How to feel productive with minimal effort: A self-isolation guide

Low-effort, high-productivity? The life secrets you always wanted

Following the news that we will not be returning for Easter term, I’ve been feeling at a loss. I don’t quite know what to do with my time, now that the constant pressure for a weekly essay and a portfolio and a dissertation has subsided into – what? Playing ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ for six hours a day and napping. If like me, you’re longing for that buzz of productivity, but don’t want to commit yourself to revising when you still have no idea what your exam arrangements will be, then read on. Here’s how to get that hit of getting something done when stuck in self-isolation.

Make some spreadsheets

I can’t quite believe that I would ever voluntarily make a spreadsheet, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ve found that making spreadsheets satisfies my craving for organisation– especially if they’re colour-coded – and I don’t actually need to get out of bed. Although this may sound like some Nerd Talk to you (and this is coming from someone who, when asked ‘what makes you happy’, replied ‘storage solutions’), I’ve found that making some simple spreadsheets makes me feel like a Successful and Organised woman. I’ve started cataloguing my books on a spreadsheet, and deciding on a colour code made me feel more organised than I have all year. While it’s true that I am still less than a quarter of a way through – picking the appropriate shade of pastel pink takes time – I’m enjoying myself tremendously. If I ever finish this, I’ll move on to my spending next.

All I want to be is a spreadsheet queen 🙁

Organise your wardrobe/bookshelves / a single drawer

Following on from my desire to organise, sorting out small spaces is a) far easier and b) more achievable than deciding that you’ll spring-clean the house. This is especially good if the rest of the house is off-limits (we love self-isolation!), or if you simply don’t want to move much. Make that sock drawer spark joy. Alternatively, change your sheets. Your mother will thank you.

Do some yoga

However much I would love yoga to be simply ‘lying on the floor and screaming’, it’s not. It does actually require some movement, but it’s easy enough to do from the comfort of your room without disturbing anyone. There are lots of videos on YouTube – I would recommend Yoga with Adriene, and she has a dog – and to be honest, even watching one without going through the motions is better than nothing. (Although doing yoga, even once, brings the self-satisfaction of being That Person Who Does Yoga, the one with toned calves and a zen-like aura.)

Organise your playlists

I, for one, have a Spotify account littered with half-arsed playlists. I’ve maintained my (then, bitter and now, ironic) break-up playlist, have several playlists with about two songs on them, and now is the time to sort them out. Do I really need three ‘different’ studying playlists, when in reality they all contain the same 20 songs, just in a different order? The answer is no; I don’t. I’m also going to take the time to find myself some new music, so I can move away from my 2013 wannabe indie girl phase. (Have you heard of The 1975? They’re soooo cool!)

Write down what you did today

I’ve found that writing down emotions, or even simply what I’ve done, gets me out of a mental slump and gives me something that I can look back on. Even if it’s getting out of bed, or having a shower, reminding yourself (in writing!) that you’ve actually done these things can really help with a sense of achievement, however menial those tasks may seem. Be kind to yourself! These are tough times, and if all you can do is have a shower and sit down with the Shrek films (watch them on Netflix before they go!), then that’s okay.

What do we want? More Tab-branded stationery! When do we want it? Now!

Make yourself a routine (maybe as a spreadsheet?)

Routine is good! You’ve probably seen those tweets with a super-productive self-isolation routine (who even has time to journal and meditate and have a bath and do a face mask and practise gratitude, all in an hour before bed?), but making a semblance of a routine is a good idea. Even if you don’t stick to it (be kind!), having your day organised into sections of time – or activities – means that the passing of time doesn’t stretch into one long slump punctuated only by meals.

Hopefully, these tips will help you feel more productive, even if you don’t think that they equate to a Big Productive Task. You’ll still be getting stuff done, even if it doesn’t seem like a Cambridge Getting Stuff Done. Stay healthy, stay happy, and stay indoors!

All image credits to writer