In this segment of our Stories from the Couch, our employees share short stories about how they’re staying productive at home and work in a virtual environment.
Usually, we think of productivity as how many things we can cross off our lists at the end of the day. But now, we are learning to think of productivity more broadly and more generously.
To be productive when things feel so out of control means finding creative ways to maintain a sense of normalcy within the chaos. By redefining “productivity” as appreciating our kids, finding time for hobbies or tackling home projects, we can keep our minds rested and sharp for when normal days return with their more clearly defined goals.
We asked our employees to share how they’re navigating this crisis and managing to stay productive – at home, at work, with clients – while under quarantine.
short Stories on Staying Productive
Be More Productive Than Ever
I have always preferred to start my day early, before the hectic cadence of meetings and calls begin. That is my time to be focused and productive.
While that still works these days, though certainly to a lesser degree, the window of my morning time has become much smaller. And while my carefully planned days still look good in Outlook, my time is most certainly not exclusively my own.
Now, I have interruptions ranging from my morning hugs (which I adore) to “what’s for breakfast” (same thing every day, kiddos) to “I don’t get this math problem.” I try to be flexible when I am not in meetings, encouraging my son to watch his social studies videos on full volume when I am OFF the phone.
I try to find patience when I am right in the middle of something and my daughter interrupts my flow for me to say hi to her BFF on FaceTime. Mid-afternoon now includes a 30-minute walk outside each day so the kids and I can get some fresh air, move our bodies and clear our heads.
But in the end, after fits and starts, the workday comes to an end and I’ve gotten things done, just on a different timeline.
The key is flexibility – hard for my Type A personality to manage! But when my day now includes some unexpected giggles, reminders of how to multiply fractions, some new insight on the Boston Tea Party, plus some amazing moments with my kids, you could say I am more productive now than ever.
— Elizabeth Henton, Local Marketing Strategist for National Marketing, Cleveland, OH
Check Off Big and Little Projects
Life during a stay-at-home order means that I am, now, annoyingly productive. While previously satisfied with being completely lazy on the weekends, when not running around to my favorite brewery with friends, I now find myself unable to sit and relax for more than a few minutes at a time.
The result: My house is cleaner than it’s ever been, my roof leak is now fixed, and my dogs (along with everyone else’s, I’m sure) are on their way to being in the best shapes of their lives, though they are not there yet. One of my dogs got out yesterday, and the neighbors saw her trotting off but said they didn’t recognize her anymore because she’s gotten so fat. How embarrassing!
To fight the boredom, I started tackling my mile-long list of little (and big) home repairs and projects. My typical M.O. for completing a project is to acknowledge it needs doing, wait approximately one to three years, and then finally, when I can’t stand it anymore, ask my dad to come over and make me complete it.
But now, instead of slowly losing my mind “Cuckoo’s Nest” style, I am knocking things off my list one day at a time. This week my goals include to power-spray my driveway, deep-clean my blinds, and maybe reorganize my library. Of course, by reorganize, I mean adding another bookshelf, so my overflow books have somewhere to live.
I find having something productive to do helps me feel a sense of accomplishment and boosts my mental health more than attempting to squeeze in one more episode of Killing Eve. Bonus! When we get out of quarantine, I’ll have completed all my projects and have more time to spend with friends, family and sunshine.
— Jessica Thompson, Content Marketing Coordinator for National Marketing, Harrisburg, NC
Work Together To Figure It Out
In mid-March, we were slated to co-host an in-person client event, featuring our own MVP, Tracy Dixon. Once we started to see major events being canceled, we recognized that this event would be better held online, but we only had a week to pivot.
Working with our partners, we successfully transitioned to an in-person event that became a well attended and highly interactive session.
Around the same time, we were scheduled to lead a Microsoft Customer Immersion Experience (CIE), which we always do in person. Once the new realities regarding non-essential in person meetings took effect, we realized that and in in-person CIE would no longer be possible, despite the fact that Teams is now more vital than ever.
Luckily, our Enterprise Collaboration team came up with a way to transform the CIE into a virtual event and we were able to reschedule.
These are just two examples of ways we were able to remain productive, by working together to figure it out, despite rapidly changing conditions.
— Jansen Pennock, Relationship Manager for Miami Practice, Miami, FL
Try A Get-To-Do List
With everyone stuck at home, we have of course enforced the creation of daily task lists. After the first couple of days, getting everyone together to create the to-do list became a horrible ordeal.
The chorus of groans was broken only by whines of “When can we turn the TV on?” and “I’ll do my homework tomorrow. Why do we have to do everything TODAY?”
Then, I had an idea. I announced that the daily “to-do” list was now going to be a “get-to-do” list.
Same chores, but with a different perspective. Instead of, “Do homework,” it was “Use my laptop to further my education.” Instead of, “Make lunch,” it was “Enjoy having enough food in the house for everyone.” Instead of “Clean house,” it was “Make the roof over our heads a better place to live.”
The unspoken assumption of everything became, “We have so much to be grateful for. We are OK.” We’ll see whether this new spirit and energy will outlast COVID-19, but I think we all are learning important lessons about gratitude and appreciating what we have!
— Tim Fox, Content Specialist for National Marketing, St. Louis, MO
Pick Up Old Hobbies
A few years ago, I was part of a writing club. It was mostly comprised of work friends —those of us who realized our personal creativity was waning while we worked on client projects.
With a monthly deadline looming over my head, I would actually sit down and write (even if it was two hours before the due date) and let my own creativity flow out of the tips of my fingers as I typed away.
Unfortunately, it only lasted so long. Most of us found new jobs, got married, spent time on other things besides writing. It was getting harder and harder to connect and find time to get together. So eventually, it just fizzled out.
Cut to: two weeks into a stay-at-home order. I’m itching to get back to writing, but I work best under pressure (at least, that’s what I tell myself). My best friend and I chat every day, and I finally say, “Hey, instead of trying to get the same group together, what if we created a Facebook group of writers with monthly writing workshops?”
She loved the idea, so I got to work, creating a virtual network of people who want to write their own poems, books, plays, and more. Everyone interested in participating introduced themselves. And now, we’re all set to have our writing completed by April 26. From there, we’ll meet online and discuss our writing.
And with that deadline hanging over me, I’m finally writing on my own again.
— Seanna Tucker, Content Specialist for National Marketing, St. Louis, MO
Remind Others That They Matter
The project team I am part of had a major go-live on April 1st. It was led by my client sponsor who worked tirelessly to get us across the finish line.
Unfortunately, the accomplishment seemed somewhat hollow given that we are all working from home and could not physically interact to celebrate our success.
So, our Centric Consulting team, planned a virtual happy hour to celebrate the accomplishments of those who worked on the project, while I solicited my teammates to send our client sponsor any positive words that come to mind when they think of her.
I took those words and created a word cloud that I sent to the client sponsor to remind her of what an asset she is to our team and thank her for the hard work in leading our efforts. Here’s the email:
On behalf of your Centric team, I wanted to show just how much we appreciate you, what an impact you make on our lives, and what comes to mind when we think of you. Your hard work and tireless efforts to achieve this first major 4/1 milestone did not go unnoticed, but even that is just a tiny reflection of how you put 100% effort into everything you do.
All. The. Time.
Please enjoy this little gift and hold on to it for whenever you need a reminder of what is true about you!
Thank you for being who you are. You are lovely and unique and it is a joy to work with you.
— Natalie Bullock, Manager in Cincinnati Practice, Cincinnati, OH