2020 is certainly a year like no other – and as we learn to navigate these challenging times, most of us will face some of the same hurdles.
Whether you are working from home, working on the front lines, or not working as much as you used to, stress and time management are among the more prominent difficulties we all seem to be facing. So let’s explore how you can improve both and make the most of your days.
Don’t expect yourself to work like you used to
The first mistake we seem to be making while trying to work during the pandemic is expecting ourselves to be as productive (if not even more) than we used to be.
This is simply not going to be possible, and we have to accept that.
While social media may be full of people thriving in self-isolation and using social distancing to their advantage, remember that first of all, not everything you see on social media is true. And second of all, these perfectly productive people are also having a hard time – but may not choose to talk about it online.
Accept that you will have bad days when you don’t want to do anything. When you feel like working, try to do as much as you can. Don’t force yourself too hard or expect the impossible. You will need time to adjust, and you may never succeed in that – all of which is perfectly okay.
See how you really spend your time
A great way to manage both your time and your stress levels is to see how you actually spend your time.
We all have our own calendars, apps, to-do lists, or other ways of tracking what we do, but we fail to learn from these data pools. Take some time to export your Google Calendar to Sheets or Excel, and look at how much time you spend doing different things. After that, take some more time to actually measure how much time you need for certain activities.
You may be allotting more time to meetings or emails than you need to, and you may actually find yourself procrastinating more than you expected. Once you have a clearer image of how your time is being spent, you can start to make the changes you need (if any).
Create a routine and stick to it
We all thrive on having a routine, even if it’s something as simple as coffee and the news in the morning.
If you are now working from home and have lost your morning routine, try to get one back. You don’t have to get fully ready in the morning, but breakfast, a shower, and dressing for work will all help you be more productive and less stressed.
One of the main sources of our stress and perceived lack of time is no longer having a schedule. Simply by establishing working hours, sticking to them, and creating a basic routine around them will not only help you utilize your time better, but also feel much less stressed out.
Notice your sources of stress
The first step to combatting stress is to notice what is causing it.
Excluding the present global health situation you can’t do anything about, what is it that is stressing you out? An aspect of your job, not being able to see your friends, a lack of your usual day-to-day life?
Whatever it is, write all your stressors down, and then try to tackle them to the best of your ability for the time being. True, you won’t be able to solve some of them, but at least knowing you are doing something will be of help.
The one way to deal with stress is to simply tackle it – talking about it and admitting it is a huge first step, but you also need a bit more than that to make a difference.
Remember you should also focus on all the usual suspects of stress management: eating healthy foods, getting some exercise in every day, and sleeping well. Sleep may also be a good way to fend off the coronavirus, so you shouldn’t force yourself to stay up longer than usual.
Do Not Disturb is your friend
Finally, try to let your friends, family, roommates, and anyone who encroaches on your working time know that you are working, that you need your privacy and your space, and kindly ask them to refrain from calling, texting, asking you about your day and challenging you to Words with Friends while you are at work.
You can also set up a Do Not Disturb on your phone and even stick a notice on your door if you need to. And don’t feel bad about requesting some time to do your work, or even just to relax. We all need a bit more alone time than we used to, so just try to get yours whenever and wherever you can.
Finding your own way to manage these present-day stresses and working with the time you have at your disposal will be a very unique and personal thing. Remember that you should be focusing on staying healthy and working to the best of your ability – but don’t expect too much of yourself, as that can easily backfire.