If you’re a working parent of school-aged children right now your weekly routine has turned on its head. My kitchen is my meeting room, I can be looking at boiling peas on the hob or my boss’s head. I teach my children about prepositions whilst doing my regular 9 – 5.30, the washing basket constantly jeering at me. I am always in my house, staring at the housework and two inboxes.
When I returned to work after my career break one of the things that I loved the most was having boundaries back in my life. I had colleagues, a dress code, a change of scene and nice places to buy coffee from. For the time being, all those perks have gone.
I don’t know anyone who is missing the commute and the hours they get back. My own experience is that conversations are focused, meetings are mercifully shorter, I get alot more done. The case is being built for more flexible, remote working. Organisations realise they just don’t need all that premium office space. These are good things.
University of Bath’s Yasin Rofcanin compiled research showing that for many, the blurred domains do not necessarily facilitating productivity. “Segmenters” like the boundaries of a workplace. “Integrators” cope better with our new reality of boardroom/classroom/gym/kitchen being at the same postcode. It’s a Covid blur.
We know enough now to know that we will never go back to how things were. All of these thoughts are going through our head at any one time, along with whether or not we might get furloughed, projects might get cut, sales lost. If we are not working yet but want to, we might be expecting that the bottom is going to fall out of the jobs market.
How Can We Start to Navigate this “Covid Blur”?*
These are my thoughts from the first two months.
Don’t swim in a sea of unstructured time.
Lack of focus encourages distracting behaviours or procrastination, even panic. Knowing roughly where you are heading helps gives a sense of achievement and allows you to apportion time in the way you need to prioritise.
Rofcanin “Since you are performing (more tasks in the day) simultaneously and interchangeably, you may not realise one is taking up the time of the other.” Use the opportunity to start a good new routine: in a very tiny way, but very regularly.
If you are looking for work, plan your daily tasks. Set weekly goals: three structured Linkedin approaches, one video application, having someone proof your CV for example. It sounds insubstantial; but consistent, small efforts will pay off. They will also feel less intimidating to embark upon.
Next, remember we are going through a trauma. Before you do anything in your day, reflect on the fact that you are facing up to a mighty global challenge. You do your bit; social distancing, keeping informed, clapping the carers, keeping the system going in your own way. Congratulate yourself.
Do Gina Ford Badly
We expect so much from ourselves. I was the classic older mum that was so used to having her life in order, I struggled with the chaos of a baby running my life. A sage buddy said “Do Gina Ford badly”. She prescribed a timetabled routine for your baby, “controlled” crying, parental command and control. I kind of ignored her imperious instruction, but picked out a few nuggets that worked “Just in time, just for me”. Be perfectly imperfect.
Try not to fall out with your family
It’s a serious point, as right now there is no escape.“Our research has shown that employees who are able to engage fully in their home life get recharged but also feel satisfied and gratified that they are able to focus on – what is for most people – their most important responsibility”. We need these people more than ever before.
You have more options than you think
Feeling we’ve no choice is anxiety-inducing. Try asking how you can create an opportunity out of a current obstacle you face. See a great example opposite of how one individual reframed a bad situation on Linked in.
My final point is about legacy. To illustrate the point I’d like to share an anonymous quote from a client I am coaching. When I asked her “what does she want to be known for” when she is 90 she said:
At home it means giving (my nearest and the rest of my family, the feeling that they have been loved, that they are important people and are supported, that the values I wanted to bring to the world have made a difference to them. For example, that my contribution helped them to feel better at times, more confident, or help them understand things around them better, questioning the world and themselves and having grown from the experience.
How inspiring. How can you begin with the end in mind today; and think about what you want to be known for at the end of this time? Then make it a focus to move towards that each day of this Covid blur. Taking tiny steps towards your lifelong legacy cannot fail but help you make sense of this time in our lives on planet earth.
Don’t swim in a sea of unstructured time
Be gracious to yourself: you are living through a Trauma
To every task you tick off your list add the words “whilst in the midst of a global health pandemic”
Be perfectly imperfect “Do Gina Ford badly”
Cherish time with loved ones: they’ll still be around after today’s pain
Reframe your situations so that you can see your options and choices
Work backwards: what will you remember the time for? Get it done
* Please, let me stipulate that I have given not written this article for those who are facing bereavement due to the pandemic. I do not profess to have any direct experience of or expertise with, coping with personal tragedy arising from Covid-19.