Updated: Nov 20, 2020
You can find a calm confidence right now. No matter what your world's like.
How many weeks have you lived a new normal?
Some of us are so deeply entrenched in the day-to-day, from sun up to sun down, that it might be hard to even imagine anything other than this intense, insane and harried moment in time.
I'm into my 12th week of my world being drastically different than it was before. Meetings canceled. Big annual events canceled. Trips canceled. Children home for school. Shelter-in-place orders.
For weeks, I've been asking questions to those I talk with on the phone or on video calls. How are you doing? And then later in the conversation, how are you really doing?
I've taken pages and pages of notes. Every person's struggle is real. Every person's emotions, concerns and stressors are real. Some are truly FRAZZLED - at their wits' end with what their life is like right now.
To those who want a break, need a break, or need advice on how to just make each day a little better - this blog post is for you.
I am of an era and an age where I have openly made fun of the phrase you do you...but right now, it completely and aptly applies.
You do you.
Talk to your family if you need quiet, uninterrupted time throughout the day (scheduled or not). Talk to your boss if you need a flexible work schedule. Work in the backyard, the front porch, or anywhere you want. Consider things you would have never tried before - like having your groceries delivered.
Let people know you are trying. Give as much as you can, and then be okay with asking others to be flexible when working with you. Take it one day at a time, or even one hour at a time if needed.
As I think about how critical it is to keep a routine in our “new normal,” I’m reminded of advice from Chris Mouton (Insurance Broker / Marsh & McLennan Agency). He shared that, “In these chaotic times, it is important to have a routine in order to hold ourselves accountable. To continue to deliver excellent results to clients, prospects, and colleagues." He went on to tell me, his clients and prospects are adapting to a new normal (just like yours are too) and it is more important than ever to deliver to them a clear and consistent message that you are here to help navigate these uncertain and trying times.
I asked Chris his advice specifically around routine, and he shared the following:
· Start with a Positive attitude
· Ask yourself “How am I going to help someone today”
· Avoid distractions
· Focus on the task at hand
· Set goals
· BE CONSISTENT
The "A" in FRAZZLED was supposed to stand for accountability. To ourselves, to our families, to our teams. But the more people I've talked with and the more people have shared - let's take a pause and just acknowledge that
YOU ARE AWESOME - 100% AWESOMENESS.
It might not feel like it, and you might be doing all you can to hold it together, but you are going to be just fine. And maybe you need to hear that every now and again.
Zoom Video Calls
Enough already - right?!
If you've shifted from working in an office to working from home, you might be experiencing Zoom-fatigue. Many of us have gone from one or two video calls a day (or two or three in person meetings a day) to eight or more hours of video calls. Sitting still, looking into a camera, staring at ourselves and others for hours and hours on end. No natural built-in breaks. No downtime or chit chat between calls. Not even the ability to stand up and walk around if cameras are on.
Is there anything we can do to make it better?
No matter if you are attending or leading a lot of video calls:
Check out this piece on Zoom-fatigue and ways to combat it
Suggest to your team that maybe the next meeting can be phone only and encourage attendees to sit outside, walk the dog, or just get away from the computer for a bit while still participating in the meeting
Try hard to plan an agenda that ends 5 or 10 minutes early and encourage attendees to use the "extra" time to do something away from their computers
determine who needs to have video on - all attendees, just presenters, or some other mix
If your calendar is jam-packed with video calls - determine if you can have your camera off for even a few of them
Protect and block time on your calendar to just think, work, be with the kids - this might be a few hours a week or a few hours each day
Are you getting enough sleep? Is your family? Even if you aren't on the same schedules...are you at least resting? Sleeping? Meetings basic physiological needs?
Experts agree on two elements that matter most in quality of sleep - a dark room and a cold room.
Open the window, or turn on the AC. Draw the curtains or grab an eye mask (not your face mask!).
Be kind to yourself in these crazy times. Consider using the time you were commuting for much-needed rest - especially if you are the primary caregiver to others in your household!
Right now, we are experiencing a major shift - emotionally, professionally, personally and physically. Lauren Randall, (Business Strategist, Alternative Investment Fund Practice / Marsh & McLennan Agency)shares that since the pandemic, when emotions are high, she has to stop and truly listen to what is bothering her instead of assuming she immediately knows what's wrong.
Lauren shared with me a story:
Right now, we are experiencing a major shift, emotionally, professionally, personally and physically. I’ve found that since the pandemic, when my emotions are high, I have to stop and truly listen to what is bothering me, versus assume that I immediately know what is wrong. I think this is trickling into our professional interactions. We’ve gone from normalcy to crisis in lightning speed with many HR and Finance teams trying to simply keep core business functions afloat. In our interactions, we have to understand and truly listen to tonal inflections, cadence, and any minute cues that might indicate the headspace that a client or prospective client is in, not just assume that we know. We all just need to embrace listening at a deeper level, to ourselves and others in order to be there for one another.
She also referenced a Harvard Business Review article that piqued her interest around honing our listening skills during Zoom meetings. We'll take all the advice and help she's ready to share!
Wendy Rue Williams, (Managing Director, Health Management / Marsh & McLennan Agency) offers weekly (live stream, & recorded) Yoga and Yoga Sculpt classes for her regional team.
Wendy says this not only has motivated her to keep moving during this unprecedented time, but it has further solidified the sense of community among her colleagues. The benefits of including movement into your daily routine has many benefits but she highlights the mental health benefits of exercise. In a time of feeling as though so many things are beyond our control, stepping away from your computer and simply inviting movement into your body provides a sense of taking back some of your control. It’s never too late to start! Join a zoom class and enjoy the community of your coworkers, go for a walk at lunch time, or watch one of Wendy’s recorded Yoga classes to provide some calm and movement at the end of the day.
Her advice is simple.
Be kind to yourself. Let go of guilt and celebrate the small victories. Exercise, fitness, wellbeing are all ways we celebrate our strength and our bodies.
Lift others up. Motivating your friends, your family has a positive effect on your own motivation. Pay it forward and as you find the time for self-care, share that with others.
Flip the narrative. Oftentimes the most difficult step is getting on your mat, on your running shoes or hopping on a zoom class. Instead of finishing that one last email or putting hundreds of tasks on your list, how do you move YOU to number one? Do this for you, for your mental health, for your physical health for a better night’s sleep for an ever evolving better version of you.
If you are already several months into working from home, you might think you don't need to think about your desk (or the kitchen table), but you do. Working from home for weeks and weeks on end (most likely in the same spot) might even be contributing to your stress.
Are you comfortable? Are you getting any natural light? What's most important - privacy or location? Are there several spots where you can take video calls to break up the day?
Last weekend I took the time to "stage" another background for video calls. It's not ideal, but the natural light comes in from in front of me (looks tons better on the video calls than side or back lighting), and I have enough room for my laptop, my notebook, and a few other things. And, it's near an outlet for the ever-critical charging cables.
Schedule Time Off - Soon!
One of the leaders I spoke to had wonderful advice. She said to remind everyone that it's okay to say this is hard. It's okay to say I feel frustrated and overwhelmed.
We all need a chance to press the reset button.
And with events and plans being canceled left and right, we might need to manufacture our own mini-breaks, even if only one day off at a time.
If you've been working harder than you ever imagined during this pandemic...it's okay to take a vacation day. Or two. Align with your manager. Discuss who might be able to be your backup on your out of office email reply too, so you aren't coming back to hundreds of messages, or if you are, someone else has already prioritized them or even responded to some.
My team is planning a "synchronized" day off in the coming weeks - with the same "out of office" reply with an emergency contact. Yes, it will be hard to step away for an entire day - but I think we are all looking forward to it.