Chris sits down on the couch with his cup of coffee. It’s another morning in this new reality of working from home because of the coronavirus.
Chris is a youth pastor. He likes his job because he likes being around people and the feeling that he’s making a difference with the next generation. So, times like these can be tough for youth pastors like Chris.
He sits there on the couch with his coffee and his thoughts. But then his phone buzzes. It’s an alert from Facebook. He opens the app to see what it’s about. It’s nothing important.
Then he starts to scroll. And scroll. And scroll.
He likes a few pictures, leaves a few comments, and clicks a few links. Before he realizes it, 35 minutes have gone by and he thinks, “Gosh, I’ve got to get more productive!”
Does any of this sound familiar?
Have you heard of the Infinite Scroll?
When Aza Raskin invented the “infinite scrolling” technology, he was trying to help people become more productive. Instead of having to refresh a webpage or click a button to go the next page, the infinite scrolling feature allows people to, well, scroll infinitely.
But Raskin didn’t predict what would come from his well-intentioned invention. Instead of helping people become more productive, they’ve become less. They’re getting lost in apps (mostly social media) that keep them scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.
Raskin realizes why it’s so hard to stop the scroll. He says, “If you don’t give your brain time to catch up with your impulses, you just keep scrolling” (source: bbc.com). Today, he compares his invention to the story of a creator who lost control of his creation. He genuinely believed that his technology would make the world a better place, but now he is apologizing for what’s done to us (source: thetimes.co.uk).
Productivity is a big deal now.
Productivity and getting things done has always been important, but now that we’re all working virtually from home, productivity is even more important. And it seems like there are two ends of the spectrum for people in this situation.
Person 1 (let’s call him Non-Stop Nick) is at his computer or on his phone pretty much all day and night. He’s doing work, checking off tasks, and generally feeling busy. Person 2 (let’s call him Scattered Steve) is sleeping in, binge-watching shows on Netflix, checking social media, and generally feeling unmotivated and unproductive.
No matter which of those two people you identify with the most (and honestly, we all probably have a little bit of both in us), I have a few tips that will help you get things done while you’re working from home.
5 Tips for Youth Pastors Working from Home
1. Make a Schedule
Freedom can hurt your productivity if you don’t have a plan for how to use it best. You don’t want to aimlessly walk around your house randomly doing the next thing that catches your attention. Before you go to sleep each night, write down a plan for the next day (click here for a free tool to help you with this).
Ask yourself: What time will you get up? What will you work on first? When will you stop working for the day? Which projects or tasks need to be finalized by the end of the day? Also, be sure to leave some unscheduled time on your calendar for unexpected interruptions because they are sure to show up.
2. Get Dressed
Working in your pajamas might be comfortable, but it won’t help you be productive. By getting up and getting dressed, you are saying to yourself, “I’m ready for work.” And that’s a good thing because you’re not on vacation; you’re working from home. Plus, if someone (like your boss) sets up an impromptu Zoom meeting, you won’t have to hide your upper body from the screen!
3. Set a Timer
Productivity experts recommend a method called the Pomodoro Technique. The idea is simple (and surprisingly effective). Set a timer for 25 minutes, and start working. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break. Then start again with another round of working for 25 minutes. After a few rounds of this, you will have made noticeable progress on your work and built up some momentum to keep it going throughout the day.
4. Go Outside
Working inside for too long can drain your energy and stifle your thinking. Every few hours, make it a point to stand up, stretch your legs, and get some fresh air.
I think it was Nietzsche who said, “It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.” I don’t agree with his philosophy, but I think he’s right about that. Just be sure to keep social distance if you see someone else while you’re out in the neighborhood!
5. Avoid Distractions
A study from UC-Irvine found that it takes us an average of 23 minutes to get back on track after we’re distracted or interrupted from our work. So, unless you’re an on-call healthcare professional, it will help you work more efficiently if you close the door, turn off (or silence) your phone, and shut down your email program while you’re working. Be proactive and set yourself up for success by eliminating the potential for distractions that might derail your productivity.
Working from home presents us with new challenges, as well as new opportunities. Either way, beware of the infinite scroll. It will steal your time and give you the false impression that you’re accomplishing things when you aren’t.
To make the most of your time, start implementing one or more of these tips today:
• Make a schedule
• Get dressed
• Set a timer
• Go outside
• Avoid distractions
And there’s one more thing that will also help you: Reward yourself at the end of the workday for a job well done! What is one tip that you could share about how to work better from home? Share it in the comments below!