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How To Use Your Time Effectively and Stay Productive in Uncertain Times

Wandering Aimfully Through Productivity

How To Use Your Time Effectively and Stay Productive in Uncertain Times

When the world feels like it's crumbling around you, here's how to reframe your mindset.
Jason ZookJason Zook Jason ZookJason Zook

Written by

Jason Zook

No doubt you too have been overwhelmed by all that’s going on in the world lately. We thought we’d share a handful of key mindset shifts we make to focus on using this time effectively, staying productive, or dealing with anxiety in uncertain times.

Let us start off by saying that when times get tough, we know how difficult it can be to retain some semblance of control. We’re certainly not immune to wanting to binge Netflix and escape into a good bottle of wine and a deep bowl of heavily buttered popcorn.

When we feel out of control, we lose our routines. Our work feels way less important. Our overall motivation to do anything ends up being at the < 10% battery level 🔋of life.

But… instead of focusing on the doom and gloom, we want to offer some perspective on how to combat this lack of motivation and stay productive based on a phrase we say often around here: “Opportunities, not obstacles.”

“Opportunities, not obstacles.”

This guiding phrase is a shift in mindset that has you look at every circumstance out of your control and ask yourself how YOU can see it as an opportunity. You can’t change the cards you’re dealt sometimes, but you CAN change how you play them.

Note: We also just wanted to say before moving forward that it’s 100% okay to NOT be productive if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by everything. If you just need to take time away/off, do that and don’t feel guilty about it.


When Things Feel Uncertain, Focus on Learning a New Skill or Strengthening Your Foundation

When you’re feeling unproductive or when you find yourself not knowing where to spend your time, we’d like to strongly encourage you to use your time as an opportunity to invest in your future self (and no, we’re not talking about the stock market, etc).

Learning a new skill helps keep your overall productivity going

We are firm believers in the power of completion. Momentum IS something you can create and often times it isn’t created by forcing yourself to push through and “do the work,” but by finding things you CAN do and are excited to do that will lead to ongoing motivation.

Star Wars Crochet on Etsy

(Shout out to all the talented folks creating things on Etsy… like Star Wars crochet characters!)

Whatever skill comes to mind for you, now is a great time to invest in learning that skill. Take advantage of the collective pause of the moment you’re feeling, and carve out a few hours each day to watch a ton of free YouTube videos or signup for a free trial of Skillshare. You can find a boatload of free tutorials based on whatever skill you want to learn.

“But Jason and Caroline, I have kids at home and it’s really hard to find ANY spare time at all to invest in myself or my skills.”

Do what you can. Maybe invite your kids in on the process and show them what it looks like to teach yourself something new. Or you could give your kids a favorite activity to look forward to that they can only do during Mommy/Daddy “learning time.”

As much as we like to talk about online biz stuff around here, maybe your skill is something more hobby-focused? That’s okay. Finding purpose and motivation is important to stay mentally healthy and to build motivation for other tasks or work.

When you feel uncertain and don’t know how to spend your time, focus on strengthening your foundation

Let’s jump back to focusing on business for this one. We see a clear path of how to set up and run a successful online business (in extremely simplified steps that obviously have a lot of nuances):

Where can you invest your time now to reap the benefits later?

Look back over that list and ask yourself which of those things you could be investing your time in right now that can put your business in a much stronger position when some semblance of normalcy returns.

Maybe you feel like your business foundation is already pretty damn 💪strong?

If your foundation is already strong, focus any uncertain time on getting ahead. Build out your social media content for the next few months and have it ready to post whenever the moment feels appropriate. Write your weekly emails and articles and create a solid backlog. Record your next 2-3 months of podcasts/videos and bank them all.

Jim Carrey knows what's up!

(This is you, getting ahead on all your content, social, etc!)

If you have a bit of margin right now, this is the perfect time to be opportunistic with that time. In uncertain times, don’t be opportunistic and prey on people’s fears, be opportunistic by investing in your future self.

In uncertain times, don’t be opportunistic and prey on people’s fears, be opportunistic by investing in your future self.


“How Can I Even Think About Being Productive When It Feels Like The Sky Is Falling?”

If you’re anything like Caroline, you might read those tips above and wonder to yourself: How can I even think about being productive when it feels like the sky is falling?

If that’s you, we’re still here with you and Caroline has a few thoughts to share.

Hey, it’s Caroline 👩🏻‍🦰 in this part of the article and I want you to know: I’m an anxious, sensitive soul and when there is panic in the air, every cell in my body can FEEL IT.

But, going back to opportunities, not obstacles, I can see a heightened state of uncertainty as an opportunity to practice my anxiety coping techniques and strengthen my resolve even further. The more I allow myself to feel my anxiety, not run from it, the more I prove to myself I can handle what life throws at me.

Here’s how I practice dealing with anxiety during uncertain times…

To lessen overall anxiety during big cultural moments, it’s important to limit media consumption BIG TIME

It’s important to stay informed, yes. But when something bad is happening in the world, I find that checking on the by-the-minute updates and Twitter opinions starts sending me into a spiral. I have two little #lifehacks that help me in regards to this:

  1. Block sites or limit screen time: When I can feel myself refreshing my Twitter feed or getting sucked into reading every post in my Instagram feed, I use a free Google Chrome plugin like Block Site to block on my computer. Then I use the built-in Screentime app on my iPhone to limit how much time I can scroll through IG.
  2. Step away for longer periods of time or completely: Because I want to stay informed, I still allow myself to check a (credible) news site, but only ONCE every two days. I ask Jason to let me know if anything big is going on and I stop allowing myself to get sucked into all the headlines.

I can’t overstate how helpful these two media restrictions have been to my mental well-being. It’s fair to say that it takes my anxiety from 🔴Red Level 10 Status to a still there, but manageable, 🟡Yellow Level 5 Status.

Sticking to a routine helps create normalcy

When things in our environment feel very eerie and disorienting, it sets our nervous system on high alert which can flare up anxiety symptoms. When things outside feel crazy, it’s important to let our system know that we can still create some normalcy and predictability for ourselves. I find that sticking to the same routine every day is incredibly important in calming my system and reminding it that things are okay.

You may not be able to create a perfectly calm daily routine in a time of uncertainty, but you can absolutely carve out time to start your day and end your day intentionally—which are crucial times to feeling more in control.

The last thing you might want to do right now is exercise, but moving your body is important

If you can’t go to your normal gym or yoga studio, all the pent up energy can bubble up inside you. I’ve been stretching and doing dance cardio on YouTube which helps me break a sweat, release some energy, and tap into joy which can help in these times.

Even if your exercise is simply going for a walk outside (social distancing included) or going up and down your stairs 10-20 times to knock out some daily steps, any body movement is important for reducing anxiety.

Be kind to yourself if you’re not as productive as usual

Have compassion for yourself and what you can accomplish during this time period.

When you go into scarcity mode (how will my business survive?) a natural reaction is to put pressure on yourself to work harder because you think working harder will limit your downside. The truth is, it will only panic you more and affect your mental health. Are these times very uncertain for businesses of all kinds? Yes. But things will return to a new normal at some point.

Putting added pressure on yourself to be productive if what you really need is some chill-out time to process all this is not helpful. Have compassion for yourself and what you can accomplish. Take it one step, one decision at a time. Check-in with yourself often and trust your gut on what you need to do to stay balanced.

During uncertain times, try to stay as grounded in yourself as possible

When everything feels crazy and out of control around you, remember you are not alone. Lean on family and friends to (virtually) support you. Trust in your decision-making now to plant seeds for future positive outcomes (for your sanity AND your business).

We can all get through uncertain times and feel a bit less anxious doing it if we navigate things together one step at a time.

How To Use Your Time Effectively and Stay Productive in Uncertain Times

(Big Fat Takeaway)

You can’t change the cards you’re dealt sometimes, but you CAN change how you play them. Focus on getting ahead, staying productive, and make sure to listen to what your mind and body needs to reduce anxiety during uncertain times.


This article written by

Jason Zook

I'm all about that Cinnamon Roll life (that just seemed like a "cool" way to say I love baking and eating cinnamon rolls). Also, I co-run this WAIM thing as well as Teachery. Currently, 75ish% completion of Tears of the Kingdom 🧝‍♀️⚔️.

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