Productivity in Lockdown
Hello everyone! I hope that you’re all well.
Many of us are now not only facing another three weeks of lockdown, but are also rapidly approaching final deadlines and exams. As I chip away at essays, research projects, and revision, I wanted to use my first blog post to share four of the tips that have allowed me to continue to be as productive as possible under lockdown.
1. Get Plenty of Sleep
Now, this is probably a good example of do as I say, not as I do, but it comes from a good place (and perhaps I’ll heed my own advice if I articulate it to others). But getting enough rest will help you relieve stress and feel refreshed and ready to take on your tasks the next day! In my quest to improve my sleeping habits I try to put all screens away by 22:30, about an hour before I try to sleep. I’m sure this is a tip you’ve heard many times, but it helps your brain wind down, reducing the amount of hormone suppressing light before you sleep (yes I had to look that up, I’m a historian, not a scientist). I would also recommend, in an attempt to reset your sleeping schedule, making sure you get up when you intended to regardless of how late you went to bed the previous night. Even if you spend the first hour or so vegetating, this will mean that you are tired at a reasonable time and eventually you’ll be back on track!
2. To-Do Lists
I absolutely swear by to-do lists to ensure that I finish all my work and fulfil any extra responsibilities before the deadline. However, if used incorrectly, they can prove to be overwhelming, which really isn’t helpful especially in these trying times. I tend to make a weekly to-do list every Sunday evening and break it down into daily lists each evening. This means that when I get up I don’t spend unnecessary time working out what I’m supposed to be doing.
Another must when it comes to to-do lists is breaking down each large task into much smaller ones. For example, if I have an essay to write, I break my list into the introduction and each subsequent paragraph, rather than ‘write essay’. This makes the task less intimidating and after each paragraph you can cross something off your list with a sense of accomplishment. It’s small, but I find it makes a big difference.
This final one probably seems like a bit of a cop out but when I sought help for anxiety and low moods I was advised to essentially do the bare minimum to get to finish a task on time. This basically ensures that you don’t get overwhelmed by a seemingly unconquerable mountain of tasks and can spend more time doing things that relax you and make you happy.
3. Take Regular Breaks
This one is super important in order to avoid a burn out! I personally tend to work for one to two hours at a time. These chunks of time I split into pomodoros, which means that I split the time into 25 minute sessions, focus entirely on the task at hand, and then take a five minute break. After repeating this four times you get a 15 to 30 minute break! I find that it means I’m less inclined to check my phone or get sidetracked because 25 minutes is a far more manageable time than an hour or two. I find pomodoros especially helpful when I’m struggling to just get started.
Sometimes I find that scheduling in planned time to procrastinate is hugely beneficial. Set aside some time to deliberately avoid your work. In this time you shouldn’t feel guilty as it is part of the day’s plan, and it will allow you to return to your work feeling refreshed and productive. Remember, work smart, productivity isn’t all about work work work.
Lunchtime is my prime time to take a break, too, and I allow myself plenty of time to eat and step back from my work. This is often the time that I will venture out on my state sanctioned walk as after eating we can often feel lethargic and sluggish and the dose of fresh air can help wake us up.
4. Don’t Worry
Social media is full to the brim with people being as productive as possible while many have more spare time. It seems to be the prime time for learning a new instrument or language, reading that book that you’ve alway wanted to pick up, or, as is more applicable to our situation, finishing assignments at break neck speed. While these people mean well, and it is no doubt amazing to be productive 100% of the time, please don’t worry if you aren’t keeping up with them. We are living through a crisis that is exasperating many existing mental health issues and many are struggling to cope. If all you manage to do one day is wash, brush your teeth, eat three meals, and watch some Netflix, then that’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up about it, rest, and try again tomorrow. There is no correct way to cope with lockdown (other than staying at home, of course) so now it is more important than ever to avoid comparing yourself with others online.
Anyway, I hope that these tips and tricks can be of some use to you all. Stay safe, stay inside, and good luck with any upcoming assignments or exams!