What does it take to stay productive during difficult times?
These experts shared their insights about what they have done during COVID-19 and what works during any troubling scenario. They also addressed the new reality of what it means to be working from home.
1. Fill up your calendar
“Believe it or not, the recipe to maximize productivity while avoiding burnout is to fill every opening in your calendar. Fill it by prioritizing positive business results and deadlines, while balancing mental health and wellbeing. Color-code blocks of the day when you’re most detail-oriented and productive (for heads-down work), when you’re most social (for meetings), and time to learn something new (for reading and podcasts).” – Kristen Fulmer, CEO & Founder, Recipric
2. Create the opportunity for unstructured communication
“One thing that I noticed was really affecting my team’s productivity and creativity after we made the move to work from home, was the absence of ‘watering hole banter’ or desk discussions that often led to great ideas. So we’re trying to enable more intentional communication that is unstructured to help frame and promote those same kinds of conversations. These discussions are scheduled, but don’t have an agenda so employees are free to chat about anything and I’m pleased with the positive effect it’s had on both productivity and our team culture.” – David Torgerson, Senior Director of Engineering, Lucid
3. Make uncertainty less of a distraction
“Now that some of the dust has settled from an unimaginably turbulent first half the year and people are semi-settled into working from home, the best thing that companies can do to keep teams motivated and engaged is to provide as much certainty as they can in a massively uncertain world. We’ve collectively descended Maslow’s hierarchy down to safety and security being the number one priorities in most people’s lives. Think through how your company can create as much of that for your people as possible.” – Shane Metcalf, Chief Culture Officer and co-founder 15Five
4. Aim for progress
“My experience as a professional athlete has taught me that discipline is the most important component when looking to accomplish anything in life. We are all going through very difficult and stressful times, and it’s easy to lose focus and motivation. But this is the perfect time to learn about resilience. Stop aiming for perfection and aim for progress.” – Rodrigo Garduño, founder of 54D
5. Minimize distractions
“The key to maintaining productivity during lockdowns is minimizing different types of distractions. These include interruptions from others and interruptions from being tempted to perform non-work-related tasks, including laundry or watching a movie. You reduce these interruptions by compartmentalizing work on both a schedule and a physical or mental perspective.” – Thibaud Clement, CEO and co-founder, Loomly.
6. Reflect on where your time is spent
“To combat the feeling of each day blending into the next during the recent stay at home order, I started logging my day in greater detail using the Bullet Journal’s rapid logging method. This provided some extra awareness throughout the day of how I was spending my time and what I accomplished, while also helping me to focus on the task at hand. I also purchased an inexpensive timer to sit next to my computer, and use this as a visual reminder to continue focusing on a particular task—and ignore those pesky Slack and Outlook notifications—for a set amount of time.” – Liz Cies is Vice President of PR at Idea Grove, a B2B tech PR and marketing agency
7. Organize your communications
“My favorite email app is Gmail as It allows me to easily access and manage my emails from anywhere. As part of a global virtual team one of the ways we’ve conquered emails over the years is to move a lot of our day to day conversations to the Slack app and all our work task communications to the Trello App. This reduces the numbers of emails we receive each day considerably!” – Dr. Michelle McQuaid, Founder of The Wellbeing Lab
8. Start the day well (with your email)
“I don’t believe in the common theory that we should not do email first thing in the work day. It’s true some of our most important opportunities arrive in our email inbox. Not only that, what comes into our email inbox overnight can often affect what we do the next day, so in my view it’s vital to look at email first thing.” – Siimon Reynolds, author of WIN FAST
9. Create a schedule for checking email
“The reason email overwhelms us is because we let it run us and not the other way around. Your inbox is not your to-do list. If you’re tempted to check your email every few minutes I recommend turning it off. – Paula Rizzo, Media Consultant, Author, Speaker
10. Stay focused on the goal
“Productivity is ten times more important during Covid, because we have ten times more freedom working at home. Which means ten times the temptations to be lazy and ineffective. It’s vital we not just discipline our actions, we also need to discipline our thoughts.” – Siimon Reynolds, author of WIN FAST
11. Start with the most impactful task
“Don’t overwhelm your to-do list. So often people put way too many things on their to do list and set themselves up for failure. Instead choose the one task that will make the biggest impact on your life right now and chop that up into smaller pieces.” – Paula Rizzo, Media Consultant, Author, Speaker