Even as we get closer and closer to post-pandemic life, we’re still firmly entrenched in mid-pandemic life. Having recently marked the first anniversary of lockdown beginning, we now have a full year of experiences to look back on. Behaviors that were new at the beginning of quarantine are habits now.

Hopefully, some of your pandemic habits are rewarding and positive ones. I’ve loved seeing friends and clients pick up new hobbies, adopt new pets and find unexpected joys in this strange year.

I’m Also Seeing How Much Procrastination is Showing Up as an Issue For People.

When things were first changing last spring, it seemed like almost everyone was struggling with focusing on important tasks. So much of what was happening in the world was overwhelming and frightening. Procrastinating provided quick relief. Scrolling through social media and watching comfort TV and stress baking (or stress eating) felt better than answering emails and doing paperwork.

Blame your limbic system for that response. Earlier this month, National Geographic published an interesting article called “Are you procrastinating more? Blame the pandemic.” (Yes, pandemic procrastination is a real thing that’s not just happening to you!) As the author notes, the limbic system controls the “fight, flight or freeze” response, and helps moderate our emotions and pleasure-seeking and impulse-control behaviors. When things become overwhelming and we become anxious—like when a global pandemic begins—the limbic system takes over and sends us scrambling for some emotional relief. Before you know it, you’re four episodes deep into a binge of “The Office” and your inbox is filling up.

Show Yourself a Little Self-Compassion

The article notes that research shows the benefits of mindfulness and self-compassion for defeating procrastination. There can be a lot of shame and other negative emotions tied up with procrastination. Moving past those emotions, and forgiving yourself for any mistakes you’ve made around time management and productivity, lets you focus on what you need to get done.

But I also want to draw attention to another tool to defeat procrastination, which multiple experts quoted in the piece advocate for: accountability. It can be powerfully motivating to know that someone else is counting on you to get something done, or at least that they’re invested in your progress. If you wake up before sunrise on a cold, rainy morning for a workout, you’re probably less likely to hit snooze if you know a friend is waiting for you at the gym, right? The same principle can be true at work. Sometimes, a little peer pressure can be a good thing.  

Is Isolation Part of Your Time Management and Productivity Trouble?

I wonder how social isolation has affected your procrastination and your time management habits over this last year. I think many people have lost some sense of accountability during the pandemic. If you used to work alongside coworkers and now work alone from home, losing that face-to-face contact may have contributed to procrastination. And if you don’t have to rush to finish a project in order to meet a friend for dinner at 6, it’s easier to let the project slide until 7.

Maybe Losing Access to Your Community Has Affected Your Procrastination Issues in Other Ways.

For people experiencing mental illness, including depression and anxiety, social support can be critically important. Going without some of that support could exacerbate those conditions and make time management and productivity even more difficult.

I also think many people didn’t realize how much they relied on everyday social interaction for stress management. Before the pandemic, an average day might include dozens of opportunities to spontaneously connect with other people. Maybe you would chat with a neighbor about their recent vacation. You might run into an old friend on the street and exchange a hug or handshake. Then you may make plans to get together soon. Sometimes, the highlight of the day would be overhearing a bizarre conversation while sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant. The interactions you would have out in the world with your fellow humans made every day interesting, at least.

A Zoom Meeting Just Isn’t the Same as Having a Really Great Meeting With a Client Over a Cup of Coffee.

Now we rush through stores and don’t get to make small talk with friendly grocery store clerks. We’ve had to keep our distance from neighbors. When we do have masked face-to-face conversations, no one has exciting vacation stories to share. I don’t know about you, but a lot of the small talk I’ve had this year has been about pandemic stress.

Maybe you’ve felt like you’ve lost some sense of community over the last year. I wonder how much that loss has affected every element of your life. That includes your ability to practice good time management skills and get things done at work.

I know there’s no perfect replacement for in-person interaction. I also know how powerful a virtual community can be. Especially when you all share a common goal and show up ready to support one another. A virtual community can also be a place to create accountability.

That’s why I love the community I’m building with my True Focus Tribe on Facebook. I’m so excited to announce an upcoming (free!) event. During the week of April 19th, join my 5 Days to Freedom challenge to connect with others. You’ll also figure out how to get the important things handled so you can arrive at the weekend ready for fun and relaxation. All you have to do to participate is join the True Focus Tribe, which you can do by clicking here. I hope to see you there, starting April 19th!

Gratefully,  
Sarah 

Sarah Reiff-Hekking
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