In many ways, this is a scary time. Being a speaker and trainer, thankfully some of my work has gone virtual. But much of it has been canceled or “postponed until further notice.” I know you’re facing your own challenges, and so I thought I’d share some ways I’m coping, and some ways I might be able to help. Now is the time to be productive.
I have found that action is the antidote to fear. I can’t control when the world gets back to normal, but I can control how I handle the uncertainty. I’m making plans, taking action, and focusing more than ever before on being productive. We know there is always more to do than time to do it, but now we have time. Even if your work is busier than normal, you probably have time you used to spend commuting. (If you have less downtime because you are on the front lines of this, THANK YOU, and please remember to put yourself first.)
“Someday” is Now!
On Scott Galloway’s great blog this week, he said:
“Aim to be the daughter, boss, manager, dad, government employee who is action-oriented, organized, and disciplined during this crisis. You’ll be one of the people, calm under pressure, whose actions helped beat back this American generation’s biggest test.”
A workflow management system (like Empowered Productivity) is what you need to organize and prioritize your action, help you be disciplined, and act rationally and with forethought, instead of impulsively out of fear. Now is a good time to learn a workflow management system. Get started for free with a collection of articles here, or get a free chapter of my book Personal Productivity Secrets, which details my Empowered Productivity System for being productive.
If you’re already using my Empowered Productivity System, now is the time to review your “Future” and “Someday/Maybe” lists and tackle those things you’ve been putting off, personal or professional. What have you been wanting to learn? There is so much online learning available now, both paid and free.
Ways to Be Productive in Your Personal Life
On the personal front, engaging in a hobby is a good way to keep your mind busy, manage your attention, and help you be productive (leisure activities are good for creativity and innovation!). My husband and I are learning to play chess. I just spoke with a friend who is learning to play the guitar. Still another is spending time on the calming activity of zentangles. An expert on Harvard Business Review recently shared that reading fiction can provide even more benefits than reading non-fiction. I was excited about that news because I LOVE to read fiction but always felt a little guilty that I wasn’t reading something I thought was more educational. Did you know that you can get audiobooks and e-books for free through a library app? If you don’t have a library card, you may be able to get one online.
What’s been on your list or your mind?
If you’ve ever considered starting a gratitude journal, now would be a great time. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just start or end (or both!) every day by writing down three good things about that day. They don’t have to be big things. Taking a walk in the middle of the work day, reconnecting with an old friend, appreciating a particular aspect of your physical well-being—acknowledging the good things will change your perspective, and flipping back through the journal later always improves my mood. Expressing gratitude is likely to make you happier, and happier people are more likely to be productive.
Ways to Be Productive in Your Family Life
If you have kids and everyone is home, don’t think about how you’re all going to drive each other crazy. 😉Instead, think about how you can use this time to reconnect and strengthen your family bond. If you’ve been on the journey of attention management with me, you may have started to become more aware of your emotions. When you feel yourself starting to get annoyed, take a few deep breaths, smile (it changes your mood!), and respond thoughtfully instead of reacting habitually.
Also, now is a great time to work on (and teach your children about) being in the present and maintaining perspective. If we keep our thoughts in the present, there is rarely a problem. Anxiety comes from creating future problems—imagining bad things that could happen. Try to control your attention and live in the moment. A visual cue—like a sign on your mirror or a temporary tattoo—can help you do that.
Ways to Be Productive in Your Professional Life
For your career, now is a great time to tackle those important projects that you never seem to have time for otherwise. I’m sure you have projects that will really move the needle for you once things start to recover. Now is the time! Turn your attention to what you can do, instead of what you can’t. Maybe start that side hustle you’ve been thinking about instead of incessantly refreshing the news. If you’re on Facebook and other social media, assess whether it makes you feel better, or worse, and make changes accordingly. (Here’s an article to help you do that.) Too much idle time can derail your plans. Now is the time for being productive!
I’d Love to Help
If you are a leader and are managing a newly remote team, I am working on some articles with advice and support that I will probably send to HBR or Forbes, in addition to posting here. In the meantime, feel free to email me at mt(at)maurathomas(dot)com and brief me on your situation. We can make plans for a short (complimentary) call where I will freely share my best information for your specific situation. I would welcome the opportunity to be a resource to you during these times of change, and you’d be doing me a favor—helping others helps us.
Even if you don’t need help, email me or add a comment below and let me know how you’re doing, what’s happening in your world, or what you’re tackling that you haven’t had time for until now. I would love to connect and hear how you’re being productive in these challenging times.
Check back for more resources as they become available, or sign up on the right to get notified in your inbox. In the meantime, stay safe and well, and “keep calm and carry on.”
Great advice, Maura. In the “productive” and “hobby” category, I’ve been doing some gardening. I was doing a little of this, a little of that, until I remembered your advice to focus.
I decided to carve out a space, approximately two feet by two feet, and just work on that until it was done. The results are amazing! And I feel productive when I see the results.
Thank you for your great suggestions, Maura!
I’m so glad you found the information useful, Leslie! Thanks for reading and commenting!
I missed this the first time around. Glad a little birdie sent it to me to make sure i read it this time!