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Work/life balance while social distancing, or what I call doing less with more time

Before the coronavirus and social distancing, time management and productivity were related directly to profitability. These days, however, it appears that even with more time, we are less productive and possibly more stressed or fatigued. You hear comments such as:

  • Where did the day go? 
  • I didn’t finish my to-do list
  • I’m exhausted but didn’t accomplish anything
  • I have cabin fever
  • Small things really annoy me

Our schedules and identities are totally altered. What is our purpose and what difference does it make if we get dressed, clean the place, or get anything accomplished? 

For some who are working remotely, there is a schedule and activities. This provides structure and routine. For others who are not working, there is worry about money, other’s health, and keeping sane. Working or not, too many are overwhelmed with parenting and teaching responsibilities. Under such conditions, it is easy to slip into a cycle of doing less and less, even with more time.

What to do and how to feel productive and purposeful? Here are 7 tips:

  1. Identify a purpose. For example, “during this time, my purpose is to stay as healthy as possible so I will be ready to get back to work/life when the crisis abates. There may be a new normal, but these conditions won’t last forever.” Or, my purpose is to help others the best I can. I’ll make phone calls, write letters, and contact those who are alone and feeling isolated.
  2. Set a realistic schedule. For example, carve out time for various activities such as exercise, cleaning, communicating, meal preparation, and recreation or rest. Don’t assume that you will be completing tasks all day long. You need breaks and time to laugh or interact with others.
  3. Establish healthy routines. Get up, make the bed, get dressed, eat healthy meals, and maintain a decent sleep schedule. Routines help you better connect your intention to action. I’ve been taking photos of my cooking and decluttering activities and posting them on Facebook. It shows my small accomplishments and over time ensures that even though I’m not as productive as I’d like to be, I’m still in the game. 
  4. Post your schedule and keep track of your accomplishments. Analyze your actions and reflect upon things that work. What patterns emerge? Often, you need to modify. For example, perhaps some activities need to be done in the morning rather than in the afternoon or evening. Ask, “What barriers undermine my attempts to feel productive and satisfied?”
  5. Tune in to your emotions. Expect ups and downs and some feelings of despair or fear. Having some feelings doesn’t mean experiencing a highly negative emotional state as a lifestyle. Sometimes you need a good cry. In the main, however, stay in the moment, remember the good times, and have some positive hopes for the future. Uncertainty is an enemy to many, especially if anxiety was a factor in the past. Keep a journal, talk to family and friends, use apps such as Calm, meditate, engage in yoga, and if you have a therapist, stay in touch by phone, Facetime, or Skype. 
  6. Start working on dastardly tasks. Dastardly tasks are those tedious activities that you postpone, possibly for years. For example, how about the thousands of photos on your phone? Wouldn’t it be nice to delete 50% of those extra photos? What about password security? You’d be surprised at the results of a Chrome Password Checkup. Like me, you may discover that you have many weak passwords and passwords that are used for multiple sites. I spend a few hours strengthening and changing passwords. Ask, “Are there legal or financial activities that I’ve ignored or postponed?”  Even allotting 40 minutes at a time to such tasks will have positive results.
  7. Exercise regularly. Under normal circumstances, exercise is viewed as a key to better health 
  8. During times of crisis and stress, exercise becomes a necessity  You can stretch or exercise with others using FaceTime, walk outside (wearing a mask), jump rope, do push-ups, use YouTube exercise routines, or even dance. It is difficult to keep your mind active or your spirit high, if your body is not moving all day.

On a personal note, it isn’t easy to keep going each day, especially if you are convinced that the crisis will last longer than you’d like. Having routines and strategies provide structure and some semblance of control. There is much we can’t control in the outside world, but we can self-manage to enhance our feelings of control, productivity and satisfaction.

If you have cabin fever, discover tips by signing up for the  Managing Your Mind Newsletter ( or for tips about productivity or distractions, read Dr. Geri’s previous blogs (