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May 28, 2020
By now, some folks might be going back to work on site -- whether in full force or in a hybrid model. Many of us, though, are cruising past the two-month mark of working from home. If that’s you, you’ve probably gotten into somewhat of a groove. You’ve got the right mindset for working remotely and you’ve got your distractions managed so you can stay productive. But just when you think you’ve hit your stride, an unexpected feeling emerges: loneliness.
This is the main hiccup to productivity that I personally experience. When I’m at school, I collaborate with colleagues and, obviously, interact with lots of students. When I’m at home staring down a stack of 60 research papers, though, there’s no way I can be productive and social at the same time.
Over time, I’ve learned there are ways to meaningfully bring social interaction into my work-from-home days without sacrificing focus. In fact, I’d argue that some of these tools and techniques actually boost productivity by design. Let’s explore some of my favorites:
Cuckoo is a productivity timer for teams working remotely. You create a room, choose the work intervals and break intervals you’d like, and then send your URL to as many colleagues as you’d like. When fellow coach Dan Messier and I have a lot of grading to do, we’ll create a Cuckoo room, set a working time, and then set off to work. When you know someone else out there is facing the same slog you’re facing, it can ease the sense of isolation and help you to get to work. Sometimes, we’ll message each other about what we accomplished during the work time to cheer each other on.
Todoist and Microsoft To Do are two examples of digital to-do lists that can be shared with others. I will often create a project with subtasks and share it with someone else who can see what my plan for the day is -- whether that’s my husband, a coworker, or even a friend! Then, as I check things off on my list, the person who has access might get an alert (if they enable notifications) or at the very least can check my list at the end of the day to see what I accomplished. If you’re an Obliger as author Gretchen Rubin might call you, you thrive on accountability to others and thus will likely find that knowing someone can see whether you’ve left some to-dos undone is just the motivation you need to tackle your tasks.
Finally, schedule some social time. I used RescueTime to track what I do with my time and how productive I am throughout the day, and that helped me learn very quickly that I lose focus around 3:30 pm. I am a true afternoon slumper. Rather than infuse my system with caffeine or beat myself up about this, I’ll do something social during this time like calling my mom, viewing and sending Snaps to friends, or chatting with colleagues through G-chat (or, Google Talk as I recently learned it’s technically called).
When we’re at work, we find all sorts of ways to build in snippets of social interaction. From brief interactions when passing each other in a hallway to sharing a long lunch break with colleagues, we’re typically not chugging along in total isolation for the entire workday. Working at home shouldn’t mean you abandon humanity for the sake of productivity. So find a way to connect with others - even while you’re practicing social distancing - and use those interpersonal engagements to boost your morale and you’ll see your work output will follow suit.
Thanks to Dylan Ferreira for sharing their work on Unsplash.
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Brittany Peterson is a college writing instructor, certified writing tutor, and senior executive function coach at Beyond BookSmart. She began her career in education at Quinnipiac University earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and Masters degree in Secondary Education. Feeling motivated to expand her pedagogical skill set, Brittany pursued a second Masters degree in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Massachusetts Boston. After graduating, she became a full-time lecturer at UMass Boston where she currently serves as the Assistant Director of Composition and teaches first-year composition to a diverse classroom culture including English Language Learners and nontraditional students from a variety of academic backgrounds. Brittany's experience with adult learners, diverse cultures, and a range of learning abilities has enabled her to become a flexible educator who is sensitive to individual learning needs and intrinsically invested in their educational success.
Executive function coaching for students online throughout the U.S. and internationally.
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