, we connected a great deal over the course of the project and through video conferences and email. His note was kind, touching even, and I was really grateful to hear from him.

    Another friend from my first career in teaching emailed me with a note about a coworker from 30 years ago. He also cc-ed yet another coworker I hadn’t heard from in at least 20 years. This sparked some email exchanges and great conversations. It was great to connect.

    I’ve added a task to reach out to someone everyday and have established some weekly “happy hours” over Zoom and Google Hangout/Meet. While not as good as being face to face, given we are often on opposite sides of the country, these virtual meetings have led to groups of us getting together for the first time in decades. That’s been magical.

There’s nothing Earth shattering in my notes above but following these three steps has made a huge difference for me in this time of uncertainty and upheaval. Perhaps they will help you, too. I hope so.

Photo by Ben Garratt on Unsplash