Productivity is generally defined as “the state or quality of producing” or “the effectiveness of productive efforts.” For many of us productivity has defined our lives. How much work you do and how much you produce have long been signifiers of worth and value, but as societies around the world shift to staying home in the midst of a global pandemic, does productivity still matter?

As we all adjust to physical distancing, it can be tempting to think that all this extra time will somehow lead you to be more productive than ever before. If you’ve lost your job or income, maybe you’ll finally be able to focus on that side hustle you’ve been hoping to develop? If you have the privilege of being able to work from home, maybe you’ll be able to get even more work done now that you don’t have to waste time with your daily commute? While these prospects sound good on paper, in reality they negate the importance of self-awareness and self-care.

For most of us, the pandemic is unlike anything we’ve faced before, which means we’re all still figuring out how to cope. Being stuck inside all day is hard and we shouldn’t pretend that we’ll be able to magically turn an unprecedented life change into positivity. People continue to get sick, and there’s no clear timeline on when these physical distancing measures will end, so it’s okay to be distracted. Everybody’s life has changed in some way over the past few weeks, sometimes dramatically. Ignoring that is at best irresponsible and at worst dangerous. Right now, the most important thing is to take care of yourself and the people you love.

If you’re working from home, think about ways to ease your mind and look for methods to improve your remote working style. Accept that most tasks will take you longer to complete than they used to, and don’t feel guilty about not being as productive as you were just a few weeks ago. Be cognizant of your own state of mind. For some, focusing on productivity can be a way to find some much needed normalcy in these uncertain times. For others, it could exacerbate anxiety and stress. Seek out coping methods that work for you.

We don’t know how long this will last, but we can do our best to take care of ourselves and each other during this difficult time. Acknowledge that we are still in a time of transition and that the uncertainty of the current situation will continue to make everyone’s lives more complicated than ever before. You might be less productive, but you’ll likely feel a lot better.

Harvard Business Review, “Is it Even Possible to Focus on Anything Right Now?”
Wired, “Productivity is not Working”
The New Republic, “Against Productivity in a Pandemic”