For people like me who try to stay proactive and busy, limiting your interactions with people kind of turns the world on its head. Losing the freedom to run out and get things done whenever I please has me feeling a bit stir crazy, so I've been working to adapt to this difficult situation. It’s not really in my nature to get complacent, meaning I just have to do the best I can with the cards I’ve been dealt.
That’s been the silver lining during these crazy times. With my normal routine thrown out the window, I’m learning some new ways to get stuff done. I’m also able to look toward the future in a way that’s hard to do when operating on a normal, busy schedule.
If you feel like your life and career are slipping away while you shelter at home, here are a few simple ways for you to stay productive. You might have to shift your mindset a little, but a little effort can have you feeling that sense of accomplishment you might have been missing these last few weeks.
Working from home becomes almost impossible when you just think of it as “working from home.” Home is where your family lives, where your kids keep their toys, where you have your hobby shop in the garage. That’s not a place where you want to think about work. With all the distractions your house provides, it’s easy to watch five hours slip away and you’ve only managed 15 minutes of actual productivity.
For those who aren’t sure when they’ll be able to go back to the office, you need to think of a long-term plan for getting things done. For me, it starts with the schedule. If I think about things I want to accomplish on a given day without setting a specific timeframe, I usually get about half the work done. Alternatively, if I know I’m going to lock myself in my makeshift office space from 9-12 and then again from 2-5, those are blocks of time when I can be productive and my children understand they have to leave me be.
You might not be able to fit in your normal eight-hour shift, but that’s okay. These are extraordinary times and the ordinary routines of our lives don’t really have a say. Do your best to set aside time and make it clear to yourself and the family which hours are for work, and which are for play.
I recommend making a list of things that you’d like to get done over a five-day span, then blocking off hours for each workday. The hours might shift and be fluid from day to day, which is fine. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the schedule upheaval this situation has created - take personal time on a Tuesday to do things usually reserved for Saturdays or Sundays. You might find that you do your best work late at night or early in the morning, and there’s no reason to let traditional working hours throw you off your game. Just make sure it’s in the schedule so you can stay committed.
In a time when we all have a heightened fear of getting sick, it’s ironic that healthy living is one of the first things to go out the window. Restaurants are closed and grocery stores can get a little insane, so trips to the drive-through become the primary source of food for some people.
There’s no better way to derail your work-from-home situation than by eating poorly, forgoing exercise and becoming lethargic. As long as you have the means to get to a store or have your groceries delivered, you really should take the opportunity to dust off the pots and pans and do some cooking at home.
Those of you who have lost the morning commute might have extra time to whip up a fancy breakfast before strolling to the home office. The same goes for putting a little extra care into your dinner or lunch. If eating healthy food makes you feel good, eating healthy food you prepared yourself will make you feel great.
There’s also the added benefit of having your work and personal schedules solidified when you put some thought into your meal planning. Make lunch and eat with the family for an hour or two around noon, then it’s back to work to get those emails answered.
Trying to focus on mundane busywork is never easy, and when you take those kinds of projects home, it’s pretty much a sure bet you’ll have a hard time getting anything done.
If proactivity in isolation is a problem, it might be the projects you’re trying to tackle. One of the few good things that will come from this pandemic is the forced introspection and subsequent change many people will experience. Living through this type of trial often creates a desire to embrace life more fully and engage in the pursuits that were easily put off while you found comfort in your life’s routine.
Whether it’s tackling a big household project or laying the groundwork for a business you want to launch, now might be the perfect time. You might also feel like it’s the perfect time to catch up on those Netflix shows you’d been wanting to watch, but I guarantee you’ll feel better about yourself if you take the plunge and get to work on something a little more important.
Sit down and make a list of your biggest dreams and goals, then start thinking about what actions you can take from home to turn those fantasies into realities.
I readily acknowledge that not everyone can start a passion project or even work from home during this period. I’m lucky to have a company that can keep chugging along, and many workers don’t have that same luxury.
Whatever your work situation may be, we can all try to keep an eye out for the future as we navigate this crisis. Whether it’s applying for relief through an SBA loan or thinking of ways to help employees and coworkers keep their heads above water, proactive measures can ensure our lives and careers move forward when business starts to normalize.
Reach out to creditors, vendors, customers and friends. As the days and weeks blend together, don’t forget to look ahead to the normal business fluctuations that happen during the summer. Even as it feels like your life has been put on hold, remember that the world keeps turning and a lot of waylaid responsibilities will resume in a few months.
While people encounter hardships that may seem insurmountable, we should all do the best we can to look forward and plan for the better days ahead. Given the choice to bemoan the current situation or find ways to improve our lives and further our careers, I hope we’ll all choose to do the latter.