Pursuing the Pandemic Productivity Delusion

I’m feeling pretty scattered lately.

We all are, right? Checking our latest local Covid numbers, or forecasts for the Gulf of Mexico, or wildfires, or… asteroids.

<Sigh> I feel like I need some dude with a light saber (and preferably decent sentence structure) to teach me how to F-o-c-u-s.

I’ve read so many books and articles and blog posts about productivity and how to best start your day, blah-de-blah-de-blah. Not that I don’t think there isn’t value in their advice.

(Was that too many negatives? I’ve been doing Russian on Duolingo, and that language’s approach to negation blows my mind a little.)

I just don’t really have the energy to keep it all straight. The advice, I mean. Not the double negatives. Or more importantly, I don’t have the energy to implement it.

I had high hopes for a new planning system I started a couple of months ago. And honestly, I don’t think I’d have gotten as much accomplished as I have this summer if I weren’t using it. But I’ve hit a wall this week. I actually hit it last month, but until this week I’d still been eking out a few millimeters of forward progress, pushing stubbornly against the wall. (I never said it was a structure built by a master carpenter.) This week, meh, not so much of the eking.

Along with the planning system, one of my big picture productivity things has been trying to “fix” our living-turned-working space.

I’ve been working from home for years and, ironically, have never quite nailed that down. Instead I cobble together solutions to problems on the fly, or just deal with them. As if I think my situation is temporary, or the landlord might drop by. Spoiler alert: we are the landlords. But now I have an extra, external kick in the pants to do something about it.

For the past several months my husband has been spending a significant portion of his time working from home. How significant depends on how locked down we are and how badly our internet is behaving.

That means figuring out things like best use of our limited space; how to maintain (okay, pretend to have) some work-life boundaries; and how to cue each other when we’re head down, can’t be disturbed working, versus I can break for a smoothie working.

If he’s not chained to a Zoom meeting, Paul tends to wander. His main base is a desk on the opposite side of the same room where I work, but he might set up on the lanai when the sun isn’t blasting, sit on the nearby couch with his laptop, or circumnavigate our house and pace the driveway on long phone calls.

I, on the other hand, am perpetually chained to my desk.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my big, beautiful, shiny desktop computer screen. But other than recently rotating my desk, I don’t get much opportunity for movement. And it gets hot in my corner as the day wears on, with the sun bearing down on my end of the house all afternoon. The temperature hits the high 80s by mid morning and only gets worse from there. 

Which brings us to My System, the only reason (I tell myself) the heat isn’t totally unbearable, and where I get the bulk of my daily movement.

I open and close specific doors and windows and blinds and curtains at specific times throughout the day, as well as turning on additional fans and rotating their orientation. My favorite fan is an adorable little portable Ryobi that tucks into various windows and nooks as needed, running off an extension cord or its rechargeable batteries…

Excuse me while I check the status of the recharging batteries.

Except the times and orientations aren’t always the same because they’re influenced by how overcast and/or windy it is… Yeah, so, about that focus. 😜

The wall next to my desk (we’re back to walls now) is a great metaphor for my productivity, almost a physical manifestation of my mental health.

As part of that new planning method I mentioned, I converted my old bulletin board (practically unusable anyway because it requires a hammer to insert a push pin) into a Kanban board that’s doing an excellent job of telling me how behind I am.

To replace the bulletin board, I’ve mounted a small whiteboard and some bulletin squares—hexes, actually—cork on one side and foam on the other. I haven’t pinned anything on them yet because every morning, I discover that in the middle of the night while I wasn’t looking, one of them has jumped to the floor.

Every. Single. Morning.

It’s always the same one. The sticky bits stay on the wall (maybe we should use them to hurricane-proof our roof), but not on the hex-bits.

Yesterday, I found more sticky bits tucked away in a drawer and pressed them into service. (How about that pun?) This morning I had some appointments, but checked before I left, and…

On the floor. Again.

When I returned in the afternoon…

A second one had fallen. (Because I wasn’t there to watch it, obviously.) Making a pile on the floor.

Like I said, the perfect metaphor.

Covid cases continue to head in the wrong direction here on Hawaii Island, so I definitely won’t be going to barbecues or the beach this holiday weekend. If you do—properly masked, of course—think of me sweating at home while nailing cork tiles to the wall.

Nah, this is gonna take a drill.

Better go check those batteries again.