Managing time and productivity in the time of Coronavirus

The lockdown creates the illusion of having plenty of time on our hands because we aren’t commuting to work or anywhere else for that matter. There’s a push to pursue hobbies/ skills we have only dreamt of. Get those 6-pack abs. Start that side gig. There is even historic evidence to motivate us – Newton apparently was in quarantine when he invented calculus. But do we all have to do that?

While there might be more time on our hands, we are actually doing more too. Work hours have stretched, household chores doubled, and work-life boundaries have blurred. Add to it fear and uncertainty due to the pandemic. So, do we need to hustle so much right now? Maybe not. But if we don’t, we feel guilty.

How do we ease the pressure then?

  • Let the mundane time be mundane. Since we are living the Zoom life, there is little non-digital time left in our daily lives barring sleeping and cooking/ cleaning. How about we let those non-digital moments be, instead of layering them with productive things like listening to podcasts, making calls to friends, etc.? Mundane tasks like chopping vegetables and washing dishes promote a mindful state and increase overall well-being. Studies have shown that such tasks upped people’s feelings of inspiration by 25% and lowered nervousness levels by 27%. Given how much we are hustling right now, it might be a welcome change to not push for more.
  • Leave room for structure as well as fluidity. A full-time work from home schedule now means there is no rigid structure to our day. Anything flies, anytime. Naturally, productivity will look different on different days. How would it be, to define productivity in every sense of the term, not just work, and then shoot for that? While this could include 5 hours of meetings, it could also mean lights out at 10.30 PM, and reading or gardening for an hour. Listen to your body cues and emotions to optimize your efforts. Picture what you want to achieve in a day but allow some flexibility in how and when you go about it. 
  • Know why you are hanging out with people. The pandemic and related lockdown have challenged the basic human need for connection and belonging. Some of us could be living by ourselves, or just be with our families, which makes that invitation for e-happy hours, cross-continental family meetings, and online birthday cake cutting all the more attractive. Before we know, it adds to the tech-induced ennui. Ask yourself, do you really want to hang out online? What do you need – a break, a good conversation, or an antidote to loneliness? Once you know this, you will make better choices. That might mean calling one friend instead of joining a conference or going for a walk with your neighbor.

What might look like lack of social time, could just be lack of well-being, rest, or solo time. What seems like low productivity right now, could be an already full plate. Our invitation – look at your time objectively and spend it wisely.

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