How to Stay Focused & Productive Through Challenging Times: Guest Article, Christine Southam

Whether you are self-employed or an employee “your ability to get important work done depends less on where you work and more on how you work” according to Maura Thomas, writing in Harvard Business Review. Whilst offices and work places may now be slowly re-opening, many are still working from home and there is this “work from anywhere” opportunity which we can use to ditch unhelpful thoughts, along with the office schedules and stresses associated with them.

We can find new ways of getting business done, especially when there has been a disruption in our behaviours and actions. So instead of sliding back into your old ways of doing things, lets find out from this time of adapted schedules and work locations to see exactly where we are personally most productive.


Also in her HBR article, Thomas writes:

What’s taking your attention right now? Do you have kids at home? Are the dishes piling up in the sink? Or do you need to check that news notification that has just popped up on your phone?

Distraction has become a habit, and the first step of habit change is awareness, because you can’t change a habit that you don’t realise you have.

She suggests differentiating low-attention tasks and high-attention tasks that require what she calls “brainpower momentum”. You could also prioritise and categorise your tasks: monetary value, urgency and importance.  Differentiate low-attention tasks and high-attention tasks that require what you could call “brainpower momentum”.

At the end of each day set yourself your three Most Important Tasks to achieve the next day. Set realistic goals that are achievable.

When we say we’re time-poor, what we really mean is that we’re decision-poor.

Recent research conducted by Ipsos Mori and the Fawcett Society found that women are more likely than men to bear the emotional brunt of the current crisis.

A regular but flexible routine is beneficial to all especially those with children and scheduled in is little “me-time” too. You may have the luxury of being able to carry out a full Morning Routine but, if not there are plenty of free online resources to get your endorphins going: Joe Wicks, 7-Minute Work Out for Women or CorePower Yoga are currently very popular.

Thomas quotes her fellow HBR contributor and behavioural scientist Francesca Gino, who writes, “gratitude enables us to savour positive experiences, cope with stressful circumstances, and be resilient in the face of challenges.” A gratitude journal is a simple way to bring your attention to the good things and this in turn will have a positive impact on your perspective.




Time is a valuable commodity and using a technique like the Pomodoro technique by Francesco Cirillo which breaks up time into intensively productive bite-sized chunks followed by a short break away from the screen and this app Tomato Timer helps manage this. Use your breaks to complete home tasks like hanging up the laundry or emptying the dishwasher.

If you find this approach too rigid and would prefer to embrace and continue with a task once you are absorbed, identify when your most productive hours are and what conditions surround you, then recreate them when you need.

Support from your work colleagues and accountability to each other is critical for helping you through difficult emotions and providing a source of encouragement and purpose.

Good communication is key to maintain a realistic overview of team productivity. Keep online meetings purposeful and make sure that you, as an individual and as a team, celebrate all successes.

A combination of thoughtful planning, capitalising on opportunities and intentionally focussing on the good things will help us to achieve positive productive results.

This pandemic has taught us what is really important (and what isn’t): food, shelter and love followed closely by rainbows, singing, crafting, games, neighbourliness….. these that have been undervalued by our society are turning out to be the things that nourish us during this bleak time.

This new workplace flexibility is not about saving money, nor long-term social distancing. In the end, it’s an investment in employee well-being, productivity, and ultimately, profitability.


Guest article by:

Christine Southam, Virtual Personal Assistant

Christine Southam

Christine says: “The ethics of my business is grounded in creating a more resilient society and a planetary healthy future because it is clear that the health of humans, the planet and the economy are intrinsically linked. Without a healthy planet we are at huge risk of more frequent and devastating crisis’ such as Covid-19.”

Follow Christine on Twitter @virtual_cs