Honing Your Pandemic Productivity

Mar 26, 2021



In the past year, you’ve developed some new habits, which may or may not be good for you. I facilitate several of AMA’s classes focused on virtual effectiveness and have talked with many people. I’m hearing about some common struggles, when it comes to being productive and finding things that give us joy when so many activities have been shut down or put on hold. So it is definitely time for a checkup. Examine your habits and ask yourself, are they helping or hindering you? Sometimes in remote work, our productivity can slip and our organizational skills can get sloppy. Take a few moments to slow down and assess. Ask yourself, “How am I really doing?”

The following tips can help you get back on track, if necessary, or reassure yourself that you’re doing OK.

Reevaluate. Change causes us to reassess our goals, priorities, tasks, schedules, and even friends. Big events (such as a pandemic) remind us of what’s important. As we return to normal, don’t forget what you’ve learned. Have you rediscovered cooking and eating meals as a family? Exercise? Facetiming with grandma? Don’t lose these valuable lessons as we get back to normal. You don’t want to have yet another life-changing event to remind you of what you treasure.

Find joy. It can be easy to fall back into the habit of living just to check things off our task lists. We need activities, hobbies, and people that bring happiness and joy. Can you think of one or two things that would make you happy today? Would you enjoy reading a book? Taking a bath? Going for a run? Playing with your kids or pets? Plan one of these tasks today.

Brainstorm more. Notice when you’re stuck in an unproductive pattern, and give yourself permission to ask others for ideas. Not every solution will work for you, but it might be just the nugget you need to get unstuck. Resist the urge to shoot down ideas—be very open and listen. Mull over the suggestions and try to see your situation differently.

Revise routines. Periodically we need to reassess our schedules and habits, especially when big changes occur. Are you working in-person part of the time now? Are your children going to school three days a week on a hybrid schedule? Did your partner change jobs? All of these events affect your routines. Ask yourself, “What’s working well these days? What’s not?” Brainstorm on anything that isn’t working. See if you, your spouse, your children, or a friend can offer a different solution.

Rethink Zoom. We love Zoom. We hate Zoom. It’s been a great tool to keep us working and socially connected, but there are downsides. Reconsider all the meetings (whether formal or informal) you’ve agreed to attend. Examine your calendar—is it packed full of meetings? If so, review each item for the next six weeks and remove anything that does not add value. Find another way to get the information. Listen to a recording, get highlights from a colleague, get meeting minutes, send someone in your place, go every other time, or don’t worry about it at all. If you truly must attend, then brainstorm on how to make the meeting more efficient. When I teach AMA’s Leading Effective Virtual Meetings program, we discuss strategies to make them more valuable. Why suffer? When it comes to your meetings, you always have options. Exercise them!

Review boundaries. The line between work and home may no longer be clear. On work-life balance, there are two camps: One believes in blending work and home as long as they have time for both, and the other doesn’t want blending. These people want work and home to be clearly separated. Understand which camp you are in. For those in the second camp, you’ll need to be firmer with your boundaries because the first camp can cause you to lose boundaries. Think about when you start and finish work. If your boss emails at 9 p.m., do you really need to respond? Discuss your expectations with your boss, and you may find that they don’t want you to respond—they were just cleaning out their inbox.

Assess space. By now you’ve found a place to work, but is it working for you? Is your chair comfortable? Do you have enough desk space? Can you leave the “office” and get away? If you are still working at the kitchen table, it’s time to find other options. Even if you take over a corner (not in your bedroom!) and erect a big screen or plant, this can create a boundary between work and home. You need to get away from work— literally. If your equipment is uncomfortable or hinders your efficiency, invest in yourself and get something that works. Being irritated every day does not help your productivity.

Be careful with casual. One of my biggest challenges is longing to wear my flannel pj’s all day because they’re so comfortable and warm. To help overcome this habit, I get dressed directly after breakfast as if I were heading into the office. When I’m dressed business casual, I’m much more productive and I feel better about myself. Notice how others are dressed. Are they a bit too casual? It can affect people’s impressions. Dress up a little bit and you won’t have to worry.

It’s time to reassess your organizational skills, productivity, and time management. Use the ideas above to view how you’re doing. If something isn’t working, then make a change. Even a small tweak can turn things around. If you feel stuck, solicit ideas from family, friends, and colleagues. Remember to be open and listen!

Our work situations may end up being a combination of in-person and remote, so it’s good to review your schedule, routines, habits, and irritants. Look for and remove any obstacles that are hindering you.


Lorena Prime is the founder of Clearly Organized (clearlyorganizedlife. com), which provides training and consulting services to individuals and groups and helps them become more effective, productive, and organized. Prime, through seminars, individual coaching, and self-study programs, teaches techniques to improve productivity and organization to help people get more out of every day.