Productivity during the apocalypse

Hello, I hope this blog post finds you well.

Just kidding. It’s hard to be “well” in the middle of… everything that is the year 2020. Pandemic, politics, protests, wildfires, heatwaves, floods, economic uncertainty, and everything else that makes our lives harder. As if our normal everyday lives aren’t hard enough!

Most of us aren’t at our best right now. The future is uncertain and it’s hard to make plans or even rely on things working as they have been for the past 10? 20? 30? years. There are external factors which we have no influence on that affect us and our lives. And if there’s one thing that gets people stressed, it’s not being in control of their lives. Our routines got disrupted, everyday things (like school, childcare or even just shopping for groceries) now take more effort and planning. All of this leads to more anxiety and depression.

But even with all that, you still have to pay bills and put food on the table. Even if you’re financially independent, you probably don’t want to just lie in your bed all day hooked up to a catheter and bedpan. Whatever your life looks like right now, you probably have some tasks to take care of, even if they’re as trivial as “order food delivery” or “get more toilet paper”. What can you do to be (reasonably) productive in 2020?

First of all, dial it back. Waaay back. This is not the time for big projects, detailed step-by-step plans, or overambitious to-do lists. With all the stress in your life as it is, do you really need extra stress coming from unfinished tasks and stalled projects? * Have empathy for yourself and don’t try to whip yourself into shape. Fear might be a strong motivator, but it doesn’t work in the long term.

Determine your baseline – the minimum you have to do to get through the day. Is it just “take a shower and brush teeth”? That’s good enough. Is the shower optional? Ok, fair enough. Don’t put “shoulds” and “coulds” on this list! There’s a time and place for all the “I should do this” and “I could do that”, but this is not it. This is the “needs and musts” list. Like “must work to get a paycheck” or “need to get out of bed sometimes”. Decide what’s your minimum and try to consistently reach it.

After you’ve been successfully reaching your baseline for some time, you can think about expanding your to-do list. Do you have enough time and space in your life for extras? Do you have enough energy? Are you in a good enough space mentally? If so, go ahead and tackle some additional projects.

When you do decide on your next goals and projects, try to make them flexible and don’t get too hung up on them. You can’t be sure what will happen, and if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that our lives can change quickly and quite unexpectedly. If you had a goal of traveling all over the world during March/April 2020, there would be nothing you could do, no amount of working hard or trying, that would make that goal come true. Don’t criticize or punish yourself because something you had no control over prevented you from achieving your goals.

Take into account the changes in everyday life and extra energy you need to expend on just living. You don’t just hop into the store these days; you have to find your mask, wear it, keep your distance from other shoppers, etc. Or maybe you don’t go to the store at all and have to figure out delivery or pickup options. There might be additional challenges you have to work around. If gyms are closed or don’t allow as many people in, it might be hard to achieve your gym-related goals.

Considering all this, and considering the things that 2020 keeps throwing at us, please take extra care of your mental and physical health. Skip the news, limit social media, get enough sleep, eat well, move your body, keep in touch with other humans, and do something you enjoy. You know it’s good for you.

Be kind not just to others, but to yourself too.

*But on the other hand, if there’s anything in your life that stresses you out and you wish to change, now is a good time. Take a good look at your life and think about what can be changed, especially in the current situation. If you have an awful commute, maybe you can negotiate working from home indefinitely and move to a more convenient location? If you’re spending too much money on food delivery, maybe now you can start cooking at home more often?

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