If you’re finding yourself feeling a bit unmotivated, distracted, distressed or discouraged, you’re not alone. And yet, you still have things to do, whether it’s adjusting to a “new normal” of working from home, looking for work after being laid off, or chasing after kids who have no where to go but your hallway.

There are many things you can do to stay grounded and focused during periods of uncertainty, and we’ve rounded up the top five.

Making a plan? Your day will thank you 

It takes an average of 

23 minutes

to return to a task when you’re interrupted

It’s important to your sanity to stay as focused as you can, and try to avoid task switching as much as possible. Researchers from the University of California-Irvine found that, on average, people switched tasks ever three minutes and five seconds, and it takes someone an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the main task at hand.

Here’s how to safeguard your time

Here are five habits to embed into your work day to help keep you centered and productive:

  1. Protect your time as much as if it’s a valuable savings account that you’re reluctant to spend. In particular, there’s so much noise on the internet, that you can find yourself in an internet vortex quickly. Before you know it, one article leads to the next, which leads to hyperventilation. It’s best if you can really try to safeguard your work time and energy for focusing on getting through your to-do list, and separate out your news and social feed for non-work hours. If you do go online, try to keep it brief and intentional, rather than spiraling through all sorts of content.
  2. Make a daily plan. More than ever, as the saying goes, failing to plan = planning to fail. With work needs, and family, and calls from friends, most of us have more on our plates than ever before. Whether you make a plan the night before, or early in the morning, you’ll likely feel much better about your work if you can be proactive vs reactive.
  3. Manage your work space for success. If you’re working from home (aka the new “open office”), try to keep one dedicated space for just you and your work. It could be a corner of the kitchen table, or even a specific box you keep your work things in that moves with you, but if you lose your work materials, you risk losing your mind. Your “office” now likely looks different than it did, but it’s important to still keep some semblance of your own, dedicated, work space.
  4. Send one email or text per day to a current or former coworker, checking in and saying hello. This serves three purposes – it helps you know you’re not alone; it cultivates your network should you need to make a career move; and it gives other people a sense of community that’s really, really needed right now. The note doesn’t have to be long, but an “I’m thinking of you” note goes a long way.
  5. Take care of yourself (put your own “oxygen mask” on first). Even if you’re managing work and family needs with limited time, you’ll fare best if you can take deep breaths; water breaks; chair stretches; brief outdoor sessions; lunch breaks. Perhaps you can work out with your family a “walk to work” routine that involves walking around the block before you sit down to your computer. Or, if you do still need to go to work, you can use the commute time for mindful breathing and getting as much fresh air as possible.


These days are likely some of the most stressful work situations we’ll all face, and these simple – but important – reminders can help keep your work stress from adding to the stress that’s in your personal life right now.