David Strittmatter

How to stay productive in chaotic times (COVID-19 Crisis)

In every crisis there is opportunity


  • Establish time slots for “worry time” and isolate your worries to that designated period
  • Switch your mindset to a positive place before going back to productivity mode
  • Create structure and establish a routine
  • Harness the constraint of social distancing to your benefit
  • Use additional free time to foster or renew relationships

Dear friend,

The past days I was constantly concerned with the current COVID-19 pandemic. We are massively affected in the battle against the virus: our individual freedom is considerably curtailed, many of us risk huge financial losses or already face bankruptcy, as well as older and people with a medical condition fear for their lives.

As I’ve already written in last week’s post, we have to adapt to the new circumstances and comply with the latest rules. Moreover, we must take care of the weakest in our family and circle of friends, but we also need to maintain normal life in a cautious manner the best we can.

In this post, I want to share with you my thoughts with regard to how we can make the most out of this social and economic disaster and how we can stay productive during these tough times.

Establish “worry time” and isolate your worries to that designated period

In the past days, one particular activity consumed a great deal of my time: Thinking, talking, and reading about the COVID-19 and its implications. On every platform, in real life, every media – simply everywhere – people are talking about the pandemic.

I believe that neither talking about the current situation nor continually reporting about new information is a bad thing. Yet, when we constantly spend time dealing with this subject, we are definitely not doing ourselves any favors. By doing that, we create a bubble of worries, fears, and uncertainty. In the current situation, nobody can guarantee or say anything with certainty. As soon as we deal with this ambiguity, it becomes part of our life. If this happens, as you have probably observed in the last few days, your attention and consequently your productivity drops dramatically.

In order to increase productivity and increase our levels of happiness, we should limit our “worry time”. When I talk about worry time, I’m not only referring to having negative thoughts about this pandemic, but also contemplating about neutral aspects which don’t affect you. I highly recommend you to establish a maximum of two time-slots a day within which you allow yourself and people surrounding you to grapple with COVID-19. In this time frame, you are allowed to talk freely and extensively about anything concerning the crisis. The goal isn’t to suppress your anxiety, worries, or desire to deal with this subject, it’s more about giving this issue less room to drain your energy and other resources.

Switching your mindset to a positive place before going back to productivity mode

Another advice regarding your worry time: Don’t just cut off your mind when you were contemplating or talking about the crisis. Your mind will stay in this negative mood, affecting your performance negatively. You should rather try to adopt a positive thought before you go back to your non-COVID-19 activities, such as work, calling friends, or spending time with family.

If you don’t know how you can achieve a positive state of mind, here are a few recommendations from me: Think about 5 things you are grateful for right now. Take 10 very deep breaths. Listen to one of your favorite songs with high volume. Tell someone you love how much you are thankful to have him/her in your life.

Create structure and establish a routine

In order to be productive under these new circumstances, it is essential to have at least a to-do list. However, it is better to structure your days more detailed. When you are forced to sit at home the whole day, procrastination is inevitable without the necessary preemptive measures.

Every morning you should do what you usually do when you go to school/work. Wake up early, shower, brush your teeth, put on adequate clothes, have breakfast and do all the other activities you are used to. Subsequently, you should take a piece of paper, your calendar, journal or preferred medium to write down the tasks of the day. Think about all the things you want to accomplish today and prioritize. Write everything down you can realistically achieve this day, but include a proper buffer for unexpected events and activities.

Moreover, you should incorporate routines into your daily life. For instance, call a friend after you are done with work, go out for a walk after lunch, read 20 minutes after dinner, write a letter every Sunday morning to your future self.

If you establish structure and routines, chaos and uncertainty will have a hard time to bring you down and chances that you become distracted decrease. Make use of those simple but effective tools.

Harness the constraint of social distancing to your benefit

Most of us have an additional amount of free time due to the pandemic. I believe that this constitutes a great opportunity. Many of my friends try out new things or restart a hobby, such as painting or reading more. But there is so much more we can do.

I think that the crisis forces us to physically distance ourselves from each other, but we all simultaneously grow together in spirit. The only way to curb the threatening damages is to stay united spiritually and act collectively.

What we can do for sure is to use our additional time to get closer to our loved ones. Ask your friends and family if you can help them out, offer support for strangers in need, make the time you sit at home to have meaningful conversations with your partner, parents, siblings, grandparents… Moreover, harness technology to overcome boundaries. We don’t have to meet in person to be close to someone. Use video calls and other forms of communication to make the experience as real as possible.

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