How to Stay Productive in a COVID-19 World


Whether we like it or not, the 'New Normal' is upon us. Months of quarantining and social distancing have reshaped the world as we know it, forcing everyone to make a collective pivot towards its new iteration. With Fall right around the corner, many of us are struggling with finding ways to keep the energy alive. sySTEMic flow has compiled a list of ideas for how to get back into the swing of things and stay on track; whether you’re at home, in the office, the classroom, or a hybrid, we’ve got just what you need to make sure you’re ready to take the Fall by storm. Sleep, sleep, and more sleep Overstated yet equally underrated. We all know we can probably use some more Zs at night, but we may not always appreciate how important they really are. Study after study link copious amount of sleep to reduced stress, improved cognitive ability, and stronger judgment. Getting those 8-10 recommended hours can make a world of difference when you’re struggling to make another cup of coffee before a 3:00 meeting. Try to fall into a habit with some discipline; set reminders on your phone to settle in for the night, stay off of social media, find a good book to read before you drift off. It’s simple. Want to keep your mind straight? Give it a rest. Take a Wellness Break One of the nice things about the pivot towards work-from-home is the potential for greater flexibility in our day-to-day schedules. Use it to your advantage! Taking quick wellness breaks throughout the day will allow your mind the time it needs to recharge, refresh, and refocus--especially when it’s physical. Exercise, guided meditation, and yoga are just some of the tricks that can help your mind and body get centered throughout the day. Check out one of our other recent pieces for a list of some great apps available. Acknowledge the difficulty which comes with how rigid and demanding our work lives can be. Giving yourself the space to walk away will allow you to come back ready and stronger than before. “Productiv-fy” Your Space If the first few months of quarantining have shown us anything, it’s that sitting upright on our beds and couches just won’t cut it anymore. Take some time to evaluate the space you're working in. One of the challenges with this 'New Normal' is the removal of office and classroom environments that we’re so used to. Instead, bring the office or classroom to you! Try to find a quiet space with comfortable seating and a desk. Grab some elements that make it feel more productive--a clock, calendar, some posters. Put on some plants and candles to give it more of an atmosphere. Do what you need to secure an environment that is both peaceful and conducive to the work you’re doing. Check out these tips for renovating your workspace and giving it a design flair. The ‘Honey Do’ List There’s greater power to even the most simple forms of organization than we may realize. Jotting down goals and to-do lists is a simple way to hold ourselves accountable and be mindful of the time it may take to accomplish certain tasks. Whether you prefer pen and paper or a more digital alternative, make an effort to secure a planner, and hold yourself accountable to it. Not only will this make your days more structured, but it will reduce the clutter in your mind of all the “I need to do this” reminders and “What did I promise them I would do?” questions. In turn, you free up more space in your mind for the things that matter. You may be a simple Notes app organizer or inclined to hop on the growing bullet journal trend. Whatever your comfort, ease, and experience, taking the time each day to plan out your responsibilities will help you stay on target and more present as a result. Watch Your Screen Time Any iPhone or mobile phone user can admit to at least a few apps they would consider to be their vices. Whether you’re a Netflix binge-watcher or a Twitter aficionado, these months of isolation may not have ruled too favorably when it comes to our average screen times. Believe it or not, our phones know this and come with tools to help. Check out the App Limits in the Screen Time section of your settings. iPhones will allow you to delegate how much time you can spend on respective apps per day, then give you a reminder when you’ve hit that mark. It's a great, simple way to hold yourself accountable and forcibly avoid unnecessary distractions. If app limits might be difficult, you can also try what’s known as the Pomodoro technique. The system is simple: work for 25 minutes, reward yourself with 5 minutes of screen time, repeat this four times, then take a longer 20-minute break. Adopting a Pomodoro approach allows you to stagger bursts of productivity with quick breaks, continuously refreshing and recharging your mind while navigating productivity. If you like some structure, you can even set alarms/reminders for each step in the process. The Pomodoro technique is an awesome way to maintain steady streams of work while cutting yourself some slack at the same time. Virtual Study Sessions While some may use study groups as an excuse to catch up with friends, other students genuinely benefit from the collective commitment to studying with friends, and being physically apart doesn’t mean that has to stop. Encourage students to organize virtual study groups over platforms like Zoom and FaceTime. This will help them reclaim that same sense of normalcy and reopen collaborative dialogue, enabling them to work as a team and answer questions when needed. Study groups are an effective and important tool in the development of teamwork and personal growth, so help them to make an effort to continue this. Search for Some Daily Excitement Grinding through the workday is a lot easier when there’s something to look forward to when it’s over. Organize some excitement with your friends, partner, kids, or even yourself so that you have some little piece of motivation to look forward to each day. This can range from any number of things; themed date nights, a special dinner, Zoom wine parties, or even checking out a new movie/show you haven’t seen yet. Planning out special mini-events like these gives us the right level of extrinsic motivation, inspiring us to push through our grogginess so we can make it to the fun on the other side. In today’s world, there are so many socially-distanced and virtual options available to us that can make a world of difference in setting the tone for the day ahead. Find the little nuggets of joy that can help you push through, and you’ll be surprised at what they can do. Check out some ideas for what your next Zoom get-together can look like.

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