Rolling past nine months of working at home during a pandemic has been a lesson in maintaining productivity for me. For years, I would pride myself on being able to spend the day writing, head to the gym, then come home and write some more until it was time to sleep. Rinse. Repeat.
The pandemic changed all that for me (and lots of others too). Here are some things I do to maintain my productivity during this time:
Online learning for an hour (or more) a week
Starting in the new year, I began to spend at least an hour a week learning something new or refreshing my skills. So far, that means watching videos from LinkedIn Learning. While I’ve never been a fan of online learning, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s here to stay in my industry. It’s only January as I write this post, so I’m hoping to spend more time learning new things and refreshing my current skills. It’s an opportunity I’ve been wasting during the pandemic, and one of my 2021 resolutions is to change that.
Until now, I would call myself a book or hands-on learner. Training videos have never been my thing. COVID is making me change my mind for a variety of reasons. First, I think online training is here to stay post-pandemic. TV also sucks. Increasingly so during the pandemic. I find myself only streaming so many TV shows from the 80s and 90s on Netflix and Amazon Prime. It feels increasingly better to put at least some of my viewing time into something more constructive.
Write iterative drafts efficiently
It feels like I write more in my current position than in my last technical writer position. That’s probably because I now work for a small company that doesn’t have much middle management overhead. Finding this freedom again has made me double down on my efficiency and productivity also, including:
- Creating templates of my most used document types. After years of writing content in Microsoft Word, I now work for a company that uses Google Workspace. I’m still in the process of creating GDoc templates for my efficiency.
- Writing in “batches.” When it comes to my personal content, such as this post, I write in “batches,” where the content I write for myself starts and stops as I have the time and inspiration strikes me.
- Using electronic editing. Grammarly and ProWritingAid — while no substitutes for a real live editor or proofreader — do let me have a second set of eyes over what I write.
- Using text to speech. I’ve had good luck using text to speech to read my writing back to me as an extra step in my review cycle.
Stepping outside twice a day (and more)
There’ve been way too many days (or so it seems) during the pandemic that it was gray and gloomy outside. It wasn’t just a sense of mind. I have reminders in my daily calendar to step outside twice a day, even when my schedule or the pandemic positive cases number in my local area suggests that I should stay at home for lunch.
I know the ebbs and flows of my productivity well by now. There are times when it serves me better to step away from the keyboard. Usually, I reserve some time in the early evening after going to the gym (pre-COVID) or exercising at home to see if I have a new spark of creativity.
Switching up my work environment
My home office has primarily remained the same since I moved into my house. Moving to a company that uses Zoom as its primary communications platform has shown my office to be a bit dark and cluttered. So I set up another place to work on the main floor of my house. There’s more light and room down there for when I need a change of scenery.
I’m ready for the pandemic to end like so many other people right now. While I came into 2021 with some optimism, I know that returning to normal isn’t here yet. I plan to keep moving forward, pivot as necessary, and just go with the flow.