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Some of us are launching whole new careers because the pandemic has upended the old one in ways that seem insurmountable. People in retail, fitness and hospitality are among those reinventing themselves as their employers close for good.
Some of us are adjusting. Doing the same thing but doing it differently because the pandemic has changed the professional landscape. My speaker colleagues, for instance, are taking their work online as in-person events are canceled; production companies are pivoting in the same way.
Some of us are doing what we’ve always done, and doing even more of it because the pandemic has boosted our market in a big way. Business is booming for janitorial services and suppliers, delivery companies and office furniture and supply firms.
All of us are looking for ways to be productive in spite of the turmoil around us. Because the pandemic has changed the way we do business at least for the time being, and maybe for good. Plus, we’re dealing with the distraction of protests and politics and pandemonium.
How to be productive, as we find our way through all of this?
Productivity, I am quick to acknowledge, has never been my strong suit. And I’ve been known to just shrug that off as a question of temperament or personality or nature. Getting around to it (whatever it is) is just not my gift.
“Oh well, so I didn’t get that done today. Maybe tomorrow will be better.”
Here’s the thing: If I don’t do something to make it better, it isn’t likely that I’ll be any more productive tomorrow than I was today.
I’ve come up with a few things lately that are helping me deal with distractions and finish what I start. Maybe they’ll be useful for you too.
Stay out of the social media swamp.
Left to my own devices, I could spend hours a day on LinkedIn and Facebook. And lately I’ve started scrolling through Twitter too!
The screen is no substitute for face-to-face conversation, of course. And, if that’s the only way to make a connection with other human beings, I’ll go for it.
It’s clear that I need to go away from it. And stay away for big chunks of time.
Now, regular LinkedIn posts are part of my marketing plan. (If you and I aren’t connected there, find me and let’s Link.)
There’s a business case to make for spending some time and energy on LinkedIn every day. Still, I need to keep a lid on it all the same, so I don’t default to random conversations that allow me to avoid the work I should be doing.
And I’ve started limiting Facebook to an evening check-in; that’s made a big difference for me. I waste less time, and I reduce my exposure to negativity and name-calling that drains my energy.
Do the worst first.
Productivity Consultant Lynn O’Dowd suggests picking one next step that will move your project along. Not the dozen things you think you need to do. You know, the things you didn’t do yesterday, and maybe the day before that.
You’re looking for the one next step that will take you closer to your goal. Do that. Especially if it’s not your favorite thing. Which, in my case, it never is – if I wanted to do it, it would be done by now.
Once we tackle the step we’ve avoided, that accomplishment can give us some momentum to move on to the next thing and the next. Before you know it, you’re getting into the flow, and getting a lot done.
Lynn calls it, “eating your veggies first.” Get that broccoli out of the way early … and you can have dessert later on.
Don’t be a drill sergeant.
If you’re ordering yourself around, calling yourself names, criticizing yourself for missteps and missing steps, you might consider another approach.
So often I look at my To Do list, count the things I didn’t do, and feel like a hopeless failure. Psychologist Nick Wignall calls that the Drill Sergeant Theory of Motivation. Barking orders at yourself, making threats, and saying terrible things about you.
Some of us assume that if we’re just hard enough on ourselves, we’ll shape up, do the work and do it well, by God.
Not so much. In fact, Nick says, “People are successful despite their negative self-talk, not because of it.”
And that’s not surprising when you think about it. If we stop spending our energy “motivating” ourselves with negative self-talk, we can use that energy to do more and better work.
Eliminating the self-criticism boosts a person’s mood along with increasing physical energy. It makes us happier and more productive.
I’ve been testing this out and I’m finding he’s right. I don’t really get more done when I start with a list of all the ways I’ve fallen short.
Ready to give this a shot with me?
Here’s my plan for productivity in the time of the pandemic. I’ve set some goals for myself. I plan to make at least a little bit of progress every day. And, I’m going to refrain from saying anything to or about myself that I wouldn’t say to a friend.
Let’s agree, all of us, to cut ourselves some slack, give ourselves some grace, and see where we can go from here.
In the meantime, post a comment below about the next step you’re going to take.