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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Exercise impacts the rest of your life in a positive way

Exercise is so important. It’s not to sport a six pack of abs or Popeye like biceps, but to give your body something it needs. Exercise benefits your body and your brain.

To quote the Rolling Stones, “you gotta move.” When you are healthy, movement helps your body to be healthier (this is easy to Google). Movement helps your body physically, but also mentally. In times of stress, like now, it can help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, and improve your mood and cognitive functioning. Read that sentence again; movement can help you to be more centered and at peace.

Anyone who has had back pain can tell you how debilitating it can be. Movement helps keep your body loose and helps with your pain. Movement can be stretching or your regular mode of exercise. Of course you may want or need to use ice afterwards to help, but movement, along with heat and ice, work together to ease pain.

I have had back pain and know. Many people lay in bed and do nothing until the paid recedes, which is a good move if that what your doctor recommends. Otherwise, especially with soft tissue pain or injury, the counterintuitive action you should take is to move. For me, using movement (stretching and exercise), heat eat and ice works well.

The combination of these three methods of treatment help me recover faster when my back hurts. I have found the less I move, i.e. not working out and or sitting in my chair at work too long without getting up, the more back pain I have and the longer it lasts. I try to move and walk so that I am doing what I can to keep my back pain at bay.

Exercise also benefits your brain. It provides time think on life issues large and small. It can help clear out detritus you haven’t had a chance to think over. It also can provide the clear mind you need for inspiration. My wife and I hike regularly, and many important life decisions have been made on those hikes or as a result of conversations started on a hike.

The trick is to find something you like to do. You don’t have to go to the gym, but that may be your thing. You know you won’t keep doing something you don’t like to do. If you find something you like to do, you can make it a habit and therefore part of your life. Do this and you will feel better, and what’s better than that?

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Be Kind – it matters now more than ever

We are in unprecedented times. The limits on society are changing daily as the world tries to slow the spread of Covid-19, the Coronavirus. People are hoarding certain foods and toilet paper. Videos of people fighting over the last package of toilet paper in a store have been posted on social media. Many people are out for themselves and ignoring the negative effect they are having on their community and neighbors.

But there are glimmers of kindness as neighbors offer to go shopping for neighbors who are elderly or immunocompromised. Others are sharing ideas for craft projects or online learning for parents with school-aged children trapped in their homes.

Which person are you? Are you out only for yourself, or are you trying to help those who can’t help themselves? If you are the former, you should look in the mirror and ask yourself why you think about only yourself when all around you are experiencing the same concerns and fears you are.

We all can do better, whether ordering take out from a local restaurant (and tipping heavy if you can) to shopping for that elderly neighbor. When the worst of the Coronavirus passes, you will want the good restaurant down the street to still be open and your elderly neighbor healthy and waving as they pass your home on a morning walk. We all need to remember we are part of a community that will resume a more normal life (hopefully) in the near future.

We all continue to move fast through our days. Are you nice to the people who cross your path? You should be because how you treat people is what stays with them when they think about you.

Currently, many people are working from home, or may have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. Many business have been ordered to close or severely reduce their services, i.e. income. Others are supposed to stay in their homes. We all could use a little boost or show of caring.

The benefits of being kind outweigh the efforts you put in. Knowing this and acting on it will help you and your reputation.

In the same vein, continue to do random acts of kindness. Compliment someone. Be patient with those who make mistakes, whether a co-worker or the checkout person with the long line of impatient people waiting to buy food or goods.

Doing so is good for you in many ways. The feedback and reactions you get will brighten your day. What you do or say will brighten others’ days. Try it and see how good it makes you feel.

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Relationships are everything

Whether in your personal or professional life, this seems obvious if you think about it. Relationships make life interesting. They can lift you up, but can drag you down (if you let them). You want healthy relationships that make you a better person, or business owner, or attorney, or whatever it is you are.

You have choices. You don’t have to have an unhealthy relationship with someone, even if it’s a family member or business partner. You always have the ability to make choices about who you deal with and how. This isn’t necessarily easy, but, as my wife is known to say, “hard choices, easy life; easy choices, hard life.” If you think on this you know it’s right.

No one becomes an attorney without an interest in helping people, me included. Sometimes the want to help leads to poor decision-making. Not everyone can afford to pay for the help they want or need, or want to listen to the recommendations they are paying for. The real answer is for me to understand my client’s goals and financial situation to craft a strategy and plan that is aimed at reaching their goals and which they can afford. This results in better working relationships and trust because our respective expectations are taken into consideration. If I don’t think a potential client is willing to hear the truth of their situation or wants to go down a path they can’t afford, I know I am saving myself headaches by declining the representation.

By making hard decisions such as to not take on all clients or their work, I know I am working on one of my goals, which is to work with clients who are realistic about their options and truly open to my input, whether positive or negative. That’s because honesty is important and is a good basis for healthy personal or professional relationships.

A good exercise is to think about the relationships you have and whether they add value or not. If so, you should nurture and work on the relationship. If not, you need to decide whether you are willing to make the hard choice of either ending the relationship or, at least, giving it less energy. If you do this, a year from now you will have less stress and a better network of personal and professional connections and relationships.

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Finish what you start

When the road to a goal you made becomes difficult, do you push through to finish or throw in the towel? Ideas matter, but execution is everything. If you can’t execute, you won’t finish what you start.

I have written about goal setting (https://bit.ly/2TjSTEc) and the use of SMART goals (https://bit.ly/2v7u9Hu) before. If you do this it will help you create a roadmap to your goal. It is important to think through your goals and the steps to get there. This will allow you to consider the difficulties you may encounter and ideas to overcome them.

You don’t have to figure out how to do so on your own. Look to others such as mentors and people who may have knowledge about the issues you are encountering. Many people like helping others and will go out of their way to do so for you. It’s a “you don’t know if you don’t ask” situation. Many situations do require a village, or at least one other person.

From the start, keep the end you seek in mind. During your journey towards the goal, what the end is may change, but the idea of finishing doesn’t. And it feels good to finish something, whether it’s cleaning your closet, obtaining a new professional credential or signing up a new customer. Never stop challenging yourself to complete tasks and goals, and learning along the way.

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Make a difference

No matter the level of your success, there are others around both better or worse off. As you work hard and improve your position, you should think about others and how to lift up your community. Improving your position may be financial, or it may mean you have more control over your time. Either allows you options to make a difference and give back.

There are many options. You can volunteer for a non-profit, try to get on a non-profit board, do a fundraiser or donate money. Which option(s) will be right for you depends on you. Volunteering is an easy entry point. Most non-profits need volunteers and will gladly help you find a time and place to volunteer.

Being on a non-profit board is a larger commitment. There are board meetings, committees to participate in, events to attend and financial support is always needed. If you choose this option, make sure the non-profit’s mission is something you are passionate about because board members are charged with corporate governance and making important decisions on the operations and business of the non-profit. This equates with time. Plus, board members need to take their role seriously because they owe fiduciary duties to the non-profit. If you don’t know what this means, look it up before agreeing to join a board.

Planning and hosting a fundraiser may or may not be easier. It may mean getting a restaurant to donate a percentage sales on a given night to the non-profit. Or maybe you are braver and will plan a larger event, which means higher expenses and bigger risk for the non-profit. But to be clear, fundraising is one of the most important activities for a non-profit.

Of course you can choose to donate money instead of or in addition to your time. Non-profits always need it. The more success you have, the more opportunity you have to give back in this manner. If you have the means, you owe it to yourself and your community to find good causes to support .

Find your entry point and do what you are comfortable with. The point is to do something. You don’t have to have money to do this, just an interest in making a difference.

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Intention figures into everything you do. Intention is your aim or plan. If you approach something with no intention it will be more difficult to complete your plan or reach your goal. Intention can relate to long term or short term plans.

In my legal practice, my intention is to do quality work on my clients’ behalf and help them achieve their goals. To do this, I focus on listening from the first interaction to understand their goals. I then advise them and work on their behalf with their intention in mind. I do my best to make sure I have the necessary information to make recommendations and that they have the necessary information to make choices.

Some people may be motivated by money. They will do whatever it takes to earn more, even if it means working one or more jobs they don’t like. If so, hopefully this is a short term plan because it is hard to do work you don’t enjoy.

Others may have the intention to better society. Maybe they work at a non-profit that has a mission they are passionate about. Or they may work in government.

I heard a professional musician interviewed about this and how his first real mentor preached intention. The musician thought about this and ultimately decided his intention was to be able to support himself, and later his family, through playing music and never having to get a ”real job.” His initial plan was to play with anyone who asked where there was a paying gig. As he improved, he had more and better choices, but, even decades into his career, he still makes choices based on his original intention.

The point is to think through your choices and options. This allows you to choose based on your intention. Doing anything important in your life without thinking about intention will make for a harder road. It is worth your time to consider this and think thoughtfully and meaningfully on intention throughout your life.

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Business is fundamentally creative

As an attorney, I don’t necessarily think of myself as creative or an artist. Despite this, I have to be creative during negotiations for clients or in coming up with legal arguments. No matter what type of business you work in or run, being creative is a benefit. You can work like people have for years or try to be creative, think outside the box and do something new.

You may be successful doing the same old, same old. I am not advocating for you to wholesale change what you’re doing or your approach. Adding creativity to me means doing the same old along with trying something new. It also is important to know if that new thing isn’t working that you need to shut it down. Then come up with something else new and try it.

This doesn’t mean coming up with something off the top of your head and putting it into play. In business, as opposed to art, it is important to think through the ideas you come up with. This could mean writing a business plan or conducting sufficient research before sinking significant resources into your new creative idea.

Every year I try to come up with a new idea to put into play in the way I work or how I conduct marketing and business development activities. This blog was one of those ideas many years ago. In addition to keeping me connected with people I know, as well as making new connections, it gives me another creative outlet. These are some of the reasons I keep doing it, but if I didn’t enjoy it and derive any professional benefits, I would stop.

As you can see, ideas do not need to be earth-shattering. The idea is to be constantly and consistently coming up with ideas and deciding which one to try. Sit down and see what can you come up with.

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Get outside of your information vacuum

These days the world is divided and people are either with you or against you. This is bad in so many ways. On the news today I heard a reporter say that it is a negative that so many people live in their own “digital citadels of confirming information.” He, of course, was mainly referring to politics. I think it’s more than that, and speaks to people only reading news and speaking with people who they agree with.

You shouldn’t have to agree with those you spend time with. You need to like and respect them, not agree with all of their beliefs. This doesn’t mean there may be some topics to avoid, whether a family issue or, obviously politics or religion. If you are unwilling to speak with people who think differently than you, you are doing yourself a disservice.

I love music, and especially live music. When I am at a concert, I sometimes think about the people in attendance and the differences between us. Then I think about how music brings us together. It serves as a bridge to something that connects us. The point is that despite our differences, which may be vast, there is something we could connect on and start a conversation.

And that’s all it takes, an entrée to converse with another. It may go somewhere. It may go nowhere. But real learning comes from listening to others who are, think and believe differently than you. If this happened more often, the majority of people wouldn’t change their thinking, but the lines of communication would be open, and the chance for understanding and compromise would exist.

Digital citadels of confirming information.

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