How does one keep working when the world needs help? I can't seem to be productive at all.

With so much uncertainty, it’s perfectly normal to feel distracted. So, the first thing that I would recommend is to make sure that you are practicing self-compassion.

Instead of judging yourself for having a hard time being productive, recognize and acknowledge that we are in uncharted territory and that you are worried about the world. Then, take a deep breath, check in with yourself, and try to determine what loving act of self-care you could do for yourself. Instead of trying to push away the discomfort so that you can focus back on your work, acknowledge it, breathe into it, and take care of yourself.

Still, on a practical level, if you are working from home, you do have some need to be productive. So, another approach you might want to experiment with is the Pomodoro Technique. This technique, which was developed by Francesco Cirillo, involves breaking up your work into increments of 30 minutes. During those blocks of time, your goal is to set a timer for 25 minutes. You will then work on your task for those 25 minutes, and stop when the timer goes off. Put a checkmark on a piece of paper, and then give yourself a five minute break. That 30 minute block is called a Pomodoro. After you have completed four pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

The idea behind this method is that the 25 minutes encourages you to work with greater urgency. After all, if you know that you’re only going to be working on the task for 25 minutes, it will likely make you less prone self-distraction. For example, if you find thoughts or worries coming up as you are working, you can practice mindfulness and gently let them go, coming back to the present. With this system, you’ll know that you can go back to thinking about them during your break. This might help you to be focused during that relatively short time period, and then enjoy the recharging of taking frequent breaks throughout your day.

If you find that four Pomodoros is too much given what’s going on, then you might want to tweak this approach. Perhaps you can try out two and then take your longer break.

The important thing is to be gentle with yourself and know that you’re doing the best you can.

Dr. Patricia Thompson

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