Have you noticed that your productivity has decreased in the last couple of months? If so, you’re not alone, not in the slightest!
I’m usually someone who adapts to change quickly. I even like it, because it makes me feel like I’m moving forward — so I was a little surprised to notice how much I have been struggling with productivity and the feeling that I “should” be doing more.
Besides the obvious grief over loss of lifestyle (it’s not likely that we’ll return to a pre-COVID lifestyle anytime soon) and the underlying stress we’re all under, there is a feeling of “stuck-ness” that my clients have been talking about, and I can relate.
It turns out that a good majority of folks are feeling somewhat or very unproductive. (It is worth mentioning that there is a smaller group of people, about 25%, who are actually thriving. They love working from home and being with their families. For them, this shift toward working from home has been great. I wish I knew their secret.)
In any case, there is some good news and some not-so-good news when it comes to the topic of productivity. Since I always like to end on a high note, let’s start by looking at the not-so-good news first.
The Not-So-Good News
My clients are reporting issues like Zoom fatigue, taking hours to complete a task that normally should take minutes, and being more distracted than usual as they juggle work, parenting, family care, and home schooling… on top of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, we may be in this for the long haul. Accepting the truth of our current circumstances and integrating it into our new way of being is another obstacle we must surmount; coming to terms with the notion that the world will be different forever and integrating that awareness into who we are and how we live our lives is a process. It won’t happen overnight.
The Good News
The good news is that this lack of productivity is not your fault! Feeling sluggish, stuck or emotional is completely natural, and I have several tips that may help.
Realize that Your Lack of Productivity is Not Your Fault, and You Are Not Alone
According to a Thrive Global Survey, over 75% of employees feel overwhelmed and significantly less productive due to working from home and pandemic-related distractions.
As a society, our sleep, eating and focus are all suffering, especially as many of us are working longer hours yet making less progress. This can cause us to feel guilty, frustrated and even accuse ourselves of being “lazy”, which is not the case. According to Dr. Amy Arnsten, a Yale professor of neuroscience who has done extensive research on the brain’s stress response, “during periods of ongoing stress and uncertainty, our brains’ prefrontal cortex — which helps us focus, think critically and make decisions — actually shuts down to make way for the more reactive, impulsive parts that protect us in times of danger.” She goes on to say that “this can lead to a vicious cycle of losing focus [and] beating yourself up about it, which makes your prefrontal connections even weaker.”
To counter-act that spiral, Dr. Arnsten suggests reminding yourself that you’re simply dealing with normal neurobiology. Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion.
Redefine What’s Important
Many of us have realized that much of our day-to-day activity in the “old” life really doesn’t matter anymore. Things like health, relationships, walking the dog and spending time with family members rise to the surface as activities that matter much more.
Before you wander down the rabbit hole of feeling “lazy,” take a close look at your work and professional goals. Which of those goals are truly deserving of your time and energy? What REALLY matters now? What could you let go of? It might be different than you initially expect.
Take One Small Step, then Reward Yourself
Once you’ve clarified your goal, set aside time each day to make a little bit of progress toward meeting that goal. Get it done. It’s highly likely that the energy you spend not doing the task is greater than the energy it will take to accomplish the small step!
Once you’ve completed the step, reward yourself. Take a walk outside, water your flowers or make a healthy lunch instead of opening a bag of chips.
Rethink Your Next Zoom Call
In the early stages of the pandemic, video calls took over and everyone rushed to find ways to continue their normal routines. Now, many of us find ourselves on Zoom calls for hours at a time — with some people sitting in on 8-9 hours of video calls nearly every day.
Zoom fatigue is real, and there are ways to avoid it. If possible, try and shift a two-person meeting away from video conference and do a walking phone call instead. You will feel more refreshed after walking and talking.
If it must be a video call, request an agenda beforehand and check to see if the group really needs you to be present. Perhaps an email recap or watching the recording later could suffice, and save you the exhaustion of being live on the call.
There is no doubt that this is a challenging time for many of us. Please be gentle with yourself if you notice that you’re experiencing more intense emotion or a lack of productivity; it is completely normal.
That said, if you’re a leader who is struggling with this challenge, or if your team is struggling, and you would like to talk, give me a call. I can be reached HERE.
Photo Source: Forbes.com