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Productivity in the Pandemic

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

To give context...

Figure this - you really have your heart set on someone. They bring meaning to your life. They find ways to make the simple things larger than life. And most importantly, they give you a sense of purpose.

But here’s the issue - there’s way too many factors at play. There’s the orthodox father, the suspicious brother, and that one jealous ex-partner.

And you’re just holding it off, hoping for something to fall your way, rather than work for it. A Hail Mary of sorts, if I may.

Feels familiar? Yes. I just romanticized 'procrastination' for you.

You can join the dots now. Procrastination has this sort of domino effect on the human psyche, and it's usually triggered by residual emotions, pre-existing stress or a sudden onset of stress and/or emotions. I think you’d be on board with me when I say that a global pandemic of unforeseen proportions is a pretty good trigger for emotions and stress. But why are we, as humans, questioning our capabilities and our levels of productivity in a global pandemic, almost certain to ruffle anyone’s feathers?

The Collaboration

Citta India, in collaboration with The Backyard Psychologist, has sought to break through these questions and provide you with definitive answers that will put your mind at ease when it comes to being the most productive versions of yourself within a moment of crisis.

A collaborative audio series - “Productivity In The Pandemic” - was created with Kushagar Sudan of The Backyard Psychologist, covering the bases of emotional management, the exact science behind procrastination, and strategies to overcome it and increase productivity.

The first question that was tackled was one that has been doing the rounds ever since we were forced into a state of lock down by the COVID-19 situation - am I not being productive enough, now that I have all this free time on my hands? Well, Dr. Sudan had a very simple explanation to shut down this pseudo-myth almost instantly. He mentions that the constant feeling of being under productive, feeling useless and worthless in the absence of constructive work to do, could usually be assessed by asking yourself if you’ve felt the same way even before the lock down began, and whether this feeling has risen or stunted in the time since the lock down.

Have you noticed yourself procrastinating?

If you have indeed felt a sharp rise in those feelings, it could usually mean that this entire traumatic situation, namely of a global pandemic, is affecting you more than you think. And that is only human. This is a pandemic - it is not your summer break. And it ought to be treated like that. There is no race being run and no race to be won. If you aren’t working and being productive, like you would have in your summer holiday, it’s completely fine. Relax a bit.


Many people, and students especially, consider procrastination to be a fault of their own, and something that takes place subconsciously. A student, usually isn’t purposefully a procrastinator, but subconsciously chooses to do so, due to a host of underlying factors. The simplest example would be to choose an outing with your friends over that assignment that needs to be sent in by the next morning.

Remember, procrastination isn’t the willful abolishment of tasks, but the delaying of them until they no longer can be ignored without concern. And people often tend to mix up the two. Dr. Sudan says that if you indeed have felt that sinking feeling of unproductivity since before the lockdown, it has more to do with your emotional management and regulation, rather than the person you are and the personality you possess. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And the best part about it, is that you can always set this straight.

It's not just you...

As people in today’s generation and age, we find that regulating and keeping your emotions in your grasp is tougher than we know. It never helps that you fought with your best friend at college and then had to suppress it, but only let it out in the wrong way in front of your teacher when he told you that you seemed distracted in class. It always bothers you that you have an exam the coming week, but missing your football practice sessions for the study time you need to put in could cost you your place in the team. It certainly doesn’t help that you argue with your mother over petty issues at home, and then let that simmer for the entire week, which turns sour gradually. Emotions are like bacteria (a bit of an anti-climax. I know.), in that just like bacteria, they stick around till you choose to take them on, but even a good cleansing always leaves behind a little something that holds on to you.

Here's why...

There’s always a host of things on our minds - be it thoughts, beliefs, scenarios, self talk and so on - which knowingly or unknowingly affect us and, subsequently, our work. This is what causes stress on our minds. Dr. Sudan finds that adding more work to this mosh pit of stress and emotions is what triggers the prefrontal cortex to think, “I’m already so stressed, and you now want me to do more work?”

It is at this point that our mind looks for a release or an escape. We tend to look at anything that could even mildly distract us and our stress from the fact that there’s more to do. We always turn to our favourite shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime, because we realize that while there’s more stress when we look at our work, there’s none waiting for us at the helm of any source of entertainment or anything even remotely distracting.

This, as amplified by Dr. Sudan, is why we procrastinate.

How do I deal with it?

Dr. Sudan gives a very simple and effective method of time-management. Simply divide your time into blocks of 25 minutes, making a mental list of everything you intend to do in those 25 minutes, and follow through with it. On doing this successfully, reward yourself with a 10 to 15 minute break. This way, you both complete your work and get time to relax. We often tend to lose focus or get stressed because we’re uncertain of when we’ll be done with our work or how long will we take to finish it. By following this method of structuring your time, you essentially limit yourself to a certain period of focused work, in which you can use all your energy and concentration.

Closing Notes

Productivity is a layered concept - emotions, stress, time, focus and what not. But there’s always a way to break the shackles and come out stronger on the other side. We’re all facing the same mountain here, but no one is asking you to reach the summit before the person next to you. You just need to get there eventually. Breathe. Take your time. We’re all in this together.

Remember, always – you’ve got this!

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