Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the national unrest of the past couple of months, many people are feeling overwhelmed and distracted by the news cycle. And with your news feed vying for your attention at all times, it can feel impossible to focus on your work.
It’s human nature to want to stay connected at all times and to be drawn to the news that is most scary, urgent, and shocking. But it is possible, and even healthy, to maintain a balance and stay productive.
Set boundaries for yourself
While it may seem like obvious advice, putting this into practice can take a lot of self-control. With the 24/7 nature of today’s reporting, and a near-constant stream of “breaking” news, it can feel like you’ll miss something important if you tune out for a while. This is when it is most important to practice setting boundaries. Here are some ideas.
- Schedule breaks throughout the day at specified times to turn on the news or check the latest in your news feed.
- Write out daily to-do lists with the day’s goals and priorities. Check the news only after you’ve accomplished a certain amount and continue to set attainable goals for yourself throughout the day.
- Are you someone who wakes up in the morning and starts scrolling...and scrolling? Make it a habit not to begin scrolling through the news first thing in the morning before work.
- Download an app that temporarily blocks or restricts your time on the websites that are most distracting to you.
Take care of yourself and your team
While self-care is always important, it is especially critical during difficult times. Carve time into your day for activities that are not related to current events or to work, such as exercise and meditation. Maintaining a regular self-care practice lowers anxiety, prevents burnout, and helps you to feel your best both at work and in your personal life.
And if you are feeling overwhelmed, distracted, and saddened by current events, chances are your co-workers are too. Whether you are working at home or in the office, make sure to regularly check in with your team and maintain open communication. If you have co-workers who are personally affected by current events, either directly or indirectly, see if they need anything and ask how you can help. Cultivating empathy at work will help the whole team be happier and more productive.
Assess how current circumstances can be brought into your work
Rather than seeing the current events as a distraction that takes your focus away from work, are you feeling inspired to take action at work? If you’re working in the social impact space, the goals or priorities of your organization have likely been affected by COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, or some combination of the two. After all, our work does not exist in a bubble. Think about whether there are new initiatives you’d like to be involved with at your organization. If you see a need that your organization is not already filling, now might be a great time to bring it up with your supervisor.
During this and other periods of uncertainty and unrest, it is essential to stay informed and to act in any way you are inspired to. But maintaining a healthy balance in consuming the news—and always taking care of yourself and those you work with—is key to staying on track and maintaining your productivity.
Have current events affected your focus at work? How are you staying productive? Tell us about it on Facebook!
Joeli has professional and volunteer experience spanning the fields of healthcare, education, local government, and the nonprofit sector at large. She is passionate about LGBTQ issues and advocacy.