Our generation was hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of us lost jobs, some were furloughed, and some had to leave after being treated poorly by their companies during the pandemic. Not everyone has a choice, but all of us are similar in one sense: we’re all navigating a crisis our parents have never seen in their lifetime.
Mentally I am here
If you’re like me, and you’re trying to pick yourself up after months of depression and anxiety, you’ll know how functioning properly at work can be difficult.
I’ve been trying hard to manage my emotions in the past five months to keep myself sane and productive. Here are some tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Keep your workspace organized
Whether you’re back at your office or still working from home, it’s important to keep your area clean and clutter-free. I think that overstimulation is hurting our productivity, and we should try our best to keep the distraction to a minimum.
Typically, I have my phone, my iPad, and my smartwatch on my desk while working on a laptop. I keep telling myself that all these will help me get work done faster. But this is crazy because all these gadgets only distract me from whatever work I’m doing as I’m always tempted to pick it up every five minutes or so.
For instance, when I tell myself I need to have my tablet within reach so I can use two screens, I always end up wasting a good half an hour getting sidetracked by entertainment apps.
2. Time management tools can be your friend
If you’re struggling to make progress in your projects at work, you might need to revisit how you schedule your day and how you accomplish each task. Can you have a laser-sharp focus on a task at hand, or do you squander your time and creative energy switching between tasks?
I’ve been using timeboxing plus preparing daily checklists as my personal strategy to get things done since 2015. The only time I tried using a different technique to manage my time was when I tried to move everything to Trello, and it hurt, badly.
I strongly recommend that you look for a tool or technique that works for you, then stick to it. There are many free apps out there; some of my favorites are Google Calendar, Google Keep, Notes (for iOS), Trello, and Asana.
3. Close all the tabs that you don’t need
This ties up with #1. Keep your virtual desktop as organized as your physical one to minimize distractions. Our brains are not wired anyway for multi-tasking. Train yourself to single-task, and your brain will thank you for it. (I’m super guilty of this. Timeboxing or using checklists can help reduce the chance that you’ll get sidetracked by a shiny object.)
4. Get a pair of headphones
I’m glad I bought a pair of headphones back in the summer instead of getting a pair of Airpods. It’s better at tuning out all the background noise, and it can help you focus better on what you’re doing.
Plus it’s a great way to show people at home that you’re working and not just mindlessly scrolling through Twitter because you look like you’re F O C U S E D.
5. Take a break!
You can’t use up your leave credits to go on holiday, but you can always spend time doing… nothing. Haha, remember when your holiday and sem-breaks back in college when you’re stuck at home, can’t go out because you don’t have money, and there’s nothing good on TV? You can relive that now! hehe
But seriously, it doesn’t hurt to take a break sometimes. I read somewhere that it’s good to spend 55 minutes on a task, then spend another 5 minutes just taking a quick break away from your desk. (I haven’t tried that because I’m a mule and I like to barrel my way through the day haha)
6. Find something to care for
For those of us who are child-free, the house can be a little too quiet at times. Picking up a hobby can be a good distraction. For me, I chose to look after something that grows.
I never thought I’d say this, but I managed to keep a couple of plants alive at home. (It’s a succulent and cactus, and they’ve been with me for 6 weeks now. The longest I managed to keep a plant alive pre-pandemic was 4 days.) I also tried raising tomatoes — we’ll see how that goes haha, but I’m not optimistic, obviously.
In May, my sister also brought home a puppy and it has radically changed our lives. If you can afford it, you might also consider adopting a puppy or a cat so you can have a companion at home.
7. Get on the phone with someone you love
We’re all having a hard time, and some people might be doing worse than us. I’m not saying that what we’re going through, the feelings we’re having, our experiences, are not valid — quite the opposite. All of us are still adjusting to this new way of life, and it wouldn’t hurt to reach out and find a friend to commiserate with.
I mean we humans can always find comfort in one another in times of great tragedies, and now’s the best time to do that. Because we’re still in the middle of a slowly unfolding tragedy that has upended all our lives, and it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed.
So let’s try to reach out to the people we care about and try to process things together. (If that’s too much, then we can always just ask them how things are going without getting into detail.)
That’s all I can think of. Hope these suggestions can help you somehow.
Do you have any tips on how we can thrive in this new reality?