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How to stay productive in lockdown

Quarantine has really flipped the world over- COVID 19 was in China one month and the next it’s in the UK. Many of us didn’t expect such drastic changes to be made to our daily routine as a result of COVID but here we are. Quite surprisingly, given the current situation I’ve been more productive during this time than usual. I’m impressed with myself and hoping things stay like this.

Upon reflection, the keyword for me during this time has been ROUTINE- it’s kept me going since day 1 and I’ve got a buzz I can’t seem to shake off after getting so many things done. I’m thinking this is what having your life together feels like (until I step back into society and stumble on my first step, being the awkwardly awkward person I am). Anyways, I’ll get to the point and share some of my tips on making the most of Quarantine time:

1. To-do lists

I’m an extremely organised individual so this works wonders for me – In fact just by updating my to-do lists and rewriting them once things are done, I’ve managed to finally use up some of the freebie post-its I picked up during freshers 2 years ago (seriously, they’d been sitting on my desk mocking me for ages)

2. Prioritise

My to-do list has eveything under the sun at it at the moment from typing up missed lectures, finally updating my LinkedIn account and continuing my knitting practice- pretty sure Kate Thomas was appalled at my inability to knit a couple of rows and I’m adamant to not embarrass myself so terribly again. Usually I prioritise my revision tasks so I’ve been typing up the small list of incomplete lectures that remains from the year and I revise them in detail as I go- I don’t have much of these to sort out anymore so by next week this chunk of my day will be spent on only revising lectures and I plan to continue this for a couple of months so this information remains in my long term memory and serve me well in the next academic year. Once I’ve spent around 3/4 hours on the revision (excluding breaks), I move onto my ‘admin tasks’ I’ve split these up into chunks and have been spending half hour or one-hour slots (usually) on any given day. I don’t need to do all these admin tasks in one sitting, I just want to know I’m making progress with them so I’m taking it easy with these. Your admin tasks probably aren’t the same as mine- they might be to sort your personal statement, revise for the UCAT or write a blog post on the BWAMS page- but the message is the same- if you make a promising start to these tasks you’re more likely to continue with them.

3. Peak of productivity:

The key to fitting more into your day is to know when you work more productively and go from there- For me, I feel like I’ve had a productive day if I start revising by 10am so I try to be up by 8/9. Honestly, I’m not always up for this time and am human so shake things around to suit me- sometimes I work from 5-11pm. It’s really just personal judgement- I don’t force myself to work as I lose productivity and burnout by this. If I feel like I deserve a break on a day, I’ll give myself that and ease myself into revision later. A side-note: I can feel quite productive on some days but not want to work- these are the days I bring a load of snacks with me into the study room and become more focussed on scoffing these than getting work done- you might have some bad habbits like this. Identify them and take it easy on yourself if know don’t want to work during the day.

4. Allocate work and play time/days

I’ve mentioned about taking a break when you feel you need it, and this is adding on to it. At the moment, it probably looks like I’ve spent all of my quarantine time working- that really isn’t the case. I allocate myself almost 2/3 days in the week ‘off’: I’m free to spend these on anything I’d like to do, and these are usually my lie-in days. They can serve as buffer days for work or days or days to reenergise me- whatever you want. If you prefer to mix and match work and rest time more, you could balance your week like this and split your time- allocating rest and workdays just works better for me.

For me, rest time includes my movie nights with my friends, video calls, reading books, Netflix, long walks and learning new skills (more about this later). With our friends we pick a movie to Netflix party in turn and this is a fool proof method of giving yourself an extra push to get more serious work done and binging a movie with friends guilt-free. I was so productive 2 weeks ago and maybe almost doubled my productivity so I could enjoy that 90s Hugh Grant movie I suggested we watch. Rewarding yourself for your hard work is a great way to give yourself a push- the reward can be whatever you line and doesn’t have to be a move night!

5. Family time

Linked to 4. Some (basically me) find it draining to communicate with the same people often too often, so I spend a lot of my time cooped up in my study room when I’m working. Therefore, when we organise a family game night or takeout, I am more likely to enjoy it and feel energised rather than irritated by looking at the faces of my siblings again. We don’t do this too often and that works for us. However, if you prefer spending time with your family, do this and keep yourself happy during quarantine time. Family time may also mean spending more time video calling/phoning close family whilst we have the time. It’s an oppurtunity to communicate with everyone we can’t meet and keep morale up during this difficult time.

6. Daily walk

I look forward to my daily walks. Usually I spend around 45 minutes walking in the morning on rest days and shorten this walk to suit my revision on study days. I find it a great method of reflection and it helps to centre my thoughts. If you need to get revision done the same day and are not in the mood, this walk can change it all- it can put things into perspective and remind you why you’re working so hard. On study days, the morning walk motivates me to study and ‘get it out the way’ so I can chill even sooner in the day. However, I think about everything under the sun or sometimes nothing at all during these walks- sometimes it’s useful to just let the mind wander. In our usual hectic daily lives it can become normal to neglect oneself. Returning home after thinking about ‘nothing’ can leave you feeling uplifted for the rest of the day.

Alternatively, even if you exercise during this time it serves the same purpose. I haven’t reached the exercise stage just yet; I prefer such a task in the evening as it drains me out and would impact the productivity in my revision time. I’m thinking of beginning exercise on weekends or rest days and increasing its presence in my routine. It’s been a long-term goal for a while, so I’m determined to give myself that extra push (who knows maybe I’ll be able to do a 10-minute plank again?)

7. New skill

I think everybody has been advising this- use your quarantine time to learn a new skill e.g. knitting/painting/ gardening. You have the time to do so at the moment so make a start. It’ll stimulate your creative mind and you’ll be very proud of what you’ve accomplished with the task at hand- it could become your new hobby. Plus… surely making Tik Toks daily has become repetitive by now?

For me, I try to spend some of my rest days on skills, reading etc. It’s just more convenient. If you can, spend half an hour when you’re taking a break or half an hour doing something before bed. Once again, making the start with a new hobby will help you go back and build on it.

Special mention: Deep-clean

This is the task I began my quarantine with and I’m glad- it was super exhausting and now out of the way. I was worn out with the couple of days I spent reorganising my study space and cleaning windows doors, skirting boards and the bookshelf. By the time I was done I felt like my feet were about to fall off- I gave myself a few days off after this :( Any cleaning I’m doing now is the daily cleaning or dusting of rooms- nothing too strenuous. We have a (strict) rule to deep clean 2-3 times a year in our house and in all honesty I’m just glad it’s out of the way... until September that is. Another bonus from this was that I decluttered my study space- who knew I had a functioning desk under the pile of notes? This also gave me the initial push to ensure I am not neglecting my study during quarantine.

To summarise, most of my tips centre around routine and a work-play balance. You could use this time to experiment and find what type of routine serves your productivity well. I hope this piece has served you with some insight or motivation to start any tasks you’ve been dreading to and be the winner in this quarantine scenario!

Extra special mention: This Micheal Scott meme keeps me going- REALLY don’t want to meet dementors just yet!

Words: Zaiba Abid

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