Want to stay productive in lockdown?


With the number of COVID-19 cases growing exponentially and many countries in a state of lockdown, most of us are reaching 40th day or more of working from home. As the world fights a relentless battle against the pandemic, each of us is faced with our own daily struggles. With the line between professional and personal spaces blurring, many of us are finding it increasingly difficult to juggle deadlines with homeschooling, online lectures with household chores, and writing business proposals with attending to pets, washing dishes or doing laundry. 

Having no physical office space to go to, no face-to-face meetings, no coffee or lunch breaks with the team, no animated presentations about a new project, the typical work day looks rather bleak, and for many, productivity is dropping to an all-time low. For researchers, the lockdowns also mean running around between the meeting rooms, conferences getting cancelled, travel suspended, and face-to-face interviews postponed indefinitely. Naturally, you may not be able to make adequate progress on your current project. But this does not mean you cannot use your time productively. 

There could be an exhaustive list of being productive during this period. Let’s identify a select 5 for this quarantine period.

1. Kickstart Your Day

– Dress for Success

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Above is not only a corporate catch phrase, it has some real meaning to it as well. We all receive funny (or sometimes not so funny) jokes or memes these days, especially, the one on trousers sitting in the closets talking to pyjamas next door 🙂 but it’s a fact even when we are not leaving the house is to get dressed first thing in the morning. This puts us altogether in a different physiological mindset. When we get dressed, we get ready for something. Having a decent sense of dressing, I personally feel that getting dressed makes us feel a certain way, not because of other people. It motivates us and it gets us just to really start our day even it doesn’t mean that we are heading out. 

The other day I was watching an interview of a renowned movie star from our neighbouring country in which he said that he doesn’t care whether he has to shoot or not on a given day, he takes shower, shaves and gets dressed every single morning. Give it a try and feel the difference.

– Create a dedicated workspace

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Just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean you lie down on the bed or couch with the laptop sitting on your chest or stomach. Don’t sit on your bed. These are places for rest and leisure time and not for work. Study table, if not, then a dining table would be the ideal place to work from. Sitting upright helps our body posture as well as allows us to stay focused and gets us in the right frame of mind.

2. Make a To Do List  

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This is about writing down the things that we want to accomplish in a given day. It is true for all days but especially important when you working from home. Also, ask your line manager to clarify his / her expectations for the day explicitly. Physical distances sometimes create confusions and misunderstandings. Beware of that. Besides, there are so many distractions around home i.e. kids making noise at home, annoying hammer or drilling noise from the construction work at the neighbouring site and so on and so forth. Writing down the exact number of tasks assigned for the day will help you prioritise and eventually accomplish as scheduled. 

3. Learn New Things

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Needless to mention that learning never stops at school or college or university. It is a life long journey which can only end once we leave the world. Then why not to seize such an opportunity when we have ample time and resources to learn new things? We have so many ways to learn new things via internet, which in itself is such a big blessing. Be it YouTubeSkillshareMasterclass. There are so many amazing outlets out there to pick up from. This is actually the right time to enhance your skillset and join an online course that you couldn’t go for during routine business days. 

As mentioned in one of my earlier articles, regardless of the fact what we do for living, reading is a must for our mental growth. It doesn’t only change the way we think, it also changes our perspective of life. Especially those of us, who have something to do with consulting and learning, we must make it a habit to read extensively so that we can become productive in our service delivery objectives. 

4. Re-organise & Clean your own space

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Since most of us don’t have the luxury of house support (maids etc.) during this critical period, it is always good to help ourselves. Re-organizing sections of the house could be one of the tasks that we may wish to undertake during free time. Take an account of the unnecessary stuff that we might have collected in our houses or closets over the years. Ramadan, for Muslims, is the time for us to let go and share with those who may really need what we have in access. 

5. Pray

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Last, but, of course not the least. Instead, this one should be significantly high on our agenda in our lives. Also, let’s understand one thing for sure that faith is neither restricted in time and space. nor necessarily bound in the physical premises i.e. mosque, church or temple. Faith resides within us. In fact, we breathe in faith and we breath out faith. As Sir Aga Khan III wrote in his autobiography Memoirs of the Aga Khan“We live, move and have our being in God.” 

Having said that, we must find some quality time for soul-searching. Find a silent corner in your house and try to concentrate, establish connection, converse with the God Almighty and seek help on whatever issues you might have in life. You will truly find peace in this exercise and will find answers to your questions. 

Parting Note

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All said and done, don’t feel pressured to be productive. As Fay Lin, a mental health advocate, said in a recent tweet: “It is ok to struggle with productivity, mourn the experiences that were cancelled due to social distancing, and feel anxious of the uncertainty.” Use this time to take a break and hit the reset button on your life. Long hours, late nights, failed experiments, missed deadlines, working weekends, little time for family and friends: your life has probably revolved around these since the time you started your career. Now that you have the time, why not take it easy for a bit? Take rest, take time out for yourself, consciously practice self-care, enjoy a candlelight dinner with your spouse or play time with the kids, have video calls with your friends, and use this time to recharge and rejuvenate yourself.

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