Pandemic Productivity Blues

Who needs a productivity boost? Yesterday, I was alert and engaged. Today, my energy is lagging.

Many of us continue to work from home, and are finding it extremely difficult to be productive; to stay on track, focused and motivated. Even as a high-performance mindset coach, I’ve never been more challenged.

Working from home was once the dream. What gives?

Our brains need novelty and stimulation to remain alert and productive.

Though it may not have seemed so then, the time that we once spent commuting, catching up at the water cooler, and collaborating with our colleagues, engaged us in complex mental maneuverings, now absent, that were built-in opportunities for our inner operating system to constantly reset.

We were regularly switching up our environments, mapping and planning our day’s journeys—to the office, to the kitchen for a coffee refill,  to the conference room on 14 for a practice group meeting, out to lunch, to a deposition or the courthouse, to the CLE or the networking event. We were moving physically and changing locations.

Sustaining our energy, optimism and enthusiasm is no small challenge when our commute is 50 feet from the bedroom (or in the bedroom) and our surroundings remain constant day after day. The tendency to replace our former spontaneous casual conversations with a news check-in or social scrolling compounds the drag.

Recognizing that we’re designed for variety can be helpful in creating alternatives to the activities that once provided frequent boosts to our reset button.

Today I did something that felt really radical for the middle of a workday. I needed a solid mental change without leaving my home, so I set my timer for 10 minutes and read a chapter of a novel that I’m slowly working my way through. Those 10 minutes were just enough to make me feel like I had the getaway I needed, and gave my analytical brain a reset, so that I was ready to re-engage with focused work.

When our thinking slows, our system is signaling that it needs a reset. A short walk to get the mail, or a break to wash some dishes is not wasted time away from work; rather, it can be productive processing time that generates new ideas, or restarts our thinking when we return to our desks. Even 60 seconds on the clock to stretch or gaze out of the window is helpful. When I get up to toss out the recycling or refill my water bottle, I’m intentional about acknowledging the value of this time.

Shout-out to the parents of school-aged children, whose challenges are multiplied in this environment. What novel ways are you using to sustain your progress?

Keep thriving,


Founder, Center for Thriving in Law. Helping lawyers design their best lawyering life.

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For more great sketches about work like the one at the top of this blog, follow @lizandmollie on IG