In this time of COVID-19, it can be so easy to get lost in the swirling never-ending stresses. Putting out continuous fires, chasing ever-changing regulations and guidelines, delivering difficult messages, and scrambling just to keep the lights on one more day.
And, all this to the backdrop of barking dogs, chattering children and the constant nagging feeling that there may not be enough toilet paper. Forget the light at the end of the tunnel, many days it feels more like an endless pit and the exhausting scramble is just to keep from slipping further down.
In times like these, with the seemingly endless daily cycle, we need reminders that there is a future beyond the pandemic. We need to give ourselves the light to remind us we are not in a pit, we are in a tunnel, and there is another side.
What better way to do this than to look toward that future?
Here are three steps to throw a spotlight on the future, giving us that much needed light.
1. Just breathe… and exercise and whatever else keeps you you
When I was expecting my first child, I received one piece of advice over and over that made no sense at all to me.
“Don’t forget to take care of you.”
What? What is that supposed to mean? How could I forget to take care of myself, I am myself! It’s the baby I was worried about – feeding her, keeping her clean, keeping her happy… me, that was easy.
Then my little girl was born.
Feed the baby, get laundry going, feed the baby, clean up while she naps, change the baby, feed the baby, play with the baby, put her down for a nap to… oh poop, she’s crying… calm the baby, feed the baby… wait, did I go to the bathroom yet today?
The advice started making a whole lot more sense when days would go by and I lost track of the last time I showered. I didn’t feel like me anymore, I didn’t feel like anything – I just absently went through the motions.
“Don’t forget to take care of you” is very important. We need the recharge time to think clearly, handle challenging and stressful situations, and to face the next day with optimism instead of defeat.
Take time to do what you need to in order to be you (within the confines of the restrictions) – meditation, books, hobbies, video games, whatever it is that recharges you. Don’t forget exercise as it has a profound effect on mental health.
A little ‘you time’ will put you in a state of mind to think to the future and have the energy and optimism to impact it.
This time is not pleasant for many, but it is a rich field of lessons in business. What works, what doesn’t, what can be improved, and what should be abandoned. Take the time to observe and record each of these valuable tidbits.
What was the impact?
How much did it impact the employees, the business, the customers?
What needs to be done differently next time?
How can the organization benefit from these lessons during normal times?
For example – scrambling to train new people on the manufacturing floor on how to assemble small parts while maintaining social distancing?
Perhaps your solution (youtube how-to videos? Lego-like pictures of a step-by-step process?) not only fills the gap during social isolation, but is a faster, more effective way to reinforce traditional training.
What about handling the 400% increase in employee FMLA requests and questions? Did the demand expose the lack of or a lack-luster self-service portal, or the lack of usage of a self-service portal? Is there an opportunity to create or revamp the portal, add new communication methods, or enhance the portal with mobile access?
Pain with observation and thought are great opportunities for improvements and solutions. And that is a whole lot better than just suffering through it.
In the day-to-day reactionary scramble, there is little time to plan for what will happen post pandemic. But the future is hard to remember when we never think about it.
So, dust off those great projects you’ve been itching to start, search through the emails for those ‘wouldn’t it be great if’ messages and scan through those lofty 2020 strategic goals, and pick something. Spend a few hours every week strategizing for the future so that when the lockdown ends (and it will end) you have fresh projects to jump start the team.
For example, have a 2020 initiative to increase diversity in hiring? Spend a little time researching diverse hiring methods (we have great content for that) and design a month-by-month plan to incrementally change behavior and a quarter-by-quarter process redesign approach complete with process-reinforcing technologies.
Or, take advantage of the dormant time for some of your processes (like, perhaps, your hiring process) to map out the process step-by-step, identify pains such as expense, time-consumption, and frustration, then identify what can be done to make improvements.
When your time is dominated by endless cycles of tactics and reactions, a little strategy goes a long way to breaking the monotony and building anticipation for what’s to come.
Bringing it together.
Working under the isolation, uncertainty, and endless tasks of COVID-19 can leave us feeling demotivated and trapped in an endless, monotonous scramble. But, keeping an eye on the light at the end of this dark tunnel will give us the strength we need to get through it.
Take time for yourself to recharge, learn from everything to shift from suffering to empowering change, and strategies for the future to remind yourself that there is a future and there is plenty of fantastic things to do when we get there.
Stay healthy, stay safe