If you’re finding it hard to stay productive during the lockdown, you can take heart in the fact that most of the world is feeling the same. People who thought they’d be spending the lockdown learning, reading, stitching, creating and bettering themselves are finding they have barely the energy required to get through the day.
We’ve gone into the reasons for this, in this slot — anxiety, stress, lack of stimulation, unbroken routines, or overstimulation from overuse of screens, and the impact of all this on sleep cycles, are among the primary reasons.
“We’re experiencing mental fatigue because we’re constantly worrying about the pandemic or mindlessly scrolling through social media,” says clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany. “We end up feeling guilty for having ‘wasted’ the day and that causes demotivation that in turn interferes with our ability to stay productive. So it can be a vicious cycle.”
There are ways to break out of this cycle. Here are a few things you could do to self-motivate and enjoy more a productive day.
Rephrase problems as goals: Instead of focusing on what you’re unable to do, clearly state what you would like to accomplish. So, instead of saying “I’m unable to read”, try “I want to spend some time reading today”. It can be the beginning in the break of a block that has formed in your mind. Verbalising turns a neglected to-do into a positive goal, and that can do more to drive you to doing rather than avoiding it.
Embrace fractional productivity: We tend to measure productivity in a binary fashion — we’re either doing a task and therefore ‘productive’, or not doing a task and therefore ‘failing’ at the day. Gangotri Naik, 31, a sales operations manager from Bengaluru, says she began to feel more motivated to stick to her goals during the lockdown after she began viewing productivity along a spectrum. “If I’m 30% productive, I acknowledge I’ve been 30% productive, instead of saying ‘I was unproductive today’. This motivates me to get at least a few things done each day, and it’s helping me do more now than I was managing to do before.”
Reward yourself: It helps to give yourself a treat as soon as you complete a task that you’ve been putting off. Say, you do the dusting you’d been putting off, or get to work on a long-pending project, then after an hour of work or once the task is done, give yourself some time online, or a packet of biscuits, or an ice-cream.
That’s what Yash Nagpal, 27 a customer service manager in Mumbai, has been doing during the lockdown. “I work almost non-stop for five or six hours a day — either at my job, or doing tasks in the home, or attending online classes as part of my upskilling agenda,” he says. “I don’t allow myself to cheat during this time. But after the six hours are over, I indulge in things I like, whether it’s binge-watching a series or texting friends or cooking and eating a great meal.”
Revisit your targets: Start small and set a timeframe. Weekly goals can feel more achievable than ones with no defined timeframe. “It’s also important to be okay with inconsistency,” says Hingorrany. “So if you default on your diet or exercise plan for one day, don’t give up your goal entirely. Just bounce back the next day.”
Run gratitude reality-checks: “To give yourself a mood boost in these strange times, it can help to spend each morning listing at least five things you’re grateful for, adding new items to the list each day,” says clinical psychologist and therapist Husna Vanjara. “End the day by thinking about the best thing you did, felt or experienced, whether it was trying out a new recipe, completing a doodle, helping a neighbour or making a journal entry. This will give you something to feel positive about, and look forward to, every day.”