Staying productive while staying home has been a great challenge for me. Perhaps you can relate to this. In my opinion, productivity need not be measured directly in terms of the work we put into our jobs or degree curriculum. It could be anything that helps us realize our purpose and fulfil it – something that helps us develop our existing skills or build a new one, something that helps us become better human beings.
As we step into the last week of the national lockdown, I thought it might be useful to discuss some measures that I am trying to take help me be more productive. Since I was struggling with this myself, I looked up places to find help – spoke to a couple of friends, thought about it myself and read up. Here are some practical tips that I found and am trying to follow.
Know what you want to do
Like Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” I understood that planning my quarantine days is crucial for my productivity. I also realized that it is important to break this down to smaller tasks. To-do lists come in handy to accomplish small tasks. I have noticed that I have gotten more work done when I have listed down the things I should be doing. But it is one thing to make a to-do list and another thing to fill pages. I have noticed that it is important to have realistic, daily to-do lists. Over-ambitious to-do lists have made some of my days more unproductive than those without a to-do list at all.
Set up a workspace
The other day I saw a meme about waking up just minutes before a zoom call. I could totally relate to it. But then I realized that it might just make my day worse. Since a couple of days now, I have tried and worked around a make-shift workspace for me. That helps me get a little serious about the things that I do, at least when I am around there.
Rethink the smartphone
This is where the struggle is real for me. I am so hooked to my phone that I find myself helplessly landing in social media every few minutes or hours – WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.
As I was pondering over this, I was reminded of Randy Pausch’s advice on Time Management in The Last Lecture. He said, “Time must be explicitly managed, like money. You can always change your plan, but only if you have one. Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things? Develop a good filing system. Rethink the telephone. Delegate. Take time out. Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.” One part of this advice that has always stood out for me, yet been the most difficult to work upon, is “rethink the telephone.” Perhaps in today’s world, it would be more appropriate to say “rethink the smartphone.”
I have now started listening to songs and podcasts as playback while I work on other things. That doesn’t mean that I don’t watch movies, shows or videos. I often find myself starting with an educational video and ending up in a standup special just minutes from when I started. But I am trying to balance the two, which has been a struggle.
One thing at a time
I find it difficult to understand people embracing multitasking. It’s not that I haven’t tried it, but every time I tried I either made a mess of the situation or did a half-hearted job in all the tasks. This is one reason I came to terms with the fact – multitasking is not for me. I now try to prioritize things and do one thing at a time.