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College of Education Life at Home: Top 5 Tips for Productivity with Lisa Beymer

Lisa Beymer
Lisa Beymer trying to record a video announcement during her kids’ nap time in a wind storm. Photo still from Beymer’s video.

Lisa Beymer, clinical assistant professor of early and special education, had to adjust quickly to having two small children at home while maintaining contact with the college students in her classes and continuing to work with colleagues remotely on student support and planning.

“I can feel torn in two directions if I’m not intentional,” said Beymer. “My attention becomes split and unfocused if I’m not careful.”

Luckily with her experience and as a parent and educator, Beymer has developed some habits and routines to share that are working for her and her family during stay-at-home learning. Check out the video below Beymer created showing clips from her days at home with her family while she reflects on the unique challenges many parents are facing.

Lisa Beymer’s Top 5 Tips for Productivity:

  1. Maintain your morning routine.  It is easy to be tempted to hit snooze and sleep in when you do not have anywhere you need to “be” during the day, outside of the walls of your home.  Perhaps you even consider skipping your shower and get-ready routine because, hey, no one but your family will see you today anyway.  The thing is, your body and mind are used to a certain level of “preparation” for the day, which includes getting up at a routine time and getting ready for the day.  This is how your body and mind are used to functioning at full capacity.  Taking yourself out of this routine, you might find yourself more lethargic, less productive, and less motivated to approach your day the way you used to before quarantine.  In our current state of unpredictable changes, I would encourage you to maintain this part of your day that you have every bit of control over!  Set the alarm, follow your typical routine, and give yourself the opportunity to wake up for your day instead of waking up to your day.
  2. Make a prioritized agenda for the day, and stick to it.  For most of us, there are fewer dedicated hours in the day to get things done.  The hours we do have may be split between responsibilities that did not typically overlap.  It is important that we take full advantage of the moments we do have so that our focus remains where it needs to be.  If you are anything like me, your growing To-Do list paints an almost-impossible picture of work completion.  I have found that if I can break this list into daily agenda items, then prioritize those agenda items by urgency or importance, I feel more successful, more accomplished, and more supportive of those around me by the end of the day.  Meeting the day’s agenda also allows me the freedom to focus solely on family when we’re all together.
  3. Create a distinct space and schedule for work.  While I may have once considered myself a “multi-tasker”, this terms takes on a whole new meaning these days!  With so much responsibility packed into a day void of breaks, I can feel torn in too many directions and never fully giving my attention to what’s needed.  I have found that open and honest communication with my colleagues, my spouse, and my children allowed me to identify that I needed a distinct space and a distinct schedule of hours in my day that were dedicated to work.  Creating these boundaries has allowed me to dedicate more of my mind and heart to what is in front of me, whether it be family or work.  For example, I have physically removed anything work-related from our home’s downstairs so that it will not be a distraction to me when I am with my family.  Similarly, my spouse and children try very hard to respect the space I have created upstairs to get work done.  While not always perfect, it is helpful for all of us.
  4. Practice self-care in multiple ways.  Our health and well-being is most important now, not only because of the physical protection from COVID-19, but from the mental and emotional impact that the situations surrounding COVID-19 are having on all of us.  Whether you feel it or not, your body, brain, and spirit may be affected.  What has worked for us is changing our scenery however we can – by getting out on (social distancing appropriate) walks, conducting Scavenger Hunts for new things in familiar surroundings, creating new use for existing spaces, and getting outside whenever possible.  Try to practice the 20-20-20 rule, where for every 20 minutes at your computer, you avert your eyes to an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.  This reorients you to the world beyond your computer screen.  I have also found that maintaining meal planning or meal preparation has ensured that I have healthy and energy-providing food throughout the day to sustain my productivity level.
  5. Extend grace – to yourself and others.  We are currently responding to minute-by-minute updates on the changing circumstances that surround us.  We were thrust into contexts for work and family care that are unexpected, unprecedented, and indefinite.  We must have the grace for ourselves and others to know that things will look different.  We may need to say no to yet-another Zoom meeting.  We will need to support the emotional needs of one another differently.  We may need to adjust the expectation for what schoolwork we will accomplish with our children each day.  These changes are expected and needed to remain healthy and productive.  Things are different, for now.  They are not worse; they are not lesser.  They are just different.  Extend grace to yourself and others.

College of Education Life at Home: Top 5 Tips for Productivity with Lisa Beymer