Updated: Apr 21, 2020
COVID-19 has dramatically affected everyone’s daily life. For students, they are now expected to do independent learning and attend virtual classes from home. For adults, they are now working from home without the structure and environment of an office. Working and learning from home is already widely recognized as inefficient under normal circumstances. That inefficiency is fine for a couple of days but now that everyone will be working and taking classes full time from home they need strategies and structure to combat the inefficiencies. In this article, I provide a guide for you to create your own strategies and find the right tools to adjust to this new reality.
Everyone is having trouble staying focused and getting their work done. I have observed that the biggest distraction is technology. Here are the tools that I recommend to get control over your distractions and to maximize your productivity.
I have been using this Windows and Mac application for over a year now to help me stay focused on my work by blocking out distractions on my computer. This app allows you to do the following things:
Create a custom block that includes games, websites, and Windows apps.
Schedule blockers to start automatically.
Use the Pomodoro technique with the blocker.
Set up allowances for the day.
Password protect your blocker so it cannot be changed by you.
And no way of turning off the blocker or uninstalling it while a block is on.
If you would like to learn more about how to set it up you can check out this blogpost.
This is a great solution for getting rid of distractions that can’t be controlled using an app. The Standard Timelock Captured Discipline Safe allows you to lock away your items for a period of time that you set ranging from 1 minute to 999 days. Here are some examples of how you might use it. Locking away your TV’s power cord or a gaming system controller for six to eight hours during the day. If you have an android phone you can use the safe to lock your phone up for short periods of time and get it out for your work breaks. I do not have this product but I think it is a great tool that is worth purchasing if you have the money.
3. Apple ScreenTime (now available on Mac OS X)
Apple ScreenTime allows you to set application limits on your phone and laptop. You can set these limits by going to your settings, clicking on ScreenTime, clicking “App Limits”, and then selecting “Add Limit”. Make sure you select the option that says “Block at end of limit” so that you can’t just extend the limit for the day. In order for ScreenTime to be effective, you will need to have someone else set the screen time password for you so you can’t override your limits. I have found ScreenTime to be the most effective tool for controlling my phone use.
4. Kitchen Timer or Time Timer
Setting a timer for a task is a great way to stay focused on it without losing track of time. A kitchen timer or a Time Timer is a great tool for using the Pomodoro Technique. You can purchase a Time Timer by clicking this link.
This is an iOS app that allows you to make checklists and set timers all in one place. The app has the Pomodoro Technique built-in. The break timer is automatically started when your work timer is complete, which I find very helpful. Another useful feature is the app’s recording of how much time each task took to complete.
Creating Your Strategy
To create your own strategy, I suggest using my guide below to create something that will work for you.
1. Determine when your workday or school day starts and finishes. Schedule it using your phone or physical calendar
2. Set an alarm for 10 minutes before your workday is supposed to start. Alarms are more powerful than reminders because of how disruptive and jarring they are when they go off. You can also set an alarm for the end of your lunch break if you tend to have difficulty getting back to work.
3. Block your distractions.
Schedule blocks in Cold Turkey Blocker Pro
Set up ScreenTime restrictions and have your friend or family set the password.
Lock away tv power cord, Android phone, and anything else that there isn’t an app to block you from using it.
4. Write out your daily checklist. Use whatever system will be most useful for you. Here some options to choose from
Use the BeFocused Pro app to make a checklist
Write it on paper
Write it on a whiteboard
5. Break down tasks into smaller parts.
Tip: Try making every task something that takes 25 minutes or less. If it is a large task that can be broken up into smaller tasks then you can always make that one task into 25-minute segments.
6. Prioritize your checklist.
Tip: Choose three tasks from your list that if you completed them and nothing else you would feel productive and good at the end of the day.
7. Set a timer and get started.
Tip: If you have trouble getting started, try talking to someone about what you are getting stuck on.
8. Move around and exercise during your breaks.
Staying active throughout the day will help you keep your energy level up.
I hope this article was helpful. Please reach out to me if you have any questions. Stay safe.