I understand what you are going through. The country, even the world, is in a state of distraction right now focusing on combating this virus, flattening the curve, keeping our families and communities safe, all while trying to stay productive in our businesses and careers. It’s not easy.
I know it’s not the same, but it reminds me of 9-11; when the whole world stopped, especially for me. My father worked at the World Trade Center and never came home. I was only 25 years old and a fourth year doctoral student in clinical psychology. Our trimester had just begun. I was in my last year of classes, applying for highly competitive internships and writing my dissertation. For a moment I thought, “I might not graduate on time.”
But then I knew that wasn’t who I was and that wasn’t what my father would want. That does not mean that I did not grieve, believe me, I had never known grief like that. And frankly, it was hard to share my grief with the entire world and see it on the news every day, as I am sure those who have been personally affected by the Coronavirus are feeling now. My heart goes out to them in an all too familiar way. While we sit at home and long for our freedom, they are grieving in a public way.
And they need us. We who are the business owners, corporate leaders and backbone of our economy have a responsibility to them right now to be doing all that we can to keep things moving forward, so that they can rest and be at home with their families.
One of the things that I remember so clearly from 9-11 was how we came together as a nation. How others supported me and took up the slack for what I could not do in my time of grief, but allowed me to do what I could. The economy was threatened then too, but we survived and came out stronger. We can do that again; but we, the leaders, have to stay focused and keep moving forward.
It is not despite the state of the world right now, but because of it that those of us who are blessed to have not been personally affected need to do our part. And that part is keeping the economy (and life as we know it) going– by working our businesses, our companies and our careers. It is actually our duty to do so.
But you might be wondering how, with all the noise out there. So, I’m going to share some of the strategies that I employed both during 9-11 and now to keep on going. Back then it allowed me to graduate on time, apply to more than a dozen internships and be the first in my class to complete her dissertation. Today, it allows me to run a business from home being of high service to others, even with my kids in the house. As my mom always said, “want to know how to get something done, ask a busy person.”
10 Ways to Beat Distraction and Stay Productive in Uncertain Times
- Limit your intake of news to trusted sources, such as the CDC and the WHO.
- Limit the amount of time you spend engaging with the news. Decide what time of day you are going to check the news, 1-3 times maximum and decide how much time, such as 15 minutes. So perhaps you check the news for 15 minutes in the morning and the evening. That’s it, no more. And put it in your schedule.
- Limit your time on social media. Create a schedule of what times you will check it and for how long so you don’t find yourself lost in scrolling. This is important to do for productivity all the time, not just now.
- Write down your goals. At the beginning of the day or the night before, sit down and write down your goals for the day. Be specific: what must get accomplished, what would be a bonus and break them down into your action steps for the day. Keep the list next to you and visible. Often we keep our lists in our head. It is important to write it down, get it out of your head and see it. Your brain responds differently when you do this and it will help you stay on track.
- Do what you can. If you are struggling with anxiety, stress, fear, during this time. Do the next right thing. For example, during 9-11, I could not read a text book. Something about that act was not engaging enough, I could not focus and my mind would go to the darkside. But what I could do was write my letters to internship sites and put together my applications. This was engaging and novel enough that it engaged and absorbed my brain and I could focus on it without distraction. Find what does that for you. Create a list of activities that you can do when you are in a more stressed state and which activities you can do when you are feeling better. Keep the list on your work desk to remind you when you feel like you can’t think straight.
- Take a break. When you find yourself off track, losing focus, reading the same line 20 times or scrolling endlessly, take a break. Short breaks throughout the day will help you reset your brain and your nervous system. Think of it as hitting the refresh button on your computer. Take a 15 minute walk outside to get some fresh air and reset before going back to work.
- Have strong boundaries. Keep to your schedule. If you have kids at home, talk to your partner about how you are going to split up the day, if the kids are young. If the kids are older, explain your work schedule to them and when you will and will not be available. Take a lunch break with the kids or even schedule in brief breaks to check in on them, but keep to a schedule and know when it is time for work and when it is time for family. That also means having a quitting time and not working all day. It is easy for the lines to blur when you work at home. You have to create the boundaries and stick to them. Your work needs you and your family needs you. Each should have its own separate time.
- Keep it clean and neat. Create a clean, neat workspace in your home that limits visual and audible distractions. Clutter is distracting and will take energy away from your work. Keep your space clean, neat and organized and watch your focus and productivity climb.
- Dress for the job. Dress each day as if you are going to the office. You will be more productive and focused. It tells your brain what you are about to do and gets your brain ready to work. Your brain has been conditioned for what happens when you are dressed for work and it will go into work mode. This is more important than you think.
- Return to your why. When you feel distracted and lack the focus to stay productive pause for a moment and tune into your why. Your why may be taking care of your family, moving your business forward, helping your company reach a goal, getting a promotion, demonstrating leadership during uncertain times or even the broader goal of keeping our economy going. Many people are worried about the economy right now and while there is a lot outside of our control right now, there is also plenty still within our control. Your productivity, your focus, your ability to work, to sell, to create, is all within your control. This is one of the best ways you can show up for yourself, your families and your country. This is a place of personal power and control. Embrace it. Lean into it right now. Let it be a source of comfort and courage. Tap into that right now and go out there and do your work.
Please remember, you are the hope that people need right now that the world is going to return to normal and that we as a country can come out even stronger on the other side. If you need help right now showing up as the leader that you are called to be, managing your stress and anxiety and staying focused on your mission, please contact me. I am uniquely qualified to help in these situations and it is my joy and duty to do so.