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How you can stay safe and productive in isolation without driving yourself insane

- 7 ways to turn social distancing and isolation into a productive time for you (and your close ones)

Photo by Daniel Cartin on Unsplash

We are living in extremely interesting times these days.
For some of us, this global pandemic caused by the coronavirus will be one of the biggest challenges in our lives so far, for others it could be one of the biggest opportunities to thrive.

The difference? Perspective.

As with everything in life, there are always two sides of the same coin. Much of the information we are seeing out here on the internet, social media and the press is giving most often an overall picture of fear, panic & even misinformation.

So with this article, I want to achieve specifically ONE thing: help you see the opportunity in the seemingly hopeless situation and turn the fear into action!

Ready? Let’s do this!

Here are 7 ways how you can turn social distancing into a productive time

Before we go straight into the 7 things I do want to quickly lift the ‘myth’ about the question of what social distancing actually is. Because let’s be honest, it doesn’t sound very friendly, nor very approachable, so to get this out of the way, here is a definition from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. In their factsheet about social distancing, they state:

“Social distancing is a term applied to certain actions
that are taken by Public Health officials to stop or
slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease. (…)

Social distancing measures are taken to restrict when
and where people can gather to stop or slow the spread
of infectious diseases. Social distancing measures include
limiting large groups of people coming together, closing
buildings and canceling events.”

So that means, in case of a pandemic like this, there are set rules to more or less control (learned) social behavior to help stop or slow down the spread of the infectious disease further on.

Now that we got that out of the way, we can start, shall we?

1| SCHEDULE YOUR WORK & LIFE

That is the easiest way to actually stay productive AND sane in one go. See if you wake up with 24 hours to go the first couple of days, you may be super energized and ready to work and tackle this challenge (or maybe you are paralyzed with overwhelm and worry) – but to keep this up for two, three or even six weeks (we don’t know yet how long it will take us to be isolated) you want to know HOW you will fill these hours. If you are thinking to just keep working all day long while in isolation, this could easily end in burnout. On the other hand, if you now start slacking on your tasks you could end up losing your business and even not being able to support yourself or you losing your mind over all of the time on your hands but no plan what to do with it.

So here is how to tackle this:

  • Every week (Sunday evening is a good time), sit down and make a list of upcoming work tasks, fun things to do, what to cook, which books to read & podcasts to listen to
  • For each day, plan 3-5 work tasks, 1 big or 2 small fun things to do, 1 thing you’ll cook & one of the other things
  • Now plan them out for Monday – Sunday, leave some room for virtual family & friend meetups or spontaneous dance-parties at home and you are good to do
  • Now you all you gotta do is, follow your schedule

2| COOK NOURISHING FOOD & TRINK LOADS OF WATER

Sounds obvious, right? Right. Especially to stay healthy but also productive. But many of us, unfortunately, don’t take time for it out of our hectic days. Well, the good news is (or a silver lining haha) you now have time for it, being at home in isolation for a bit. So why not start to try all of these incredibly amazing-looking, nourishing, healthy and yummy buddha bowl recipes you can find on Instagram or some 15-minute quick dinners for busy entrepreneurs. As many studies have shown, we are what we eat, so in times of physical self-isolation, it is even more important to not binge on the crisps, cookies, and snacks full of processed sugars, chemicals and without any nutritious value. Instead, find ways to obtain fresh food & produce (Check on nearby delivery services from supermarkets, fresh or farmer markets, ethnic markets & stores in your area and maybe it’s finally time to start your own little garden for future fresh produce) and get creative. The best side-effect? You will not only boost your immune system, but you can increase your productivity by 60% just by eating all of the fresh & nutritious foods!

3| SWITCH IT UP

We definitely can now lock ourselves in, work all day, keep our routine and wait until life somehow gets back to the old days. But why not switch things up? This virus has given us a tremendous chance to finally make the changes we were craving for but didn’t dare to pursue, but now we are forced into acting upon it. So what is it you want to change?

  • Want to start a business? Do it!
  • Want to renovate or re-decorate your house? The best time is now!
  • Did you always want to travel? Make plans now! (And travel when it’s safe)
  • Wanted to get out of your job that you don’t like anyway? Get out!

On another note though, if you are content but you want to really push forward, just switch up your routine during the days, so you’ll stay sane. Wake up and start with a coffee one day, the other day, start with a workout. One day, have fun first, the other day, use it as a reward when your tasks are done. See in a normal situation this would not be my number one advice, but crazy situations are asking for out-of-the-box responses.

4| START A PASSION-PROJECT

While we are at it: Why not starting your passion project that’s been waiting for you to make time since 1999. Creativity is one of the best outlets for us to express emotions, memories & create a bond. It also helps extremely with productivity if used as an accelerator (not as procrastination per se). So what is it you would really really love to do? that one thing that keeps coming back into your mind and you kept pushing it away because you never have the time for it or the capacity or frankly you didn’t know where to start. Well, in this case, the time of isolation is a blessing. Tell me in the comments below, which passion project you have started!

5| UNPLUG & GET AWAY FROM NEWS & SOCIAL MEDIA

This one may be the single most crucial point to keep you sane: Unplug. See I am not saying “Please isolate yourself from the physical world for 2+ weeks – and also don’t be on social media” – no. Not at all. What I am saying here is that you want to be really diligent and ruthless about whom you keep in your network, whom you follow and read posts from and what type of data you will digest.
The more we will read on this topic, the more confusion, frustration, fear and sheer misinformation can (and will) be spread and you may pick up more or less of it. So instead of reading the news and posts on social media about coronavirus updates, have one or two reliable sources where to get your updates from in order to be able to make informed decisions – and for the rest of the time, make a point to re-connect with good old friends, have a zoom-dinner-dance-party, organize virtual community-meet ups and support for the elderly and disabled, check in with friends who may not feel safe and comfortable and why not watching an awesome documentary?

6| WORK IN SPRINTS OR POMODOROS

Having trouble focusing on your work tasks? The best way to tackle is to work in pomodoros or work sprints. Pomodoro is a set time-frame (usually 25 minutes, but can be extended up to 45 minutes) that is timed and followed up by a break of 5 minutes. This loop repeats 4 times (which will make up a full 2 hours) and then followed by a bigger break like 30 minutes. Time sprints are usually longer than the Pomodoro and followed by a longer break. I use 90 – 120 minutes for my clients, followed by a 15-minute break. During the break, it is in any case highly recommended to stand up and move, drink loads of water, breathe deep and get away from the screen, phone and messages. If you plan your work tasks in either Pomodoros or time sprints, I promise it will help you get things done faster and with more focus.

7| HAVE DESIGNATED PLACES TO WORK, EAT & SLEEP

This is a super important one that many people like to ignore, working with their laptops from the bed. The issue here is that then our mind gets used to the fact (as you train your mind) that the laptop is ok everywhere in your house/apartment and that your bedroom is also your office. That can lead to sleep issues because he bed is then not only a place to sleep anymore where your mind is used to shut off and rest but instead, you will keep thinking about your tasks, the crisis and so on – and cause bad quality sleep or even sleep deprivation that carn harm you heavily in the long run. So instead, have designated areas to work (a desk or table to do so), eat (eg. the kitchen area) and sleep (the bedroom). If you now worry because you have a studio or a small room, please do not worry. These separations can easily be made with different versions of decorations, like different colors. You could also have a nice curtain or shelves in front of your bed as a room separator. And if all of that is no option, make it a point to create rituals around working, eating and sleeping that will help your mind understand what it has to do and what “mode” to enter to support you.


I hope you can see the opportunity in the crisis: We can turn things around easily for us if we can change our perspective on it. Most importantly though, e should by now all understand how important self-isolation is and how we can support each other doing so.

I would love to hear from you in the comments below:

How are you going to use the time of physical isolation?

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