The Productivity Curse
Updated: Mar 9
Our working from home revolution has resulted in the complete ruination of our work life balances. There are minimal boundaries between work and home and therefore, our ability to maintain a sense of resilience and calmness is wearing thin.
Many of us feel busier than ever whilst experiencing a lack of motivation and difficulties in doing productive work as the reality of another six months of virtual working, isolation and the lack of “things to look forward to” is setting in. We’re not getting back to a normal working pattern anytime soon – whether you’ve traded your traditional office setting for the back bedroom, finding yourself pretty much confined to one postcode or indeed adjusting to the fact that everyone you live with seems to at home ALL of the time…
There has been a lot of pressure on us all to do it all whilst working from home – managing new working environment (which for us many of us wasn’t set-up for 5 days a week at home), job insecurities, the emotional labour, taking up new hobbies, getting fitter or learning to bake. I’ve seen endless lists of books and podcasts that people are suggesting but I just don’t think it hugely realistic. We’ve all got significantly more on our plates – met with constant negative news cycles and health anxieties. It’s unsurprising that we may be struggling to focus and get good work done at a time when we really need to.
Over the last few months, I have been coaching many clients on how to make the most of the time available. This isn’t about getting up at 5am or being more productive (although I’d hope that this would be a knock-on effect) but actually finding some space in your day and making the most of available time.
I’m always cautious about productivity hacks as they I believe that there is a thin line to encouraging overwork. There’s a great quote by Anne Helen Peterson from her article on “How Millennials became the burnout generation” which I think is important to remember when thinking about productivity and time management:
“Energy is finite and when you keep trying to pretend it isn’t - that’s when burnout arrives”
These tips are to help you build resilience and personal time into your day, claim back your diary and start finding space to think again.
· Ditch the daily to-do lists – have an overview monthly plan and look to prioritise items from that list. Think about when this really needs to be done – break it down. Try to only have 2-3 really specific items on your list each day and think about where you can effectively delegate. Do you really need to do this?
· Put diary slots in for the big things on your list – don’t assume that things will get done around the meetings and calls. Without dedicated space to get your work done your diary will fill with Zoom calls and meetings – hence why many of us work early or late getting actual work done!
· Build in time blocks for email management – don’t spend your day in your inbox. Your inbox should be a communication tool and not the “to do” list. I like to remind myself (regularly!) that most emails are other people’s priorities and not mine. I find that an hour in the morning, quick check at lunchtime and an hour later in the day works well. Try and set a timer and then move onto actual work.
· Challenge yourself whether you need to send an email – would it be resolved quicker if you picked up the phone. No one will be upset if they get one less email!
· Put your personal stuff into your calendar (with a codename if you prefer) – but if you need to call family or go for a lunch you’re more likely to do it if you’ve scheduled a specific slot in the day. Taking a break from work is scientifically proven to increase motivation and productivity – it’s important to get away from your desk regularly and do something that boosts your mood.
· Write a done list at the end of each week – helps with motivation as we rarely reflect on our achievements, instead racing to the next thing without looking back.
· Beware of overloading your diary at this time, many of us have significantly less commitments outside of the house/away from your desk at the minute but be cautious not to fill this time with more Zoom calls and answering emails. If you have free space, consider whether you could build in thinking time, reading/research or quiet work. Getting the thoughts out of your head and onto a page can be really helpful to structure your thoughts.
If you’re interested in this topic I’d love to hear from you. Over the next 3 months I’m interviewing a series of small business owners on their perceptions of resilience and how they have survived/thrived through the shit show of 2020. If you’d be willing to be involved please drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org.