In light of this unique occasion, I am taking a break from my previous blog series and changing focus for a bit. Today I want to share thoughts and observations from this unprecedented time in history.
We are four weeks into isolation, quarantine, social distancing, stay-at-home orders…whatever you want to call it. In my household, we have been safe at home for a month now. Our particular version of quarantine includes me working from home, my husband’s clinic closed and him homeschooling a 5th and 2nd grader. We both spend time each day as cook, housekeeper, technical support, personal trainer, activities director, project manager, employee, and business owner. While we have two extroverts and two introverts in the family, there is a good combination of time alone and time together for all of us. We are thankful for our home and yard, which give us space to share together, and to spread out and be alone, when necessary.
I was telling my 11 year old son the other day that he should be keeping a journal, something like the Diary of Anne Frank, which he had read about, and documenting the quarantine for future generations. We had a brief conversation about why it would be good to write his experience down and explain what Coronavirus Quarantine was like to future generations. That’s when he asked me, “You mean you’ve never had to do this before?” Funny, isn’t it…he didn’t even realize the uniqueness of the situation.
It’s interesting to me to think about his perspective on all of this, and how it will impact his generation and their decisions and way of thinking in the future. Will he always have extra hard goods and canned foods on hand, just in case? Will his way of working and schooling be different because he’s had to already learn how to operate virtually? What other impacts will this situation have that we can’t even imagine?
For me personally, it’s a similar curiosity that leads me through the situation. On bad days, it’s very easy to go to a dark place and worry about, well, everything. On other days, I have much to be thankful for and many reasons to be happy.
In fact, I read a post the other day that said something about your current situation being the future you had dreamed of. While I believe it was intended to have a pre-virus meaning, it was read post-virus, and of course had a different impact because of timing.
No matter how it was intended, it created a moment of reflection for me. I considered whether this really might be the future I had dreamed of. The truth is, there are many facets of this experience that are exactly as I had dreamed them.
What I really recognized was that how I framed my situation, and the things I decided to focus on, would determine my mindset and attitude. For each of the positive impacts, there is at least another equal negative impact. There are many scary and uncertain things happening right now. There are a lot of reasons to be worried, and even panicked. I could chose to focus on those things and to feel sorry for myself…lonely, afraid, and worried. Or I could chose to focus on the positives in the situations and establish a new routine, or ‘normal’, that takes advantage of the positives of the situation and leverages those components to create the life I had been creating in my dreams.
You may be wondering, how have I chosen to focus on the positive, and make the most of a difficult situation. For starters, when our trip to Italy was canceled, we decided to get the puppy we had all been hoping for over the last several years. Truth be told, we didn’t realize we would have as much time at home as we currently do, but we did realize that this would be the best time possible to focus on training a puppy. This has proved to be a fantastic decision. Our puppy, Gypsy, has brought us plenty of entertainment, cuddling, and responsibility during our quarantine. We have had the time to train her, and she has had the opportunity to reduce our stress and anxiety.
Early on in the quarantine, I focused on creating rituals and strategies to reinforce the habits and goals that I wanted to take away from this situation. I have created a schedule that allows me quiet time in the morning, focusing on my self care and health. As well as rituals and processes that allow me to start and end my workday with a focus on productivity and efficient, deep work. The working from home situation has allowed me to build a schedule that provides for meeting time during certain hours in the morning and afternoon, with offline individual work during times in the late morning and midday. It’s still astonishing to me to realize how productive I can be when I have uninterrupted time to work on certain projects. And, both the puppy and I are appreciating the ability to take three walks a day!
Focusing on communication, and specifically stating my individuals needs, has been a critical success factor during this time as well. Both on the work and family front, being open about my schedule and the times I am required on calls, as well as arranging time for the priorities of each family member, requires specific and detailed communication. We have established a standard schedule, communication board, and routine for the kids schooling and have built in opportunities for my husband and I to get alone time for rest, recovery, and rejuvenation.
Finally, There are plenty of opportunities within this unique situation to demonstrate my leadership and team management philosophies. While we had already established a work from home schedule of 1-2 days per week, there are still intentional activities that help me to stay connected with the team and support them through their own circumstances.
For me, the focus has been on understanding the individual needs and circumstances of each person on my team. We extended the already scheduled weekly stand up to allow more connection and collaboration time. I moved our bi-weekly one on one meetings to weekly to ensure each person has the opportunity to ask questions, raise escalations, and discuss priorities. I established a Microsoft Teams group to have ‘water cooler’ conversations with the team. Some days this involves prompting the team to chat with questions like weekend plans or Netflix series to watch, but mostly it leaves an opportunity to discuss more than just the work that we do.
More than anything, being understanding and empathetic of each situation is where I am putting most of my focus. Helping those with young families feel comfortable with an unusual schedule, spending more time talking with those that are single and living alone, or redirecting resources to productive activities when their workload is restricted, have all been positively received. So far, our productivity has remained at a pre-virus level and the team has demonstrated a commitment to finding the right balance of work and family life.
In this circumstance, it has become even more obvious to me how important it is to be aware of yourself and live authentically. These qualities, in both family and business life, will continually help you to make the appropriate decisions for your personal, family, and work situation. If you continually make the choice to focus on the positive, and make the most out of this, and any situation, you will find benefits and outcomes will exceed your expectations. You can use these as a time to enhance the life you’ve created and shine.