Productivity in the Time of COVID

Productivity in the Time of COVID-19

If you’re like many people, you’re now wondering why you bothered getting a day planner at all for the year 2020. This year has been chaotic for all of us, between quarantining, kids doing school at home, and massive shifts in the workplace. Many people lost their jobs entirely and have struggled to support their families. As of this writing, over 170,000 Americans have died due to COVID and a plateau doesn’t seem to be on the horizon yet. I know several people who have lost their lives to this awful illness, and on a personal note, I became severely ill with COVID in February and was sick for months (hence the long pause in blog posts). Life this year has been very, very far from normal.

Honestly, life probably won’t return to normal as we know it anytime in the foreseeable future. Though there are plenty of negatives to this year, there are some silver linings—many of my clients have said they’ve been happier working more from home, and even though they’ve returned to some office hours, they are able to continue working in some capacity from their house. Others have valued their increased family time and ability to exercise more. Overall, this year made many people re-evaluate priorities and what matters in life. Once I recovered enough from my illness to function again, I valued every extra second I got to spend with my teenage children. They are normally so busy with school and extra-curricular activities that I barely see them, and yet, I got a few MONTHS with them all to myself (okay, and my husband)—taking walks, watching movies, and playing games. As the kids are already ramping up again with their respective activities, I look back on these past few months with them as a priceless gift. I’ve also been super grateful for my health (and for my shiny new antibodies however long they last).

But what about business productivity? Personally, I had to almost close down my own business entirely while I was sick with COVID-related issues such as pneumonia, pleurisy, and kidney problems. Luckily, I didn’t have any underlying high-risk health issues and was super healthy prior to getting sick so I was able to bounce back but it still took almost four months to get back to full capacity.

Basically, my productivity tanked. Since then, I’ve geared back up and gotten back into the swing of things but it was a rough few months…and I wasn’t alone in that issue. One thing I’ve heard repeatedly from my life coaching and career coaching clients in the past few months is their own feeling of lack of productivity. The stress of this year has impacted them and they have periods where they feel less focused, less able to concentrate, and overall less productive. Sometimes, it’s due to having small children at home which makes working at home, well, challenging. Other times, it’s just the stress of the unknown and what the rest of this year will look like. Either way, I’ve been telling people the same thing I told myself during my period of shut down.

It’s okay. It’s fine if you’re not functioning at peak productivity right now. If you and your loved ones are healthy, and you still have a job, consider yourself one of the lucky ones because many people haven’t been as lucky (see current death statistics and unemployment numbers). I’ve had clients tell me it’s even difficult to read a book right now. That’s okay too. Do things that make you feel good. For me, it’s been meditating and exercising daily, getting plenty of sleep, taking long walks with my hubby, and playing with my dogs and kids. 

Here’s the thing: If you allow yourself to acknowledge the stress and focus on self-care rather than dwell on what you’re not getting done, it will help you get back on track even faster. I had many a day where my business to-do list remained untouched, and I forced myself to instead put my attention on healing and all the things I was grateful for. The meditating and exercising has allowed me to keep my balance despite the continued chaos in our world, and time with family has kept me focused on what I’m doing this all for in the first place. If I had just tried to push through it and ignore everything, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

And where am I now? I’m busier than I’ve ever been before with my business (so much so that I’m re-focusing on work/life balance) and on the writing side, I’ve published two novels and a short story in the last few months, completed another short story that will come out later this year, and am currently hard at work on two additional novels. I’m more productive now than I was before this nutty year even started, and that takes into account my four months of doing almost nothing—except trying to breathe.

I know this is a long post so I’ll summarize how to address productivity issues right now:

  • Give yourself a break and allow periods of being non-productive
  • Focus on self-care during this chaotic time and do things that help restore balance (meditation, exercise, time with loved ones, yoga, watching funny shows, etc)
  • List the positives of the down time: what are your silver linings?
  • Do what you can, when you can—and cheer yourself on for the little wins.
  • As you feel more productive, don’t overwhelm yourself with playing catch-up which can cause action paralysis—instead, take baby steps which will help you feel successful which increases motivation and leads to more steps
  • Those baby steps taken consistently turn into big things (e.g. my novel was written just 1,000 words at a time but doing it consistently led to completing the book!)

Bottom line: we’re living through an unprecedented time in history so be kind to yourself and to those around you. The world needs more kindness right now and that includes toward yourself! Hang in there, stay healthy out there, and please wear a mask.

Ready to explore other career options or want to meet a new life goal? Schedule a free coaching consultation today with Dr. Kristi to see if coaching is a good fit for you!

Part 4: Mastering Your Daily Goals

In last week’s post on goal-setting, we discussed how to break down monthly goals into weekly ones. In this 4th and final post on goal-setting and how to set successful goals, we tackle the most important one: how to set daily goals that move you toward your larger overall goal. Since I live in Colorado, I’ll use the mountain analogy: if you want to climb a 14er, you have to focus on one step at a time because because looking up at the peak from the very bottom can seem daunting. However, if you just focus on where you are and taking that next step, you’ll realize you’ve already climbed half the mountain.

Here are some tips on how to tackle your goals on a daily basis. Based on the last post, you’ve already sat down and addressed your overall 1-2 weekly goals so here are what you do with those weekly tasks:

  1. Decide the next day’s daily goals the night before. This is really easy to do if it’s a work-related goal because by the end of the work day, you’ll have a good idea what your next task is based on where you ended. Either way, take 5 minutes to write down the next day’s goals before you go to sleep. A huge side benefit of this is that you can release any worries about what you have to do the next day because the process of writing it down allows you to let it go. My clients tell me they sleep better because of this one thing alone!
  2. Make the tasks simple but high-priority goals. In following the 80/20 rule, you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts, so find out what will make the most impact on your goals and start there. If your weekly goal is to eat healthier, your first daily task may be to hit the grocery store for some healthy items for meals. If the task is complex, only put the first part of that task on your list. For instance, if you’re looking to change careers, put one task related to that on your daily list (e.g. revise resume).
  3. Have no more than 3 daily tasks on your list. This one is hard for people but stay with me. One of the things I hear over and over again from clients is how they used to put 10-20 things on their daily to-do list, but (being that they’re human) they couldn’t get to everything, so they simply re-wrote those things day after day. Doing that makes the tasks lose their impact and makes you feel like you failed. It’s better to get bonus points for doing more on your list than feeling like you didn’t finish it.
  4. Do at least 1 of those goals first thing the next morning. Whether it’s getting in an exercise session before your household wakes up or getting into the office early to cross the first thing off your list, completing the first daily goal sets the tone for the day. You start out the day with a WIN, and that feeling of accomplishment and success is highly motivating and encourages more success.
  5. Protect your time around those goals! I have some clients who do not check email until that first goal is done (this method is very powerful and I work with many clients on this time management skill), while others shut their office door or go to a different room in their house. I even have one client who has a shared workspace and uses humor to protect this time … she uses headphones and hangs a sign on her chair that says Work in Progress for that period of time. Do whatever it takes!

Think about what will happen with your large goals if you take just 1-2 steps every day toward them for an entire year! You will be amazed at your progress, especially when you look back at where you started … like standing at the mountain peak enjoying the gorgeous view around you and proud of your determination to reach the top.

Get started right now! Think of your overall weekly goals (you can use a planner or journal to track your daily progress) and list your first 1-3 daily goals for tomorrow:

  1. _______________________________________
  2. _______________________________________
  3. _______________________________________

Good luck and may you reach all of your goals this year!

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Why You Should Engage in Active Slacking Over the Holidays

You’re probably used to coaching posts about increasing productivity, time management tools, and maximizing each minute of the day—I’ve even written a few of those myself. 😉 However, this is not one of those posts. Part of being successful is figuring out the art of work/life balance. Notice I didn’t say “perfecting the art” because everyone reading this post is human (as far as I know anyway) and therefore will not attain perfection. I’m going to do a whole post on the concept of perfection in the near future but, for now, just know that I think the word hinders rather than helps people—it’s far better to focus on being a slightly better version of yourself than you were the day before.

The Case for Slacking

So, about this work/life balance thing. The holidays are a weird time when we have a combination of time off from work (for most people) yet still have a high level of stress due to the overall busyness of the season so it’s not always the most relaxing time. Combine that with the family dynamics involved in gatherings where relatives don’t always see eye-to-eye and it’s no wonder why some people are reaching for the nearest glass bottle of wine. Not that I’m against a good glass of pinot noir but in terms of more liver-friendly self-care techniques, I’m advocating for more slacking over the holidays.

The Science of Slacking

Why actively choose slacking? Because when you allow yourself time to decompress, chill out, get creative, have fun, and play, you are living more in the present moment—which is where all the good stuff happens anyway. In terms of basic science, your cortisol levels (stress hormones) go down and your endorphins (your body’s feel good hormones) go up. You will literally feel better, so by creating space to slack, you are making your body and mind healthier … and likely your relationships because you’re going to be more fun to be around. In turn, this will make you even more productive when you are ready to dive back into goals and activities because you’re more energized—you got your groove back. Choose to slack more over the holidays.

Slacking Summary

Life is filled with to-do lists, work demands, children’s activities, laundry, house payments, flu shots, and dental visits. It’s easy to get caught in a perpetual cycle of stress and frustration. Step back and try to simply your holidays this year by focusing on what’s most important. Spend less time on things that aren’t bringing you joy (like Marie Kondo but with activities instead of shirts) and more time doing things you love—play a game, watch a movie, take a walk, check out a museum exhibit (the new Pixar exhibit at the Nature and Science museum is awesome if you’re in Denver), go skiing, meditate, sit on the couch in front of the fireplace with a good book or Netflix show, or take a nap—or two.

In short, slack more and stress less. I hope everyone has a joyous and relaxing holiday season filled with love and family. I’ll be back in January with posts on goals for the New Year and hope you come back refreshed and energized. Until 2020…