10 Tips for Productivity in Quarantine

Monday, April 20, 2020

Photo: Megan Loreto

10 Tips for Productivity in Quarantine 
by Megan Loreto 

I know I’m not alone when I say that quarantine and the global pandemic brought to us by COVID-19 has completely disintegrated my motivation for getting schoolwork done. Maybe it’s the distraction of my newsfeed, the stress of moving, the strange flow of time that occurs when I’m indoors for the majority of the day or just Zoom learning itself but, whatever the cause, I’m left feeling sluggish and unproductive. 

This morning, after several hours of playing Animal Crossing, I decided that it was about time I got it together (at least until my fruit trees blossomed). School is continuing on and, despite my internal resentment, that’s something to be grateful for. We may have to wait in line at grocery stores for milk and it’s absurd and bizarre, but we also need to make sure we get a reasonable grade on that online open book test next week to pass our classes. At least one of those two stressors is normal and familiar. Being more productive is about giving yourself a little bit more control and one less thing to worry about in a future where things are uncertain. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in a way, doing your homework is kind of, almost self care right now... like an at-home facial for your stress. It’s like working out: we don’t want to but we feel better afterwards. 

Here are some things that work for me: 

10. Get Dressed 
I talked about this a lot on Instagram when the Safer at Home initiatives were gearing up and I’ve seen a lot of other people post about it since. Getting dressed for your day, taking a shower, going through the motions of your skincare routine and putting on makeup (optional) really boost your productivity and overall well being. Some of it is about the ritual, some of it is about glancing at yourself in the mirror and feeling okay, and some of it is just that if your clothes are too comfy you will nap. 

9. Make a List 
Most people probably already do this, but I have a pseudo-bullet journal where I write my daily to-dos in the morning and check them off as I go. I like putting easy, small tasks in the mix with the daunting stuff. It is also a good way to make sure that tasks don’t fall through the cracks. 

8. Create an Organized Workspace 
Take five minutes in the morning or evening before you work to tidy your desk up. Make it look nice. Maybe light a candle or pick out a nice pen to use before you get started. If you want a mini-project, redo your desk completely so that it becomes a space that inspires you or calms you down. A lot of productivity gurus will tell you not to work in bed, but I think it’s also a huge no to always do your work in the same spot. Give yourself some variety. 

7. Figure Out the Times of Day You’re Most Productive
My workflow doesn’t really lock into place until like 7 or 8 p.m. I’m not very productive in the morning or even the afternoon as far as schoolwork goes. Find the time of day when it’s easiest to convince yourself to get work done and tap into that time frame. If you know you aren’t going to actually start your paper at 10 a.m. because you’ll be scrolling on your phone until 3 p.m., just be honest and go do something else with your morning until the afternoon.  

6. Set Up a Reward System 
We all deserve to cut ourselves slack right now and we definitely deserve rewards, so be kind to yourself. Take breaks; long ones if you need them. If you need an extension, email your professor and ask for one. You know how to best reward yourself. Here are some of my personal suggestions: drinking coffee or tea, eating a fruit or a small bowl of a salty snack, blasting a well-curated playlist, reading a chapter of a fun book, drawing, embroidering, journaling, editing photos, going for a walk, making a phone call, watching a twenty minutes of TV, staring into the void. 

5. Try the Pomodoro Method 
If you like the idea of a more structured reward system, try the Pomodoro Method. Set a timer for 25 minutes and do work. Set another timer for five and this is your reward. So on and so forth. I have tried it and it does work, especially for projects that I feel bored with (which is everything right now). 

4. The Two Minute Rule
This rule applies to everything and anything. If there is a task you don’t want to do right then and there, ask yourself how long it will take. If the answer is two minutes or less? Just do it. For example: instead of setting the empty coffee cup down in the sink, just wash it off and let it dry. By deferring small tasks, we let them build up and create larger problems. This method of thinking can be applied to your space (keeping it clean), school work and menial tasks like sending emails. 

3. Set Timers 
Setting timers helps me if all else fails. Tell yourself you will work for 30 minutes or set a timer for 20 more minutes of procrastination. Either way, this sometimes gives me the push I need to get started. 

2. Stress Clean 
If you have been working and working and working while staring at a screen, get up and clean. If you don’t feel like doing work, get up and clean. Tidy your workspace, do the dishes, or vacuum. This is a productive task that doesn’t involve schoolwork, but will either make you feel better or it will make you want to do anything besides clean—that’s where homework comes in.

1. Synthesize the Weekends 
Let’s be honest, school can’t exist without the weekends. The whole key to college is maintaining the balance between working hard and doing things you want to do. Although the days of the week don’t mean a ton right now, let Saturdays and Sundays be the space you need to live and process. Put away your school books. Bake something, have a virtual coffee date with your friends or start a new creative project. 

These aren’t expert tips and they won’t do the work for you. The truth is, all of us are doing the best we can right now. While productivity is a great thing, there is no need to feel guilty if some days are less productive than others. We get through this by focusing on doing what we can one day at a time.

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