Managing your personal productivity in lockdown

I would definitely describe myself as productive (80% of the time at least!) I’m driven by a deadline and during Covid-19 all my deadlines have disappeared and I’m finding it hard to manage my personal productivity, by which I mean I am giving myself a hard time for not doing more.

Managing my productivity at work

Before I had kids I used to get into the office around half an hour early. Sometimes earlier if I wanted to run before work. I’d also stay a bit later, again around half an hour. During the day I’d catch up with folks around the office, sometimes spending a little longer chatting than I *should* have. I got my work done on time and it was all fine. I’d see people come in and work part-time and I’d wonder how they got it all done. 

Then I had kids and went part-time myself. I couldn’t drop off my daughter until the nursery opened at 730am. That meant I got in at 815am, 15 mins later than my starting hours. I didn’t want to work late (in the office or at home) because I knew what life-work balance looked like to me. I was so worried about it and went to see my line manager who said:

“We know you work hard, don’t worry about the delay in getting in. As long as you get your work done, it’s ok. We trust you”

Instantly I felt better. I knew I could get my work done in the time I had (and was willing to give) with a few changes. Truth is, you can’t get it all done; something has to give. In my case, it was long chats.

Productivity during a pandemic

Fast forward seven years and I work part-time and can choose the hours I work. Pre Covid-19 I worked Tuesday and Thursday with admin on a Friday morning. I wrote my blogs on a Wednesday morning as and when I could around the kids. In the midst of Covid-19, I find that my hours are even more ‘flexible’. Luckily for me, so are everyone else’s! But I still feel like I’m not focused, not productive enough. I’m not alone either. In a WhatsApp group, my friends and I are all finding it hard. I am hearing a lot of ‘I should be doing…’ and to be honest, on the not-so-good days, I am succumbing to the ‘shoulds‘ myself.

As I write this, we, as a family, have been in lockdown since the 15th March when my partner showed symptoms of coronavirus. In those weeks I have been reminded that a) it is impossible to do it all and b) no-one else is doing it all either – no matter what their social media account shows/says.

So how productive ‘should’ you be?

I think that personal productivity is decided by you and it can change depending on what’s going on. I have days where I am super productive – particularly if I am childfree! Other days I want to veg in front of the TV. Both options are ok – it’s called balance. I think as well that it depends on your priorities. I prioritise my wellbeing and so even when I don’t feel like going for a run, I often go anyway. Motivation is irrelevant in many ways. In fact, I think it depends on the mental effort that you need to put in that has a bigger effect – if you are left feeling drained by a task then you will be able to do it for less time than something that energises you.

So if you need to ‘Netflix and Chill’ right now because you’re spending the rest of your time working/looking after kids/surviving – THAT IS OK. You are enough. This is not the time to be adding more to your mental load. I don’t believe in ‘hustling’ or buying into the message that we can do/have it all.

We are trying to do the impossible right now and our productivity is decreased because we have lost our routines and it all feels really uncertain. This is all OK.

Tips for personal productivity

If however, on a ‘good day’ you are looking to be more productive then here are my suggestions:

  1. Do something you love, that maybe doesn’t feel productive but that you will enjoy – like getting outside, doing some colouring, reading a book. Involve all of your senses if you can. Get creative. 
  2. Focus on the most important tasks first – what absolutely *has* to get done today? (No multitasking and work in 10-minute bursts if needed)
  3. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small. When we celebrate we build on gratitude, motivation and resilience. We grow our self-worth too.

Bonus tip: Give yourself a break. Even when we’re not in a pandemic, taking a break is good for you. It’s especially good for you now.

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