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Amanda Labuza

Not Productive During Quarantine? That's Okay!

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Amanda Labuza

We are two months into quarantine in the US and looking back, and for many of us it doesn't seem like we accomplished as much as we thought we would. With all this "extra" time we were supposed to write all those papers, submit that grant, finish analyzing all that data, workout every day, and learn to bake bread. Instead, every day felt like a struggle to be productive.

Of course you are struggling to be productive working from home. Most of us do not work from home. In fact, one of the few chances we have at work-life balance is the fact that most of our work can't be done at home. We are used to physically separating work and home. More than that, we are not used to sitting at a desk for long hours. Unless you routinely do dry bench work, we are much more adapt to short periods of work. You write a paragraph while you let the gel run, and then get up and set up a transfer, and then check an email while your buffer mixes, and then read for an hour while you eat lunch, etc.

We are great at breaking up tasks and fitting each piece into small chunks of time in between other tasks. We are usually getting up and moving to a seminar, moving to a journal club, to a meeting, our days are always broken up. But now, we are supposed to just sit at your desk at home for 8 hours and write straight. Or read papers without breaks. And it doesn't work. But of course it doesn't. If you were good at sitting and focusing on one task for hours at end, you would have gone into computer programming. But you didn't. So without a hard deadline, you shouldn't expect yourself to be motivate to read every paper on calcium regulation in astrocytes in a week.

So if you are anxious about your boss asking you why you weren't "more productive" take a breath. Very few of us were. Keep in mind, there is no new data coming in for awhile, even after we re-enter the labs, and PIs get lost without new data to look at. It isn't personal. It doesn't make you a bad student. You were not alone. The goal of quarantine was never to be "productive". It was to protect society and to literally survive a pandemic. This was never a vacation, but it also wasn't designed to be a chance to write all those manuscripts. Writing, data analysis, literature searches, whatever you've been filling your time with it, it was a meant to help keep working going so it didn't completely stop. As long as you did more than nothing, you were successful. Keep working, but don't beat yourself up if you didn't accomplish as much as you thought you would during this time.

NOTE: This is all assuming you don't have children. If you have children, forget it. I can't even imagine what you are going through right now. I just want to say remember to apologize to every stay at home parent for their constant work.

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