How To Be Productive When News, Fear, And Social Media Is Causing You Anxiety


It has become increasingly difficult to stay productive and focus on work while the threat of COVID-19 looms. In these uncertain and confusing times, when there seems to be a news development every five minutes, it can be nearly impossible to pull yourself away from obsessively checking social media or turning on the news. 


A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, and many report feeling fatigue, anxiety, or sleep loss as a result. The survey goes on to say that one in ten adults checks the news every hour, and 20% of Americans report constantly monitoring their social media feeds, which is a constant reminder of the chaos we’re feeling right now. 


Of course, it’s easy to understand the spiral of stress we’re all experiencing. Cabin fever and general fear are all understandable side effects of the current situation, and it’s essential not to beat yourself up about how you’re feeling and reacting. Mental health is just as important as physical health right now, and even the World Health Organization is urging people not to check news and updates that often:


”Minimize watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones.”


“Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.”


“Get the facts; not the rumors and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals, from the WHO website and local health authorities platforms, to help you distinguish facts from rumors. Facts can help to minimize fears.”


Here are a few tips to help you be productive while you’re quarantined at home. We’re all in this together, and finding positive ways to ground yourself can help change your mental outlook for the better, so you can focus on the things you still need to get done.  


Here are a few productivity tips to help you through this distracting time:


  • Create a routine and try your best to stick to it. If you’re not accustomed to working from home, try these methods to decrease distractions:
    • Time block your calendar. Schedule different tasks to be completed in set times so you’re more motivated to focus on one thing at a time.
    • Batch process your email. Instead of checking email consistently throughout the day, only read, process, and respond to emails two or three times a day. Find out more about how batching can increase your efficiency here.
  • While you’re working, place your phone in a drawer in another room so you’re not tempted to start scrolling. Anything you can do to create obstacles for checking your phone will help decrease your phone usage.
  • On that note, when you do have access to your phone, turn off push notifications from news and social media apps. Limit yourself to checking the news to a couple of times a day, or less if you can manage it.
  • Create a to-do list every day of the things you’d like to get done. Go easy on yourself if you don’t complete everything on your list – simply move those tasks to the next day.
  • Schedule in one important task or goal you’d love to get done by day or week’s end. When you have a tangible plan in mind, you’re more likely to focus on achieving it. Try implementing the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, a visual productivity method. It’s perfect for people who don’t quite see things in black-and-white, like graphs, and would prefer to prioritize on a continuum rather than putting tasks into a few categories. It allows for prioritizing more complicated projects, yet it’s easy and quick to put into practice. We break down how to use it here
  • Consider blocking social media and news websites on your computer and phone while you’re working. You can implement a software such as Freedom to achieve this. 
  • Be kind to yourself and take breaks as you need them. Even taking five minutes to play with your pet, stretch, or make a cup of tea will bring a little bit of light to your day.
  • Use a time-management method such as the Pomodoro Technique to gain a deeper focus on work for short periods of time with integrated breaks throughout. There are Pomodoro-centered apps that can help you stay on track, such as FocusList.
  • Introduce a meditation or yoga practice in your life to assist in promoting mindfulness and stress reduction. Even spending 10-minutes each morning (or whenever you’re feeling anxious) meditating will help bring your focus back to the present moment, so you can tackle work with a greater sense of calm. Try using an app such as Headspace or Calm.
  • Encourage your focus by saving a treat for yourself at the end of the workday. This can be anything that brings you happiness, such as a movie you’ve been wanting to watch or perhaps some freshly baked cookies. 


While our brains are attracted to troubling information since we, as humans, are programmed to detect and avoid threats, it’s important to do whatever we can to bring positivity to ourselves and the people around us. It can be hard to get away from the negatives when the news is so disconcerting, but staying glued to your phone for constant updates will only make the fear you’re feeling grow. Stay safe and healthy out there, and let us know your own tips for avoiding social media and the news by tweeting us @SaneBox