Fake Your Way Into Productivity
The sky has been falling for quite a while now. Since time isn’t real anymore, I don’t exactly know how long it’s been, but definitely enough for people to stop running around like chickens with their heads cut off and regain a sliver of normalcy. Some people seem to be finding it easy to continue working from home, following workout routines, cooking every day and keeping schedules that actually make sense. Some are even making great use of this global hiatus, using their time to start a project, repaint their house, write a book and fulfill a dream. Or at least, that’s what it looks like from what they post on social media, since we now only exist on screens and that’s our only way to engage with society. If that’s the case, kudos to you!
For others, however, it feels more daunting to carry on with our daily lives – and by others, I mean me. This came as a surprise since I was used to working from home frequently, even before everyone else had to. That, combined with the fact that I tend to be a happy homebody (Netflix and wine on a Saturday night? Sign me up forever! No, wait) with a Ph.D. in Denial (avoiding the constant stream of news while being a member of 874 Whatsapp groups is an olympic sport at which I excel), you would think I'd be pretty good at getting through this. And I kind of was! At least at first. But in the last few days (or has it been months?) it has become harder to keep up with work and convince myself to step outside and breathe fresh air for ten minutes, and if I have to wash One. More. Dish, much like Eminem in 2004, I might Just Lose It.
Well, thanks to the fact that I live alone and get to spend some quality time with my thoughts (yikes), I came to a realization. For me, and possibly many others, it’s incredibly hard to focus on a long term, big-picture project when it feels like the sky is falling. Not to sound too dark, but somewhere in the back of my mind, there is a tiny little voice asking me why I’m working on something that’s pointless, if by the time all of this is over, it may not even matter (even in the wizarding world, Harry, hearing voices is not a good sign). When you subconsciously start to feel like this, it seems like no amount of work from home techniques, great as they may be, can get you past this unproductive rut. Not to mention the guilt that comes with knowing that you’re not able to meet expectations, when, unlike so many others, you at least still have a job. Basically, it’s a vicious shit-show cycle all around. Pretty great, I know.
Well, leave it to me, a human sloth, to find different little ways you can trick your mind into productivity. The ones that work for me may not necessarily work for you, but the important thing is to find short-term tasks that you can do, from start to end, that will help pick you up. Some will become part of a routine, some are one-time accomplishments. Some just take minutes, some will take up your entire afternoon. The key is that you don’t really think about anything else as you’re doing these tasks, and by the time you’re finished, you'll have regained that “productive member of society” feeling we all know and love.
Here are some of the ones that have worked for me. Feel free to make fun of them. Actually, please don’t, this sloth is fragile. Anyway:
1. Make my bed every morning (and by morning, I mean whenever I wake up)
Living in a studio apartment, it’s incredibly tempting to look at my bed ALL day long and think “maybe I’ll just lay down for a minute, stretch out my back. That should be fine” knowing damn well that if I touch that bed I’m not getting back up for another hour. For some reason, if my bed is all made up nice and cute, it’s harder for my subconscious to want to mess with that during the day. Basically, it's a way to start my day having already completed a task. Plus, with this new all-day video-call normal, I have to be prepared for anything. For some reason, so many of my Zoom calls end up with me “giving a tour of the mansion” (Hi MTV, welcome to my Crib!) and the better my apartment looks to others, the better I feel about myself.
2. Straightening my hair
I’ve been glued to my hair straightener since high school –– for good reason: my hair has been compared to a lion’s mane, the Addams Family’s Cousin It, Mafalda, and Hermione Granger circa 2001. Don’t get me wrong, I love that my hair is all thick and abundant, but that means I get to dedicate some extra time to make sure it looks presentable. These past few weeks I haven’t been doing it as much as usual, for obvious reasons. But when I do choose to do it, I end up spending some therapeutic time in front of the mirror, not doing anything else, and feeling more human by the time I’m done. Self care, but make it tedious!
3. Reorganizing things
Last week, I dedicated a couple of hours to finally unpacking the rest of my things from when I moved into this apartment last September. Stop judging me, almost everything else was done. For this, I needed to reorganize part of my closet and make space. By the time I was done I felt like a whole new person. I must have looked insane staring at my closet and smiling like a lunatic. Not only did I manage to finally put away the stuff I needed to, but now my closet makes a lot more sense. It’s not like I’m taking anything out other than my five pairs of sweatpants and leggings (pretty sure my jeans think I’m dead), but I did it for me, and I can’t tell you how good it felt.
On a different day, I shifted my desk from one wall to the other, still in the same corner. It made no actual difference in the design of my apartment, but it made me throw out some stuff I no longer needed, and the fact that it looked fresh and new still makes me feel better.
For many people, things like cooking and working out do the trick. For others (ahem, me) those seem a little more daunting, considering I rarely ever work out in real life and my kitchen is smaller than my elevator (counter space? I don’t know her). I’d also be doing my own manicures every week if I had any sort of skill, but I don’t, so I won’t. The point is that it helps to take some time and figure out what small tasks make you feel like you actually can be productive during the apocalypse. It’s all about tricking your brain – trust me, I was a psych minor (this was definitely not in any syllabus, but trust me anyway). Find some playlists that pump you up and get you in a good mood. After all, we might be in this for a while, and no bathroom ever looked too clean.
Are we okay? I don’t know, but at least my toaster oven is spotless.