If we would summarize first half of the 2020 with one word, without discussion, it would be COVID-19. Pandemic became the reality of all of our lives. You see it on the news and social media – influencers, celebrities share thousand stories and call you to stay at home.
Eventually people came to the state where they cannot have a decent conversation without mentioning pandemic, even when they try to keep themselves out of stress. Unfortunately, as vaccine has not been found yet, we don’t have much to do, except follow regulations. During the peak time of the crisis, countries applied lockdowns, and many businesses moved to remote working. But how can you focus on work when the world is tearing apart? Could you think of a project you have to hand in when you hear the number of deaths increasing? I agree that it is pretty hard to think of anything else when you and your loved ones’ health is in danger.
But as you probably saw on social media, as lockdowns started, many people competed for “who can be the most productive” award and used this period to do things they did not have time to do before – meditation, singing, online courses, sports etc. But if you are among the people who did not have motivation to do anything, both work and self-improvement related, I will talk about strategies to divert your attention from bad news and dramatic events happening around you.
First thing I ask myself when unpleasant things or anything I do not like happens, is “Can I change it?”. If the answer is yes, I stop complaining and find a way to change the situation. But if the answer is no, I simply accept the fact that unpleasant things happen, inevitably, and in situations like pandemic, I have nothing to do, except follow the rules accelerate the “healing” process. Whining, depressing, will not help. Neither watching the news, creating pessimistic scenarios.
Only thing you can do is to change your attitude towards the situation. We are human beings and we are irrational. We see the world from our perspective, not objectively. So, everyone’s reality is different. In psychology there is a term called selective perception. What it means in simple terms is that human beings unconsciously choose what they want to see.
For instance, when you enter a room full of people, you do not have the mental capacity to gather information about all of them. – who are they, what they are wearing, whom they are talking to. First, you will pay attention to those that your brain is accustomed to, familiar faces, music, fragrances etc. Our brains are programmed to find cues related to our existing knowledge and perceive those things. And by changing your attitude, you can direct your brain to see, hear and perceive anything “you” want it to see.
Next, if you want to achieve anything, you need to ask yourself, why I want to do it? Why is the essence of anything. As Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and book writer, put it – Start with your why.
Motivations may keep you going for a few days, maximum, a few weeks, but when you face with difficulty, the answer of why question will help you continue your journey. Your “why” can be anything. I want to lose weight to feel good. I want to learn Excel to land my dream job. Or I want to improve myself to be better at what I am doing. Does not matter. Just find the answer and remind it to yourself when you want to give up.
You will find excuses like I don’t want to, I am too depressed, I don’t know if I keep my job after pandemic, I don’t know where to start and so on. But if you know what is your goal and why you are going towards it, then you will have an answer to these questions even before they are able to deviate your attention.
Finally, after accepting the situation and deciding on your “why”, last thing to do is to create routine for your work (work is used as a word for anything you have/want to do). Routines may sound boring, but studies show that creating routines not only saves you a lot of time, but consumes less energy and helps your brain stay on track.
When you get up to early planned day with all the things you have to do in an organized way, you will start implementing your plans without a second thought. That is why 9-5 job is comforting and considered as a “safe zone” for many people. You wake up at the same time 5 days a week, get dressed, go to work, work until lunch, work for few more hours, and arrive at home. Brain and body get used to this routine and prepares itself beforehand to do its daily tasks.
But when you work from home, get up at different times and try to work in your pajamas, your brain finds itself in an unexpected and unfamiliar situation which it usually does not like. But you can create a new routine adapted to current situation. Eventually your brain will conform to the new routine, and reprogram itself.
What you can do to accelerate this adaptation process? Separate work and leisure times, schedule and list all the things (I suggest even small things like shower) you have to do during the day beforehand- it can be done on your devices or with pen and paper, and stick to it. These will make your life much easier and increase your productivity.
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