While scrolling through the news and social media during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have noticed the topic of “productivity during quarantine” almost everywhere you look. Cited examples include Shakespeare writing “King Lear” and Sir Isaac Newton discovering calculus during the plague.
Although these cases are meant to serve as “motivation” while we’re all at home, they can be detrimental to our self-esteem and well-being. In fact, the pressure to be productive may only be increasing our anxiety during these uncertain times.
So, how can we actively release ourselves from that constant pressure and get back to cultivating some semblance of concentration?
A huge way we can decrease our anxiety so we can focus on the things that we need to get done is by reducing our news and social media consumption. A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, and many report feeling fatigue, anxiety, or sleep loss as a result. The survey goes on to say that one in ten adults checks the news every hour, and 20% of Americans report constantly monitoring their social media feeds, which is a constant reminder of the chaos we’re feeling right now.
Mental health is just as important as physical health right now, and even the World Health Organization is urging people not to check news and updates that often:
”Minimize watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones.”
“Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.”
“Get the facts; not the rumors and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals, from the WHO website and local health authorities platforms, to help you distinguish facts from rumors. Facts can help to minimize fears.”
Here are a few tips to help you be productive while you’re practicing social distancing. Discovering positive ways to ground yourself can help transform your mental outlook for the better, so you can focus on the things you still need to get done.
- Consider blocking social media and news websites on your computer and phone while you’re working. You can implement software such as Freedom to achieve this.
- While you’re working, stash away your phone in a drawer in another room so you’re not tempted to start scrolling. Creating this obstacle for checking your phone will help decrease mindless phone usage.
- When you do have access to your phone, turn off push notifications from social media and news apps. Limit yourself to checking the news to once or twice per day at specific times.
- Integrate a mindful practice into your life, such as meditation or yoga. Even spending a few minutes here and there practicing gratitude and deep breathing exercises will help bring your focus back to the present moment, so you can approach your day with a new sense of mental and emotional relief. Try using an app such as Headspace or Calm.
- Establish a routine and try your best to stick to it. If you’re not used to working from home, implement these methods to discourage distractions:
- Time block your calendar. Schedule different tasks to be completed in specific time windows so you’re more motivated to focus on one thing at a time.
- Batch process your email. Instead of checking email consistently throughout the day, only read, process, and respond to emails a couple of times a day. Find out more about how batching can increase your efficiency here.
- Come up with a to-do list every day that clearly states which tasks you’d like to complete. If you don’t get to everything on your list, don’t be too hard on yourself – simply move those tasks to another day.
- Focus on the “one thing” and schedule one important goal or task you’d love to knock out by day or week’s end. When you have a concrete plan in mind, you’re more apt to focus on achieving it. Try utilizing the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, a visual productivity method. It’s perfect for people who don’t quite see things in black-and-white, like graphs, and would prefer to prioritize on a continuum rather than putting tasks into a few categories. It allows for prioritizing more complicated projects, yet it’s easy and quick to put into practice.
- Implement a time-management method such as the Pomodoro Technique to cultivate a deeper focus on work for short periods of time with several breaks throughout. There are Pomodoro-centered apps that can help you stay on track, such as FocusList.
- Be nice to yourself and take breaks when you need them. Even taking five minutes to play with your pet, go for a walk, or make a cup of tea will bring a little bit of brightness to your day.
- Encourage your productivity by saving a treat for yourself at the end of the day. This can be anything that brings you a bit of happiness, such as ordering takeout or watching a movie you’ve been wanting to see.
We as humans are programmed to detect and avoid threats, so it’s no wonder why we’re addicted to seeking out troubling news these days. It’s essential to try to do whatever we can to bring positivity to our days and the people around us. It can be difficult to not be in a negative headspace and feel unfocused during these strange times when the news is so disconcerting, but staying glued to our phones and checking for constant updates will only make our fear grow.
This post was brought to you by Dmitri Leonov, VP of Growth at SaneBox.
Dmitri Leonov is an internet entrepreneur, leading growth efforts at Sanebox. He has over 10 years of experience in startups, corporate strategy, sales strategy, channel development, international expansion, and M&A.