Archives for April 2020

Work/life balance

Are you the workaholic each of us knows? You know the one. They check their email from the time they wake up, to when they are at lunch with you (please remember this is rude when we are able to dine together again), to when they go to sleep. For some, it’s an easy pattern to fall into. Now that many of us are working from home, it’s easier because there is even less separation between work and home.

Work/life balance is difficult in normal times, but we aren’t in normal times. The blur between work and home has never been so apparent for most people. In my home, my wife is working in one room, I am working from another, and our children are doing some online schooling and a lot of time wasting in the same spaces. Things change when your commute is walking across your home. It makes it infinitely more difficult to separate work and family. At the same time, I feel lucky I have the ability to work from home and be employed when so many people have lost their livelihoods.

I would like to tell you I am good at separating and there are bright lines for work and family time. I consider myself a work in progress. Sometimes I am better at it that others. It’s hard enough when you are at home and can always check work email or receive  calls. Now, I can sit down at what currently serves as my office twenty-four seven. This is great for my clients, but no so much for my family.

It is no secret that hard work is required for success. And there are times you must work harder than others and longer hours. Getting ahead does not come easy. But, as important as giving your all for your career or business, there has to be down time too, and I don’t mean sleep.

At all times, let alone when you are stuck in your home, you need to remember what you like to do for fun. We all need stress release. If you have to even think about the answer to what you like to do for fun or to relieve stress, you need to rethink your priorities and come up with a plan. Working hard until you die ends the same if you had instead taken more time for fun and stress relief. It’s important to draw a line in the sand and come up with strategies that will work for you to step away from work, enjoy time with your family and lower your stress. It’s easy to Google what most people regret as they near the end of life, and it usually related to having worked too much when they finally have realized that life is short.

If you question what I am saying about stress relief, talk to your doctor. For me, fun and stress relief includes physical activity. You should try to include physical activity in your routine. Your body and brain will thank you for it, especially as you age.

As for fun, it really is a requirement too. It could be sewing or playing an instrument, travelling, participating in a book club, etc. or a combination of many things. But you need to find things you enjoy that are wholly unrelated to work. Without doing so, you will have no balance and the odds of burnout or something worse increase exponentially. Don’t let this be you. Try to find balance and understand it always is a work in progress.

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Stay connected

Staying connected to people you know is difficult when you are in different places and told it’s unsafe to gather in groups. Most people currently are isolated at home other than when grocery shopping. You probably are working remotely, if you are able, and are lucky enough to still have a job. You may walk around your neighborhood and get to waive to your neighbors or exchange a quick greeting from a distance. This isolation is unhealthy mentally because most of us crave connection and miss it now that it’s harder to come by.

Your disconnection with friends, family and co-workers will grow unless you make an effort to try to maintain those connections. It won’t just happen. You will need to be disciplined, and many of us will need an actual plan.

It’s like networking, but with those in your personal circle. Instead of texting or liking a Facebook post, go into the contacts section of your phone and call people. You have or can make the time. Staying in touch with family may come more naturally. Calling friends you are used to keeping in touch with electronically or co-workers you see around your office takes more effort.

With family and friends I mostly text with, I am trying to call at least once a week. I regularly speak with co-workers I am working on projects with, but that is a small circle. I am trying to reach out to other co-workers I don’t regularly work with to check in. Most are surprised, but seem to appreciate the effort.

Doing this has the added benefit of keeping me connected with others despite being isolated in my home. As someone who lives for connection it’s helping to keep me sane, which seems like good goal these days. When you finish reading this, pick up your phone and reach out to someone now.

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Network now for your future

We currently are living in strange and different times. Businesses, cities, and countries are shut down. People are isolated. There is no traffic and the air seems cleaner. And people are exercising outdoors more than usual.

Despite businesses being closed, or their employees working remotely, the time to network is now. Networking is about connecting. Connecting takes many forms in addition to attending events or meeting for coffee. With in-person networking off of the table for now, other ways to connect should be your focus.

Many people have more time on their hands, which can be used to connect by phone, email, or text, as well as LinkedIn and other social media sites or apps. The manner of connection depends on who you are connecting with and the level of that relationship. The actions you take to network anytime shouldn’t be random, and this includes during the pandemic.

You need to look through your contacts and decide who you want to network with and in what manner. In the past few weeks I have networked by phone, email, text, FaceTime, Zoom, and social media. Some of the contact was initiated by me, and some by others – I’m not the only one trying to network despite the pandemic. People realize that we will get to a point where things generally go back to normal in that the orders to stay at home will be lifted and most businesses (hopefully) will re-open.

If you don’t network while all of this is going on, it will be like lost time you can’t recapture. All of us can speak to negative effects the pandemic is having on our business and professional lives. If you do nothing, when the world gets going again, you will be starting from behind.

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Will there be a new normal for you or your business?

If you are lucky enough to still have a job or business, has the manner in which you work changed during the pandemic? You likely are working remotely, as are many of your co-workers, friends and family, including many who haven’t done so before. If you think about this, it’s pretty amazing how fast companies adapted to be able for their entire workforce to work remotely.

As we go weeks in with most people working remotely, rough edges are getting ironed out and the manner of work is becoming more routine. Yes, most people are getting used to working remotely with their co-workers, customers and clients. It’s a different routine, but it’s a routine. This is how humans work.

When people are allowed to go back to their jobs and businesses en masse things will change. Some people will easily fall back into old routines, habits, etc. Some will entirely change how they work, maybe deciding to work remotely most of the time or allowing their workforce to do so. Most of us will end up somewhere in between. Now that people know they can be productive consistently when not in the office, many will make different decisions on how and where we work.

People are calling right now the “new normal.” I think right now is the exception and the “new normal” will come into being when stay at home orders are lifted and people are allowed to work at their businesses. Whether the changes will be good depend on you, your company and what specifically changes. But, undoubtedly, changes will happen and we all will have to adjust.

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Life during wartime

You probably saw the title and thought “what is he writing about?” It could be about the great Talking Heads song of the same name, but it’s not. It’s about living in circumstances that changed on a dime forcing most to work from home, and many to lose their livelihood.

It obviously isn’t the equivalent of really being a soldier at war, but for most of us it’s similar in that the terrain is constantly shifting and you have to continuously adjust. It also is a war in that we all (or, at least most of us) are together trying to win the war on the spread of the virus so we don’t further overwhelm our medical system.

Those of us continuing to work are generally going through similar changes and issues. These include how to work efficiently, how to shut out interruptions and focus, and how to maintain connections with clients and co-workers. It’s a lot to think about, let alone to accomplish.

I am trying to adjust my expectations on all of these items. It could be when my daughter decided to bake cookies that needed a llloooonnnngggg amount of mixing right after I got on a call with a client. I had to grab my phone and laptop to leave the kitchen. Luckily the client understood and found it funny, but not all people would have.

I am choosing different co-workers to call during the week to check in with. I am checking in on them, not the work they are doing. There is a difference. Most of us crave connection. Being isolated makes that harder. You have to consciously choose to stay connected.

I hope all of you are doing well, staying healthy and winning the small daily battles we all face in our work, our lives and in trying to maintain sanity while being stuck in place physically. I look forward to when we turn the corner and can begin to get back to what we each consider “normal.”

Of course, after this, and depending how long this goes on, what your normal is may change. But that is a post for another day.

Stay well.

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