While this pandemic has truly changed the way business is done, I am still learning about how to effectively maximize my productivity and effectively get stuff done! Below are some helpful tips I’ve compiled:
My last semester of college was an amalgam of Zoom calls, either scheduled synchronously or asynchronously. Beyond just classes, Zoom became (and still is) the default medium for team meetings, interviews, tutoring sessions I give, and many aspects of life that often required meeting in person. Engaging with people online has limitations in that it’s harder to rely on visual cues for feedback during conversations. Someone’s bust is not enough information to tell you about small micro-expressions and hand gestures that often accompany real life conversations. Often video calls were not even an option, and my teams had to rely on phone calls alone.
While this may seem as a setback, a regression to audio communication forced me to improve my listening skills. I often found myself taking more notes about what someone said, peppering conversations with frequent “mhms” and “ahas” signaling understanding. During a three-way call, my sister even gave me honest feedback about how I needed to stop cutting the other speaker off. Thus, I had to a pay serious attention to engage with the other person. Reducing interactions to video calls or phone calls emphasizes the most basic skills we need to be effective communicators. Perspective taking, reframing what the other person has said, and asking meaningful questions are all skills that have helped me improve during teleconferencing.
Minimize Context Switching
Context switching is when you often relay back and forth between one or multiple tasks, having to constantly switch your mindset and your thought process. This adds latency to your workflow, and compounds into longer-term delays. One strategy I use to overcome this is to ask myself Can I get this done in the next 5 minutes? Or better yet, Can I complete this by X time? Giving myself those internal deadlines helps push me intrinsically to complete the task at hand. Only when it’s done may I switch to something new. This strategy helped me pump out papers and reports for my classes, as well as complete other projects like editing the videos I post on my Cooking YouTube Channel.
Schedule your Life
I never really appreciated the power of a calendar until a few months ago. I usually kept it only for my coursework, but that soon evolved into scheduling family meetings, extracurricular projects, and hangouts with friends. As a species, humans need structure. Especially for me, if I had no way of adding organization to my days and weeks, I would go mad! I recently switched to using a new calendar app called Fantastical and it has truly revolutionized how I organize my day! It allows me to easily invite others to meetings, schedule in when I’ll partake in my rituals (see below), and have something to look forward to every day.
Partake in Rituals
I like to think of rituals as similar to habits, but they have more meaning and intention. A habit is something like taking out the trash or making your bed. A ritual is something more with meaning like praying, journaling, or reading. These help us to constantly reflect on our day, and navigate our work and relationships with more purpose. One ritual I have practiced more is journaling every night before I sleep. It’s a great way to document not just daily transactions, but also to be truthful to myself about my feelings and thoughts. Writing is often a great way to untie the knots of “maybes” and “whatifs” that permeate our brain and it allows us to find truths in the stories we narrate.
Another ritual I’ve started is reading and listening to Quran in the morning. I’m pretty spiritual and religious, and the Quran has always been a part of my life. But I never really dedicated time to truly reading it for understanding until recently. Many of the lessons in this book influence my daily decisions. Knowing when to be patient, honest, and generous with the people in my life , even if I don’t see them in person, often stems from the Ayas in this book.