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We’re Looking at Productivity Under Quarantine All Wrong

It’s not about ticking off all the things on your life’s to-do list


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Simone Brathwaite

3 years ago | 6 min read

Productivity has received a lot of airtime recently.

In the first weeks of quarantine, I would pick up my phone and be met with an onslaught of tough love memes speaking to all the ways we should be using our “time off” to produce more. Messages that were telling us that now’s the time to start the business, write the book, conquer the world.

The underlying assumption here was that since we were no longer subjected to hour-long commutes, caught up in innumerable social events or casually held hostage at TJ Maxx on a Saturday morning — we should have the time to spare to do all the important, but not urgent undertakings we’ve been wanting to do.

We were being productivity shamed.

And then the pendulum swung in the opposite direction.

The backlash of asking us to conquer a world that was wholly broken was a fierce anti-productivity push. The meme Gods must’ve gotten the note from legions of people who were not exactly trying to thrive — but simply survive — during a modern-day Armageddon. The parents who now have the reality of working, while simultaneously ensuring their kids receive some semblance of an education. The masses of people going stir crazy inside 500 square foot apartments.

And a slew of others who are battling with illness, death, and job loss.

And so the meme Gods started to remind us — this is not a productivity challenge; this is a global pandemic.

Depending on the day, both messages can ring true in my heart. And thus, I found neither particularly useful.

The truth is, productivity feels big. We tend to think about productivity from the western approach of do (much) more, achieve (far) greater. No wonder we balk at these requests.

In a time in which the feminine is rising — I believe we’d be better served by a more compassionate approach to our lives in quarantine. One in which productivity has less to do with DOING and more about BEING.

Being more joyful. Being more at peace. Being more spiritually aligned. Although it requires some action, tapping into these feelings doesn’t have to be so BIG. We’ve received the mandates before on how to be more of our best selves. Yet, each method takes on a unique need amid a global pandemic.

Here are four simple ways you can start vibrating higher during these strange times.

Stream of Conscious Writing

Even outside of a pandemic, stream of conscious writing is a great technique to help you make sense of your thoughts and feelings. However, the reason why I find it important now is a bit different.

We’re living through history right now. Your grandchildren will read about what happened when society shut down for months as the world battled a global health crisis. There will be long diatribes about the government’s response; historical debates on which country got it “right”; and diaries published on the deep impact of everyday life.

While many of us understand the strangeness of these times — we won’t fully process the lasting effects until we’re out of it and gain some hindsight. So, I say, log how you’re feeling. Write what you’re doing every day. Jot down what you hear that you find preposterous and what gives you hope. When the history books speak about this day — you’re going to want to clearly remember your position, so help your future self out and write it down.

Gratitude

The other day, my dad remarked how he missed watching basketball (note: this was pre-The Last Dance). A man who rarely complains, his comment gave me momentary pause. By week five of quarantine, I had grown accustomed to a collective morose around big things, such as the millions who were unemployed or tens of thousands who were dying. But at that moment, my dad gave words to a routine thing he missed. As I reflected, I realized how I missed the sense of ease and lightness once felt when leaving my home.

How I missed the moment when my hunger could stand it no longer and right then, the server arrived with my food at brunch. How I missed the days when going to Target felt more like a treat and less like preparing for war.

However, what these kinds of examples illuminate is our newfound ability to grab hold of seemingly insignificant moments of beauty. And even as we face a new normal, we still have these moments. Use your heightened perspective to take advantage of a gratitude practice. Even if you have rolled your eyes at them before — with benefits including better sleep, less anger, and more resilience — there is likely no better moment to start a gratitude practice than now.

Before you go to bed write down 3–5 things you’re grateful for. They can be the same things every day (e.g. your health, that you didn’t kill my partner, and Netflix). Just keep up the practice and you’ll start to find some level of joy correlated with tapping into the beauty of what is becoming your new normal.

Play Some Music and Move

Throughout history, people have turned to music during hard times for comfort and a momentary escape. It is said that those who lived through the depression of the 1930s believed “you can’t be sad and dance at the same time.” Years before, restricted from literacy and property ownership, slaves orally passed down music. For them, music was a solace, a voice for hope and a community builder.

Studies have shown that listening to music can reduce stress, and alter moods, making people of all ages feel happy, energetic, and alert. Similarly, movement has been found to alleviate depressive symptoms. Understanding the power of music, there are plenty of artists who are creating digital concerts and battles, DJs hosting Live Instagram parties, and Broadway Actors blessing us with reunion performances over Zoom.

Whether you turn to one of those options or simply head to Pandora — give yourself permission to get swept up and uplifted by song and dance.

Ground Down to Spiritual Lift Up.

Instead of relying heavily on the internet, get clear on what it is you need during this time. Meditation is a great tool, but don’t sleep on the power of simply planting your feet on the ground and taking a few deep breaths.

From this state of relaxation, you can feel out what makes sense for you. For most of us, the response to your question isn’t going to sound like Morgan Freeman reverberating from above. It’ll just be a feeling in your body. When something is in alignment it offers your body relaxation and ease. That’s how you know.

The answer may be Netflix and chill but don’t be surprised if it’s not 12 hours of streaming every day this week. The answer may be that you make headway on your business, but regularly grounding will often prompt you to not work 24/7. By connecting with your inner guides, you are given the direction that makes sense in your life and not the generic advice doled to the masses by the internet.

In Conclusion

Productivity doesn’t have to be so big. But just because it isn’t big — doesn’t mean it’s not impactful. By employing these small habits during quarantine, you’re not seeking to change the world — you’re moving towards changing your personal narrative of what’s going on in the world.

And by shifting our focus to finding a way to be more — be more joyful, be more at peace, be more spiritually aligned — we may just get out of this Coronavirus thing with our sanities intact.

This article was originally published by Simone Brathwaite on medium.

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Simone Brathwaite

A 6-Figure Corporate Junkie turned Trying-To-Figure-It-Out Passion Pursuer. I write about self-development, spirituality, relationships, and black folks thangs. Find more at www.SimoneKeelah.com.


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