One silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic is that it has forced us to acknowledge that we must care for our well-being in order to unlock our full potential. In fact, for many people, the coronavirus health crisis ushered in a much-needed opportunity to slow down, reevaluate our relationship with time, and reassess how we define productivity.
Now, as we begin to move toward our “next normal,” we are more aware than ever that burnout is not the price we must pay for success. In fact, habits like sleep, nutrition, movement, and connection are critical for staying focused and working efficiently.
We asked our Thrive community to share the ways they’re redefining productivity. Which of these will you start implementing?
Focusing on quality over quantity
“I hope that we all focus more on quality versus quantity — on the quality of our interactions with colleagues and clients, on the quality of time spent on projects, and on priorities that contribute to meaningful change. Rather than tracking quantitative progress, let’s make sure that the goals we set truly focus on making a meaningful impact, both in the short term and long term.”
—Marta Chavent, change and management consultant, France
Setting clear boundaries
“I’m redefining productivity in our next normal by setting better boundaries in all areas of my life. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that the only way to make the most of my time is to set boundaries and stick to them. I’m setting boundaries with my workday by logging off on time to prevent overworking. Additionally, I’ve learned that boundaries around our time have a place in our personal lives, too. If you only set boundaries at work, you might do yourself a disservice when it comes to feeling productive outside of work. Setting better boundaries in all areas of my life will help me achieve both my professional and personal goals.”
—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO
Being realistic about deadlines
“Having a six-year-old at home while managing projects, Zoom meetings, homeschooling and our son’s virtual activities like martial arts and soccer, I’ve started to ask myself and others, ‘When is the true deadline?’ Initially, a client may say Monday, when they really need it by Thursday. If that’s the case, I’ve bought myself three days to prioritize what’s necessary. I’m also mindful of the true deadlines of my own activities. I ask, ‘Do I really need to get that done today or do I want to just get it done?’”
—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
Avoiding short-term thinking
“We all want to get things done and do our work efficiently, but in moments of crisis and high uncertainty, it’s normal for focus to fall apart. We are forced to step back and look at productivity over the long term. We need to start acknowledging that if a certain task needs to get done, right now we may need to focus on getting ourselves through this moment first, and that the realistic timeframe is later. Instead of only thinking in the short-term, I’ve found it helpful to approach my work from the perspective of, How can I continue to do this, and do it well, for another 20+ years?’”
—Kristin Jekielek, founder of Resilient Productivity, Philadelphia, PA
Letting go of “not enough-ness”
“To feel productive before the pandemic, it was easy to be satisfied with the number of to-dos I tackled each day — how many articles were written, how many emails answered, how many tasks checked off the list. It was also easy to fall prey to the voice whispering, ‘You’re not doing enough.’ Now, I consider the outcomes of my actions and ask whether or not they made the world a more caring and just place. If not, I take them off the list.”
—Diane Gillespie, emerita professor, Seattle, WA
Replacing our “doing” with “being”
“Before Covid-19, I was caught up in doing, doing, doing, versus just being. There’s incredible value and perspective in being present, being engaged, being open, and being thoughtful. These past few months have been a great teacher. I am so much more aware of the importance of being a student of life.”
—Nicki Anderson, program director at Benedictine University, Lisle, IL
“In the past, I always felt unproductive if I was spending time on anything that didn’t directly help me progress in my career. During the pandemic, I have been able to slow down, spend time with family, read books, sit at the beach, journal, and meditate. I have realized that performing these activities, instead of constantly pushing myself to do more work, has made me much happier and less stressed. I am even kinder and more generous toward others! I now realize that self-care is productive. In order to be there for others, we must take care of ourselves!”
—Brie LaPrell, accountant, Buffalo, NY
Focusing on small tasks
“Moving forward, I will define productivity with more sensitivity, and with more realistic goals. For me, that means not waiting until my plan for execution is perfect, and not tackling a huge task all at once. Productivity instead will mean tackling the many tasks on my list in increments of 15-20 minutes. During this time, I’ve learned that tackling tasks with that approach feels more tangible and less overwhelming.”
—Cecilia Grey, client liaison and content creator, Santa Barbara, CA
Rethinking the traditional workday
“In the ‘next normal,’ I believe we will see the nature of work change to provide more flexibility regarding work schedules and locations. You work best from home? Great. Prefer to be in the office? Great. You need to work from 4:00 am to 12:00 pm for childcare reasons? Great. With being able to customize our boundaries, we’ll be so much more productive, both at work and in our personal lives.”
—Kelli Adams, executive coach, OK
Scheduling more breaks into the day
“From now on, being productive in the era of the new normal means giving my body time to breathe and rest throughout the day. I find that I’m more productive when I schedule ten minutes in my calendar to slow down — whether that means breathing, quieting my mind, or moving my body.”
—Lee-Anne Wine, therapist, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Doing what feels meaningful
“Productivity has come to mean doing more of what matters in all facets of life, and doing less of the rest. Because this is a highly personal consideration, we need to become masters of our own productivity. Everyone needs to explore their personal definition of success and become empowered to prioritize what is most important to their happiness. This means we need to start letting go of other people’s ‘shoulds,’ making sometimes hard choices, and learning to say no. It also means recognizing that output should be measured not in hours spent, but in the quality of the results achieved and the happiness generated.”
—Becky Morrison, executive coach, Ashburn, VA
Implementing a supportive culture
“For a long time, productivity and success have been measured simply on showing up and acting busy. As we pivot to the new normal and employers question how employees can stay focused and engaged, we need to rethink our work-life boundaries and how they’re evolving. We must look at ways to strengthen our cultures and prioritize quality in our interactions over quantity. Human connection and community building is all about creating an experience that fosters trust and confidence. By embracing diverse teams and creating safe spaces for collaboration and innovation, we can create cultures that are more connected and productive than ever before.”
—Nim Sivakumaran, B2B community and eco-system builder, Asia Pacific
Minimizing unnecessary meetings
“The pandemic has reinforced the idea that I should be declining meetings where I am adding no value. And for the meetings where I am needed, I examine if one of my members can attend as well, which will help the person to grow.”
—Mitadru Dey, financial services executive, New York, NY
Rethinking leadership tactics
“Covid-19 forced a massive shift in how the world works, one that was probably coming but not at the speed we’ve experienced. Not everyone was ready for the shift to remote work. If you’re running a company or managing a team under the new normal, you need a blend of nuanced management styles to support your teams’ productivity. For us, that means measuring objective data points, while retaining a very human-centric approach, and allowing for periods of grace, mental adjustments, and natural flux.”
—Howard Moodycliffe, CEO of SaaS business, timetoreply, Cape Town, South Africa
Keeping top priorities top of mind
“For me, productivity means working with my priorities in mind. My family, my mental health, my sleep, and all of the things I have become even more grateful for during this time, are now my main focus. To ensure I don’t slip back into old patterns, before accepting work or starting a task, I vow to look to my ‘Post-it Priorities’ that are stuck on my wall, and evaluate if and how saying ‘yes’ would fit in with them.”
—Roxy Rhodes, life and business coach, Sheffield, U.K.
How do you plan on redefining productivity differently in our next normal? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
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