If you're feeling unproductive, that's totally okay

April 29, 2020 4 min read

If you're feeling unproductive, that's totally okay

For some reason, messages about being productive in this lockdown life are all over the internet.

One meme even says this:


Productive during quarantine

This message, besides being tone-deaf and reeking of privilege, is forgetting one thing – people have different ways of coping in times of distress and anxiety.

It puts unnecessary pressure in a time filled with uncertainty and stress. 

I would agree that one should make the most of their free time. And that in trying times, we should first and foremost take care of ourselves and our loved ones.

But I would also agree that (1) we have various coping mechanisms and (2) there are various types of self-care.


There’s nothing wrong with being unproductive

Free yourself from guilt or the feeling of failure when you don’t tick all your boxes every day. It’s okay if you don’t achieve your goals or accomplish as much as you’d like… pandemic or not.

It’s totally okay to call it – say to yourself that today may not be the day you will be productive. If you feel it in your gut that it’s tough to accomplish anything, know that it’s fine. Take a break; spend it caring for yourself or spending time with loved ones.

If there’s ever a time to be gentle on ourselves - to lower the bar a bit - now is the time.

Remember, all of us are going through a global pandemic, the steepest recession the world has seen since the Great Depression. 

Rest in the fact that for now, productivity may mean being able to get out of bed. Or ensure that you and your loved ones are staying safe and eating healthy meals. Or maybe just being able to send a few emails and call it a day.

Now is the time to give ourselves some space. Allow ourselves to not be in our best shape. Know that many people around the world are experiencing the same thing.


The permission to feel our feelings 

This is a confronting and scary time. If you feel afraid, that’s okay. If you’re stressed not knowing what the future holds for your sick friend or relative, your job, finances, or many other things, breathe. Slow down.

It may be hard to answer those difficult questions. And up to this point, it still may not have fully sunk in.

A global pandemic and its various implications are truly hard to comprehend and process. It’s unprecedented. Making sense of everything sometimes requires stepping back and away from the situation. So it’s okay to feel unsure about how to go on. Try to live in the present. Take things one day at a time.

Give yourself permission to feel your feelings. Write down your thoughts. And if you really need to, reach out to friends and family.


There’s nothing wrong or weak in asking for help 

Things can get really overwhelming. And if you don’t feel good – it’s not your fault. If you can’t get work done – it’s not your fault.

If it gets too much, find an online counseling expert who could talk to you on virtual meetings or by phone.

Services have shifted online, and there are many options available for those feeling isolated, anxious, and lonely.

Pandemic or not, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s being courageous enough to be honest with ourselves and admit that we can’t go it alone.


Working hard is not the solution

Productive or lethargic, a bit crazy or going full hermit mode – that’s okay.

If you’re not getting any work done, or at least some tasks accomplished but not as much as you’d prefer – that’s okay.

The worst thing you could do to yourself is to add more stress and pressure by feeling guilty or like a failure for not crossing those to-do lists.

Be comfortable with the crazy, the mess, the unticked boxes. We are going through a massive disruption. It’s totally acceptable, especially during this time.


What to do if you are having unproductive days 

Communicate with your co-workers and loved ones. Let them know that you are finding it a bit hard to focus. Ask for deadline extensions or mental health days. Talk to your loved ones and friends. Regular catch-ups can help take your mind off things. Constant human interaction can help get rid of the feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Productivity hacks. You can also help yourself be a little more productive with some productivity boosters. Go through mindfulness exercises before you start your day. Have your usual caffeine fix to jumpstart your day or get you through that afternoon slump. Fix your immediate environment and clean up all the mess. Here are some more tips for working from home.

Be realistic about your tasks. Instead of listing 8 or 10 tasks in a day, why not target just 3? Of all your to-do’s, decide which three things you need to accomplish for a day. Sometimes, seeing a smaller list can help with not getting too overwhelmed. And being able to draw a line on each task can give a feeling of satisfaction, what more ticking all three for the day.

Self-care. I mentioned earlier that we all have different levels and types of self-care methods. Remember, when it gets too heavy, take a break and look after yourself. This article gives some ideas on how you can do this, based on cognitive behavior therapy and the acronym BACE: Body care, Achievement, Connecting with others, and Enjoyment. [1]




Tina Sendin
Tina Sendin

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