Finding a Shelter in Place Routine

I have been trying to stay busy since we started sheltering in place last month. This was partly motivated by my fear of losing momentum and partly as a desire just to make the time going by more quickly. And really, I had no excuse — aside from the loss of theater activities, the shelter-in-place situation was not all that different from my normal sabbatical/stay-at-home mom arrangement.

I started out strong. I got my resume together and started applying to jobs. I ramped up community engagement activities for the podcast, using this quarantine to try some new things on our social media. I cooked a lot more! And I started getting inspired to revisit creative projects I had been meaning to take on during this sabbatical.

But week after week, I’ve felt my energy — and, in turn, my productivity — diminishing. It’s hard not to feel like I’m doing less and less as this shelter-in-pace continues. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s not even surprising. There have been article after article about how it’s okay not to be productive during what is essentially a traumatic experience.

But what if you want to be productive? Not become you feel pressure to keep up with others’ productivity but because it generally eases your mind, helps distract you from the news and does indeed make the time go by more quickly.

For me, the desire is there, but I’ve been feeling like I need to find a new method to keep me on track.

Trying a schedule vs. a checklist

I am the queen of to-do lists. I get such satisfaction checking things off my list. And this is the way I’ve worked for ages.

Of course, there are issues with the to-do list method. While I try to be mindful of not overloading my daily checklists of activities, sometimes things take longer than I anticipated, so I still end up not completing my list. This can result in a feeling of failure and being overwhelmed at the number of things still left to do.

So, this week, I’m going to try a different method: creating and following a schedule with time slots for each activity. I’ll get done as much as I can during each time slot and then stop and move on to the next activity.

Of course there are drawbacks to this method, as well. I may end up with a lot of unfinished projects. Or I may get to a time slot for say, a creative pursuit, and find that I’m in the right mindset to tackle the activity.

So, I think there will have to be some flexibility. For example, some activities — going grocery shopping or doing the laundry — can’t just be dropped once the time period ends if you go over the allotted time. So, when those types of activities are on the schedule, I’ll be sure to both pad the period with extra time and follow it up on the schedule with an activity that could easily be moved.

And, of course, having a baby at home is another huge curveball that can totally kill productivity. But that’s actually why the schedule method may work better for me during this time. I’ll get as much done of a certain activity in a time slot as I am able (even if it’s hindered by attending to a crying baby). There’s no pressure to complete the task.

Figuring out the schedule

Today, I’m going to work on putting together the schedule for the rest of the week. I know I want my daily schedule to be a mix of career-focused tasks, housework and personal development activities.

And I think I’ll start with typical work hours, leaving myself the evening to unwind and relax (which will be equally as hard, actually). I also want to attempt some other work-from-home tips:

  • Maintaining a “getting ready” morning routine and actually getting dressed
  • Not watching T.V. while working 
  • Scheduling breaks

I’m not sure if this method will help my productivity any more than the to-do list routine, but I figure change is the best way to possibly reenergize me. I hope to give this a try for at least a week or two and then assess how well it works for me.

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