Women & Design // WID Insights

Productivity in a remote world

An insight into what productivity means for me, and how I've learnt to snap myself out of unhealthy cycles while working remotely. There's so much to share! This will be a two-part series of articles, the first focusing more on work and productivity, as society measures it. The second, a more unconventional outlook on productivity, and why it's equally as important.

Team WID — Dhruti Soni // May 2021

Google defined productive as "achieving a significant amount or result.", while Wikipedia chose to call it "efficiency of production of goods and services expressed by some measure" — both the definitions revolve around an output per unit of input, over a specific period of time. Over time, productivity seemed to apply to humans as well. "I stayed up until 2am working, it was so productive" or phrases like "I feel so unproductive today", our definition of productive was defined by the amount of work your did that day, in comparison to societal norms.

I'd like to take a breather and share my definition of productivity. To me, I'm productive when I'm working with 0 distractions, sipping on a iced refreshment while having a face mask on, or even when I'm just zoned out watching Netflix. I think what matters more to me, is to listen to my mind and body and understand what I need in that moment. Our current measure of productivity somehow equates to the future, and not so much in the present. What do you define productivity as? Let's start a conversation.

I started my career remotely, back in 2019. As uncomfortable as it felt back then, I'm grateful it prepped me for the twist in 2020. I've been working from home, remotely (and productively) since 2019, and it's been a hell of a journey. I still find myself saying "I'm so sick of working from home", but I've come to realize it's more of a mindset than it is physical. I think it's the fact that we know we can't go out, or have those interactions we once took for granted that it tends to take a toll on ourselves. It sucks. You feel stuck, at a loss for inspiration, the walls may even feel like they're closing in! It's funny how easy it is to take things for granted. I've made some mistakes, I've slacked off badly, procrastinated hard and gone down darker roads; but I've come out and now I know how to prevent it from happening. I wanted to write this article, in the hopes of helping even just a single person out there. These are, of course, purely my experiences and opinions. Not everything that worked for me may work for you, but at least it'll help you find out what doesn't work for you.

You've probably heard this a million times, but they work! If you know me, you know I'm an organization junkie. I've used analog to-do lists, post-its, a scrappy old notebooks, Muji notebooks with organizations printed in, as well as digital to-do lists. I've finally settled on Notion, as my very own physical brain. Human brains work better when they're not holding a long list of things you've got to do. If you're like me, and you tend to forget the 20 something things that you told yourself you would complete in the morning, it's always handy to have to-do lists that make your day 10% easier.

I also embed in my Google Calendar, which I swear by on **time blocking** (link this to the timeblocking tag on this page, further down). This allows me to view the calendar and any time blocked right next to my to-do's (as well as viewing my week, day and agenda!)

Less is more in design, and organization too. Through multiple trials and errors, I've found this simple to-do list to work wonders for my daily routine. As any other human being, I have multiple roles that I switch between on a daily basis, from working as a freelancer, being a daughter, a founder, a client, a human being - it does get confusing to bring my 100% to each part of my life. I've found segregation and sorting to automate high priority tasks at the top of my list extremely helpful. I use tags to associate each task to each of my roles: ***Minimalcacti, Study, Life and WID.*** Then adding an 'urgency' level to each, with emojis of course. I've got a check-box which allows me to filter tasks to only those which still aren't done, the rest all save up in my 'Masterview' where I can see what I did, exactly when. Deadlines also help sort the tasks, if that's something you prefer having priority on. I've got a couple different sorts which automate my to-dos so I don't have to think, just do!

Lastly, I do add in relations to the task itself (eg. the article I'm writing, or the course I'm taking etc.) so I always know what I did on which day. It's going to be good practice later down the line, and I'm happy to be able to start collecting data and making databases this early on, to reflect on whenever I wish.

I use my calendar a LOT. It's linked with Alexa, which sends me helpful reminders throughout the day on what I have to prepare myself for next. Previously, I would block my time with exact tasks, which I found to be sadly repetitive as I would pencil in my to-dos on paper, then on Calendar, and on Notion as well. Silly, I know. Now, rather than adding in tasks on the go, I've blocked out my time which allows me to know what mindset I have to be in, and when. This is an honest game-changer. Knowing which part of my life I'll be catering to, really sets the tone well in advance - making any task I have to do at a certain time an efficient one.

We're always open to other perspectives, opinions, and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!

With 🧡 Team WID.

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