Can’t Focus During COVID-19? Here’s How to Maintain Your Productivity
We’ve heard from many friends and users that they can't focus during COVID-19 due to the unrelenting stress and uncertainty brought by the pandemic. It’s extremely challenging to maintain your focus and near-impossible to achieve deep work while experiencing a constant barrage of negative news updates. If that wasn’t enough, not knowing what the future will bring can create a sense of dread that pulls our attention from our work and kills any motivation we once had.
A pandemic is distracting, to say the least, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less to do. Despite the difficulty, we still need to find our focus in order to complete work and move forward with our lives. Luckily, there are plenty of proven strategies you can implement to rediscover your focus and get yourself back on track.
In this article, we’ll provide actionable tips, strategies, and tools that will help you maintain focus during a pandemic and other stressful circumstances.
Understand Your Circle of Control
The events of 2020 may have left you feeling out of control of your own life. Living with uncertainty is tough; it can overpower our thoughts and leave little room for productivity. Understanding your circle of control can help you manage your thoughts during these uncertain times.
There’s what’s inside your circle of control, and there’s what’s outside of it. The aspects of your life inside your circle of control are all of the things you can do something about. Your actions, your decisions, how you spend your time, and the words you choose are all inside your circle of control.
Outside your circle of control is everything you can’t do anything about—no matter how much you may want to. How other people feel, what other people do, what other people say, the weather, and what’s on the news is outside your circle of control. Spending too much time dwelling on these aspects of your life will only cloud your thoughts and diminish your focus.
Do everything you can to focus on what’s actually in your power to change. If you find it difficult to manage distractions while working from home, consider what aspects of that are in your control. You might not be able to change that you work from home or that your kids are home too, but you can establish a private workspace, work after your children go to bed, or invest in noise-canceling headphones.
Make the most of your limited energy by focusing your efforts on the facets of your life you can control.
Monitor Your Media Intake
As difficult as it is to ignore the news these days, it’s imperative that you manage your media intake. Distractions have devastating consequences on our productivity. Simply checking on the news or being interrupted by a social media update amounts to much more than the distraction itself. It can take an average of 23 minutes to get back on task after being distracted.
Read more about The Consequences of Distraction.
Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to manage your notifications and monitor the time you spend looking at the news. Set media limits on your phone and other devices to ensure you don’t get lost in the endless cycle of news updates. Take a close look at your notifications and get rid of anything you don’t absolutely need for work.
Use a Website Blocker
When there’s so much going on in the world, social media and news websites are extremely tempting. If you find that you regularly ignore the media limits you set for yourself, you may need some help. Website blockers help you manage the time you spend online by blocking your access to distracting sites.
Website blockers allow you to choose the specific websites you require access to during your workday and all of the ones you don’t. If you need to complete a task from 10 am to 2 pm, a website blocker will prevent you from accessing distracting websites like Twitter, Instagram, or the news during that time. They allow you to easily customize productive blocks of focus that meet the needs of your schedule and workload.
Full disclosure—we run Focus and we believe it’s the best distraction blocker for Mac. We aim to make Focus a simple and powerful ally in your pursuit of productivity. Get started with a free 7-day trial of Focus.
For other options, we’ve outlined the features, cost, and benefits of the most popular website blockers in our article: Comparing 8 of the Best Website Blockers.
Establish a News-Free Morning Routine
Go news-free in the morning! So many of us turn directly to our phones as soon as we wake up. It’s quite a destructive habit considering it can throw our whole day out of whack. An upsetting news story first thing in the morning is no way to start your day, and it distracts you from what’s important.
Instead, focus on positive morning habits that will start you out on the right track. Establish a morning routine without news aggregates or social media. Make a healthy breakfast, go for a walk, meditate, or exercise instead of reaching for your phone when you wake up. If you find it difficult to crack your morning media habit, try leaving your phone in another room when you go to sleep at night so it isn’t there to tempt you.
Learn more: How to Establish and Stick to a Morning Routine.
Make Time For Your Own Mental Health
Prioritize your own mental health. This isn’t a distraction—it’s a productivity technique. When our minds are clear and well-rested, we’re able to work more effectively. We are more focused, more energized, and less likely to make a mistake. Focusing on your own mental health will help you combat negativity and uncertainty in order to maintain focus during COVID-19 and other times of crisis.
Make time for your mind. A simple breathing exercise is a good place to begin, and it only takes a minute. Meditation looks different for everyone. You may find you’re most relaxed after meditating, journaling, coloring, walking, or exercising. Find what works best for you and stick to it, no matter how busy you may feel. It’s the times when we’re busy and burdened by the state of the world that we need to prioritize mindfulness most.
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