How to Increase Productivity During Challenging Times

by Auriel

The week following the murder of George Floyd was a blur. I was wrapped up in the news footage, media reporting, and social media commentary for days on end. It was tiring, it was stressful, it was upsetting, it was encouraging. A roller coaster ride of emotions that you may have experienced as well. 

I found it almost impossible to focus long enough to be productive and make real progress on the goals and tasks I had set. I was mentally exhausted and my mind was racing with all the information I was processing in such a short amount of time.

I must say, I’m so encouraged by all of the outcry and the shifts that we are already seeing in this fight for justice and racial equity. I think it’s amazing the way that some individuals, brands, and companies have become advocates and are speaking out, protesting, conversing, learning, and making policy changes.   

I believe these things are essential for creating a world that is not only fair but safe for us all to live in. And I think getting involved in whatever way you see fit is important, whether that’s out on the frontlines protesting or having meaningful conversations at home. 

However, we also can’t lose track of our own purpose and goals. We still have to find a way to get stuff done and continue moving forward, even in the current climate that we’re in. 

It was difficult for me to muster up the energy and motivation to work at the same pace I was before these recent events. But I knew I had to continue building my health coaching business, putting out helpful content, and showing up fully present for my clients.

If you, like me, have been having trouble getting back into the swing of things with everything that’s going on in the world right now, I have a few tips to help you increase your productivity in a healthy, balanced way. Whether you’re working a 9-5 job, are an entrepreneur, have a side-hustle, or are working on a passion project, these tips will help you feel more motivated, present and effective while you work.

1. Give yourself time to process

A lot is happening right now and it may affect all of us differently. But it does affect us in some way and it’s important to acknowledge that. Giving yourself the time and space to process how you’re feeling and make sense of what you’re experiencing will cut down on the mental noise that’s blocking your concentration. 

Some people’s first response to challenging times such as these is to dive deeper into their work to avoid what’s going on externally. This kind of forced productivity isn’t helpful and can lead to burnout. You have to work harder because you’re not fully present and won’t produce your best work as a result. 

I can’t recommend enough to take time for reflection as it helps to clear your head and allow you to focus on a task without distracting thoughts and feelings constantly coming up.

Some ways to do this are journaling, meditating, or talking with someone you trust.

I’ve found journaling to be particularly useful in allowing me to get all my thoughts down on paper and out of my head. Otherwise, I tend to ruminate on things that are bothering me and it makes it hard to focus on other tasks I have to do.

2. Limit exposure to triggering content

It’s hard to turn on the news or log into social media without being exposed to emotionally-charged content about the current social/political/racial turmoil. There’s nothing wrong with staying informed and engaging in discussion.  

However, it can quickly become information overload and start to affect your peace of mind. And it’s very hard to get things accomplished in this frame of mind.

I found myself feeling overwhelmed and mentally exhausted by all that I was watching and reading. To the point where I was developing headaches from scrolling through my Instagram feed. As much as I wanted to keep up with the newest developments, I quickly realized that staying glued to my phone or TV wasn’t supporting my mental health or productivity. 

Setting boundaries around what types of content I was consuming, how much time I spent on social media, and even the conversations I was having with others helped me to protect my energy and focus on other things besides the latest controversy. 

3. Turn down your stress response

When we are experiencing a stressful event that brings about feelings like worry, fear, anxiety, or anger, the body interprets this as a threat and activates your stress response.  

You are now in fight or flight mode where all of your resources (blood, oxygen, and energy) are sent to the areas that are needed to help you battle or escape what your body believes to be a dangerous situation.  

Your body is no longer focused on giving you the brainpower you need to finish the tasks on your to-do list.

Additionally, staying in this state is taxing on both the body and mind. Prolonged periods of stress can cause physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension and body aches, and psychological symptoms like anxiety, brain fog, and lack of concentration. All of which make it extremely challenging to focus and get things done. 

You want to get your body out of fight or flight mode and into a state of rest and recovery. This is where your body returns to its normal state and you can function at your best.

To do this you want to do calming activities that allow you to slow down your breathing and give your body the feeling of safety and security.  

Some relaxing activities to try are: 

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices
  • Light exercise, like yoga or a walk in nature
  • Aromatherapy 

4. Create a schedule

It’s very easy to get off task and go down a rabbit hole of social media scrolling or news binging. Creating a schedule for how you want to structure your day is a useful way to avoid this and increase productivity. 

This is a strategy that I started using weeks ago and has proven very effective at keeping me focused and on task, especially right now where there are so many things taking up my attention. 

I use Google Calendar to time block my days. That is, writing down when and for how long I’m going to work on each task for the day. I include my work tasks, meals, and other activities I want to do that day.  

You can do this on any calendar app, a planner, or a blank sheet of paper. The important part is to make it realistic, something that you can stick to. And don’t forget to schedule your breaks throughout the day. Downtime is just as important as work time. 

Having my tasks written down helps trick my mind into staying on schedule and getting more done. Of course, it’s not always perfect, and sometimes I get off track. But I’ve found that reminding myself of what I want to do and designating time to do it, helps me actually get it done. 

5. Go easy on yourself

Beating yourself up about not getting enough done or being distracted or not measuring up to your usual standards isn’t productive. Things that are going on around you, in your own life, in your community, country or the world do have an effect on you. You’re not a robot. Things that you see and experience impact you. And it’s unreasonable to expect things to go right back to normal right away.

Remember everyone’s different. Different things affect different people in different ways. Comparing yourself and your level of productivity to someone else is also counterproductive. It doesn’t get you any closer to checking off your to-do list or achieving your goals. 

Be patient and gentle with yourself. The more you push and force yourself to be productive the more likely you are to feel burnt out and the less you’re likely to get accomplished. 

Productivity is important because we all have a unique job to do in this world, no matter what industry you’re in. However, creating a balance of work and downtime that allows you to process all the thoughts and emotions that may arise is essential. These tips have helped me find a healthy balance of staying informed, prioritizing my mental health, and getting work done. And I know they will help you too!

If you’re interested in learning more about managing stressful situations and remaining productive this is something that I work with clients on one-on-one. I would love to discuss a plan for you in a Stress Less Strategy Session. Book your free call here.

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Quin Lazen June 12, 2020 - 10:49 am

This is super helpful! And timely!!!! Thank you!

Auriel June 19, 2020 - 9:37 am

You’re welcome! So glad you found it helpful!!

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