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How to master the at-home workflow

Corie Miller is a writer for BUILT BY GIRLS, which prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step into their power and break into their careers. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a 1:1 matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country. For more information and to sign up check out

We’ve all been there — another day in the books and nothing to show for it except the non-accomplishment of being “all caught up” on your social feeds. Being productive is always a challenge, but during a pandemic, it can feel nearly impossible.

On the bright side, you’re not alone! But it still feels genuinely crappy when you have a to-do list that keeps growing and you get the feeling that you can’t get anything done at all.

No matter why, how, or where you’re trying to get things done these days, we have a few tips that can help you strengthen your productivity muscle — even in a pandemic.

(Photo credit: Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash)
(Photo credit: Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash)

Make a list

It’s the oldest trick in the book for a reason. Moving to-do’s from your brain onto paper clears space in your head for the more difficult work and helps you ruthlessly prioritize.

So, grab a stack of sticky notes, a piece of scrap paper, or your favorite notebook and list out everything you need to get done that week. Next, review the list, and circle the top 3-5 most important things. Then, from that smaller set, pick just one thing to get done that day (no excuses!).

If the tasks are smaller, pick one thing to get done in the morning, and one thing to get done in the afternoon. And when you do get it done, the day will be a success. This method helps you stay focused on achievable units of work and avoid that infinite to-do list paralysis.

Take breaks

After a long stretch of time working, you get diminishing returns on your ability to focus. Instead of taking a break by checking your email or social feeds, take a real break and disconnect.

Go for a walk, do some sun salutations, have a dance party to your favorite songs, or do some pushups. After all, productivity is like a muscle, right? Anything to get your blood pumping and eyes off of a screen can help you reset and come back fresh and energized.

Plus, if you’re stuck on a particularly tricky problem, noodling on it while walking, dancing, or stretching can be an incredibly powerful way to come up with inventive solutions.

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Change your context

Sometimes, you’re on a deadline, and may not have time for a real break, but you can feel your focus drifting away from the task at hand. In those cases, changing up your working context can help you renew your focus.

For example, try moving from your usual desk into the kitchen, or on the couch, or a new corner of your room. If you’ve been sitting for a while, try standing. You can also try changing up your audio environment. If you generally listen to music, swap to a new playlist, or even try turning it off and working without any sound.

Be kind to yourself

Don’t forget to cut yourself some slack. Ironically, being too stressed about being productive can actually make you less productive. None of us are going to be as productive as we would have been outside of a global pandemic. Some days will be better than others, and on those bad days, gently remind yourself that you’re just trying your best, and that’s all you can do!

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