Difficult Conditions Don’t Always Make for Obstacles

Productivity hacks about how to perform under difficult conditions.


Nabil Alouani

3 years ago | 2 min read

As I’m writing this article, I’m quarantined alone; COVID-19’s doing. My father, who’s 1300 miles away, is having problems getting his biweekly dialysis: hospital conditions are not amenable, and there are additional concerns associated with getting him there.

At the same time, I’m supposed to deliver a video speech. This speech is particularly important to me and is expected within three days.

Since I kept my consulting job during the quarantine, I knew finding the time would be the least of my challenges (but still a challenge nonetheless.) No, the real challenge was the speech’s duration. My allotted speaking time had been cut by half earlier that day. That meant that I had to make every word count, and to do so, I needed all the focus I could muster; if only my mind weren’t constantly everywhere else.

With all the stress and worry, I felt overwhelmed. I had to help find a solution for my father, rewrite my speech, be ready to deliver in front of a camera — not to mention my regular writing workload, and I had only two evenings in which to do all of it.

Honestly, it seemed impossible.

Then I thought of all the medical staff out there fighting the pandemic. Despite shortages of equipment and medication, the risks to themselves, as well as battling overwhelming case numbers, they are still managing to save lives every day.

What happens once we find a cure?

Patient care will get faster and more effective. Hospitals will be less crowded. These front line workers will continue to conquer this pandemic while facing obstacles much less intense. They will undoubtedly do an even greater job. They moved mountains; they surely can move molehills.

Our problems might be nothing in comparison to those of these superheroes, but the same pattern is true for all of us.

If we learn to perform during severe conditions, we can outperform under good ones.

Obviously, it’s easier said than done. Here are four tips that helped me get the job done despite the circumstances.

  • Lower the bar: when you’re not running on 100%, don’t expect the same results you usually would. Expecting less will free you from extra pressure. It also leads to small wins that will give you the dopamine rushes you need to keep going.
  • Focus on one thing at a time: despite its flashiness, multitasking is proven to reduce productivity and increase the chances of making mistakes. Since you’re having a hard time making your efforts, make them count.
  • Turn off the noise: when I feel low, I become an easy target for distractions. I think it’s the case for many of us. Eliminate the risk. Keep your phone, your laptop, or your TV away during the time you set to work.
  • Reward yourself: first, break down your work into baby steps. Then pick a small reward for every time you finish one. Whether it’s walking in your backyard, a treat, or a sneak-peek into social media, the idea is to stimulate the reward system in your brain to keep yourself motivated.

As legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson said: “Things come together, things fall apart.”⁣ Everything is temporary, including the difficult conditions caused by the Coronavirus crisis.

In the meantime, instead of merely going through a tough situation, we can try to grow through it.

© This article was originally published on my Medium page.
© Illustration by @Evanimatic


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Nabil Alouani

Business | Psychology | Marketing — What's your favorite quote? Mine is "True masters are eternal students."







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