With the number of COVID-19 cases growing exponentially and many countries having lockdown, most of us are adhering to working from home. As the world fights a relentless battle against the pandemic, each of us is facing our own daily struggles. With the line between professional and personal spaces clouding, many of us are finding it increasingly difficult to manage deadlines with homeschooling, online lectures with household chores, and writing papers with attending to pets and so much more.
Having no physical office space to go to, no face-to-face meetings, no coffee breaks with the team, no animated discussions about a new project, the typical workday looks rather bleak, and for many, productivity is dropping to an all-time low. Naturally, we may not be able to make adequate progress on our current project. But this does not mean we cannot use our time productively.
Quarantine/homestay/isolation are unpleasant realities of our lives. Having all that free time is indeed very exciting initially but will eventually turn overwhelming. It is imperative to use this time wisely instead of just wallowing away.
Here are some tips on how you can be productive at the moment due to lockdown:
Keep yourself updated
Remember all those articles that you’ve bookmarked but have never read? Or those abstracts which you read in a hurry, meaning to get back to reading the full article when you will have more time? Now is the time to revisit your bookmarks or your reference manager, and get some serious reading done. Give yourself a break from reading COVID-19 news and rather keep yourself updated on literature from your field. Now it would also be the best time to keep track of what is going on in the world by staying up to date with industry news and trends.
Attend virtual events
It is often difficult for researchers to acknowledge any events in their busy schedule. But now you have the right opportunity to attend virtual events such as webinars and workshops that are being conducted by several organizations and universities. You can attend these events from your home without having to worry about travel or logistical aspects such as making arrangements for your travel or worrying about leaving your children behind. Also in addition to webinars directly related to your field, think of learning some around self-care, mental health, career development, and other topics that will prepare you with life skills to give yourself an uplifting change of work.
Revisit that shelved project
Take out that unfinished project, dig up the long-forgotten data you had collected, and try to figure out if you can work on it. A fresh perspective might actually help you come up with innovative ideas. You can check for new published studies on the topic you were working on to see if there is a possibility for your data to build on them. Sometimes a slight change in focus is all it may take to revive an old project.
Learn new skills
Always had doubts about effective and efficient ways to conduct a literature review? Want to enhance your project management skills? Now is the time to invest in improving these skills so that you are able to make progress with your project once the world is back to normal. Online course platforms like Coursera, edX, Udacity, Udemy, etc. offer a plethora of courses that you can choose from different sites based upon your choice. Some of these courses are affiliated to universities and these might be certified courses that you can include in your CV. What is more, some online course platforms are offering free or discounted courses during the pandemic crisis.
Focus on writing
When you are in your office or taking classes at the university, it is difficult to find time for focused writing. If you’re a student, this is a good time to dedicate a few hours to writing every week. For those who are working, this could be a good time to draft a new proposal or complete your project. Block larger chunks of time during early mornings or late evenings when the rest of the house is sleeping or busy watching television.
With social distancing, people are spending more time on social media platforms. Take advantage of this opportunity to build – up your network. Try to make your social media presence stronger. Everybody is now talking about the COVID-19 crisis and sharing the challenges they’re facing, so one should join the conversations right now and make yourself known. You can also reach out to potential collaborators on social media or even email. Since everybody is working from home and missing having people around, they would be more open to engaging in conversations online.
All said and done, don’t feel too pressured to be productive. As Fay Lin, a mental health advocate, said in a recent tweet: “It is ok to struggle with productivity, mourn the experiences that were cancelled due to social distancing, and feel anxious about the uncertainty.” Use this time to take a break and hit the reset button on your life. Long hours, late nights, failed experiments, missed deadlines, working weekends, little time for family and friends: your life has possibly revolved around these since the time you started your career. Now that you have plenty of time, why not take it easy for a bit? Take rest, take time out for yourself, consciously practice self-care, enjoy a candlelight dinner with your spouse or playtime with the kids, have video calls with your friends, and use this time to recharge and rejuvenate yourself.
For each one of us, ‘productivity’ may mean something different. Someone else’s idea of productivity may not be the same as yours therefore, it is best to find out where your productivity lies. It can be something as simple as watching a movie or listening to some songs. Productivity cannot be limited to something colossal. It can be the simplest of things that give you the grandest of smiles. One of the most important things is to stay positive at all times. Positivity is something that will get us through this rough patch in our lives. Productivity will follow thereafter.
It’s an incredibly turbulent time for most of us. Take care of yourself and others, and remember to wash your hands!
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