A Guide To Being More Productive In Quarantine

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Throughout this quarantine that we are all experiencing together, I have seen a lot of content stressing the importance of staying healthy and happy during this time, and not feeling pressurised to do anything other than what makes us feel rested and content. For many, this means watching Netflix, catching up on your reading, indulging in your hobbies, and of course, sleeping. While this is perfectly fine, I chose to take a different approach.

I see this situation as a rare opportunity to take control of my own time, and push my productivity further. I no longer have to commute back and forth to work, and working from has allowed me to streamline my process and eliminate distractions. Having said that, my work still averages at around 6-8 hours a day, but I have been using my spare time to get more done. Here are some of the things I’m focusing on right now:

  • Reading more literature
  • Learning Spanish
  • Dancing (after quite some time)
  • Creating more music (originals and covers), typically of three types:
    • Violin pieces
    • Kalimba pieces
    • Vocal pieces
  • Writing three articles a week for this website
  • Exercising

Each of these things requires time and energy, but can be done with the right tools and practices. If you’re interested in being more productive during quarantine, following these practices might help you make the most of your time:

Don’t Be Spontaneous

Spontaneity is often glorified, associated only with positive emotions. But if you’re trying to create new content more efficiently, being spontaneous can be counterproductive. Waiting for inspiration to strike and then creating content doesn’t allow for a lot of consistency, especially since new ideas don’t always present themselves on a schedule.

Instead, always have a plan. Even if you don’t know exactly what content you will be creating, having a calendar in place will help you see what you need to work towards. For example, if I write ‘violin piece’ in my calendar for a certain date, I may not immediately know what piece I will be playing, but I do know when it’s supposed to be posted, which means I can plan backwards and create deadlines for when I should be ready with my idea in time to shoot the video and post it.

For those who follow me on my personal social media platforms, I’ll let you in on a little secret: there is nothing spontaneous about my Instagram feed. I plan my content a month in advance, which then helps me understand how much work I have to get done each day.

Having said that, there are some times when spontaneity is important. If you see a trending topic that you would like to create content around, it is important to be able to think and act quickly. I usually do this on my Instagram stories.

Still, it’s good to have a solid plan to fall back to, so that you’re not too dependent on daily trends for your content.

A glimpse at an old content calendar. It's ok for a plan to change, as long as you stick to it
A glimpse at an old content calendar. It's ok for a plan to change, as long as you stick to it

Make To-Do Lists

A daily to-do list is a great way to keep track of what needs to be done, as well estimate how much time each task will take. If you want to take this a step further, write down your tasks in the order that you plan to execute them. Naturally, this order may change, especially with your professional work, but it’s still a good guideline to have.

I use a daily planner
I use a daily planner

Reward Yourself

Finished all the tasks in your list for the day? Give yourself a treat. This can be an extra hour on Netflix, a nap, or anything else that helps you relax. I have found that rewards like these make completing a day’s work even more satisfying, and leave me feeling motivated to continue being productive.

Take Breaks

It is very important to regularly take small mental breaks to refresh your concentration. Breaks can also be highly productive. For example, even taking a couple of minutes to stand up and stretch between tasks can drastically help your back muscles. Another great thing to do is switch to an activity that you enjoy doing, which is also improving your daily output (ex: take a ten minute break between tasks to read, draw, sing, etc.). Switching between different kinds of activities will involve using different parts of your brain, which helps prevent mental fatigue. Here are some things I do in my breaks:

  • Stretch
  • Read (10 pages per break, and I stop at 50 pages a day so that I have time to complete everything else on my list)
  • Practice my Spanish
  • Work on my music

During my larger breaks (I take a 30 minute break for breakfast, lunch and dinner) I allow myself to relax a little, and usually watch Netflix.

Take a Day Off

Every week, I save one day for which there is absolutely nothing planned. My day off is extremely important for maintaining mental stamina and not feeling overwhelmed. Having that day/evening off to look forward to motivates me to finish all my work beforehand, so that I can enjoy my free time without any guilt. On my time off, I do whatever I want – usually lounging around eating snacks and watching films.

Find Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

Sometimes, in spite of good planning and efficiency, we can feel overwhelmed. This happens to me every once in a while. When this happens, how you handle yourself will determine how quickly you can get back in action.

When you feel anxious or stressed, taking a mental break is important; but it is also important to limit that break. If you stretch your mental break for too long, it becomes incredibly easy to slip into laziness, which will completely destroy your productivity.

Find a set of activities that allow you to reduce your mental stress, and use them whenever needed. Try to find activities that leave you feeling happy and refreshed (as opposed to tired) – this will help you get back to your regular schedule much faster.

 

With this framework in mind, here’s what my day typically looks like:

  • 8.00-8.30am breakfast
  • 8.30-9.30am read and practice Spanish
  • 9.30-10.00am take stock of yesterday’s work (professional) and understand my tasks for the day
  • 10.00am-1.00pm work (professional)
  • 1.00-1.30pm lunch, watch Netflix
  • 1.30-2.00pm practice violin
  • 2.00-3.00pm create/plan content
  • 3.00-8.00pm work (professional)
  • 8.00-9.00pm exercise, bath and dinner
  • 9.00pm-12.00am work on content/articles

If I need more time to work on my personal content, I wake up a little earlier in the morning.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how you want to spend your time.  If you would like some more help in boosting your productivity, I highly recommend reading How To Be A Bawse, by Lilly Singh. Through this book, you will learn about more ways to get the most out of your day, in addition to valuable insights from Lilly Singh’s personal journey.

And if instead, you prefer spending your quarantine resting, I doubt you would have read this article anyway, which is absolutely fine as well.

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