There’s a lot out there about how to “use” your coronavirus time. Or your quarantine time.
To rise to the challenge, be strong and valiant, own this and crush this and win win win.
Last week I was feeling that a bit. I thought “My business is already remote, so this is business as usual”. I was going to strive and fight and win, read every book I own and build new systems and and and.
This is (as we’ve all learned this week) very, very, very much NOT business as usual.
Even for those of us who have worked from home or remotely for a long time, this is not the same.
There’s more fear. The news is weighty, every day. Our minds, our emotions are heavy with it.
And everyone feels it. I even went out for a little shopping the other day and it was so stressful. Everyone was tense – you could see it in the faces, hear it in the voices. We all tried, and people were gracious, and no one was pushing or shoving or taking more than their 4-of-one-item, but it is still hard.
(Despite my great efforts to be calm and simply buy what I needed or would normally buy, I did end up with four deodorants – which is bizarre since we’re all supposed to be doing social distancing – and some dried currants. I’ve literally never bought currants in my life. I don’t even like them. I don’t like fruit cake and i’m only vaguely interested in mince pies at Christmas time, which this CLEARLY is not. You can watch the insta story if you want, but i warn you, at one point i literally start laughing so hard I have to stop talking for a while.)
Anyway the point is…
this is not business as usual.
It’s not life as usual.
Now, I do believe we will come out the other side. Most things are not being cancelled – they’re being postponed. We’ll go to concerts and restaurants and take flights and see family and hang out in person and hug.
But there will be a new normal on the other side.
And even now, in this weird in between time which we have no idea how long will last, we have a new temporary-normal which is also different.
So here’s my game plan:
1. Stick with my patterns.
I’ll write my Karen’s Notes every Saturday, with a sketchnote, as usual. I’ll meet with the team every week on Zoom, on Tuesdays. I’ll check in on Slack every morning with my priorities. We’ll send our PF long email every month. Write blog posts based on clients’ questions. Meet with clients on Zoom.
I’ll go for walks every morning (keeping 2 metres away from the few people I do pass, if any) and eat healthy and count calories. I’ll watch some Netflix now and then, but I won’t binge watch it – not because I can’t or I’m trying to be SuperProductive Woman, but because that’s what I decided over a month ago and I’m going to stick to my patterns.
2. Stay positive.
It’s one of PF’s values: We stay positive, and look for the blessing.
Staying positive doesn’t mean pretending everything is fine. It doesn’t mean dismissing people’s pain, or hurt, or lost business, or sick family members. It doesn’t mean smiling when you want to cry. If you want to cry, go for it. (I’m greatly appreciating the vulnerability and honesty being shown by so many people this week – if someone’s not doing great, we all get it. We honour it. And often we enter into it.)
But it does mean choosing, in the end, to FOCUS on the blessing. To look for the good things. To be grateful and share and send gifts and eat tacos and drink whisky and see all the good sides of technology and tell jokes and laugh. We’ve had some good laughs in our team meets and group coaching calls, and laughter truly is “good like a medicine”.
We will get to the other side. None of us will be truly the same on the other side, and our lives and minds and businesses and jobs and goals will all look a little (or maybe a lot) different – but we will get there.
3. Stay connected to friends and family.
I have a lot of friends & family in different countries, so I’m used to staying in touch with them via text, Whatsapp, MarcoPolo, Instagram, all the apps. (By the way, if you aren’t using MarcoPolo for short video messages, it’s brilliant. Great for leaving video messages for people in other time zones, so they can watch them and reply in their own time.)
Now more than ever, I’m sending quick messages to people to see how they’re doing. Best of all, they’re telling me how they really ARE doing. Sometimes you ask, and people say yea i’m good how are you, and that’s more or less that. Now people are saying I’m struggling, or I’m happy today and that’s nice, or I had a win and I’m celebrating it, or this is the worst day ever, or I lost my job, or I’m sad my trip got cancelled… and we’re all recognising how desperately we need to not just think we’re connected by sending a text, but to share truth and be real. That kind of connection.
4. Help clients.
I have a tendency to try to help all the people, but I realised pretty quickly this week that’s not only not possible – it’s not my job. I don’t have to help everyone. My videos don’t need to be watched by a thousand accountants – they only need to be seen by our clients and the accountants I know. If others see them and are encouraged, great. But if not, that’s okay too.
I’d love to help all the people and all the accountants everywhere, but I’m accepting that’s not necessarily my role right now. I’m helping who I know.
So I’m going to focus first on our clients and then on the other accountants I know or have a relationship with. (That includes you lot! Drop me a line if you need anything, or just want to run past me what feels like a silly or small or technical question.)
5. Choose rest.
This is so important maybe it needs to be the first one. #restpillar is one of the four PF foundational pillars, on which the company is built, and it is the one that used to surprise people the most. (Maybe it still does.)
How do you have a profitable, efficient creative agency when one of your four pillars is rest?
What it means is, you can’t be on all the time.
Crushing it constantly doesn’t work, because you’ll get crushed. You have to choose rest.
Take down time. Stop and think. Be quiet. Get off social. Read a book. Stare at the sky. Be bored. And we’ve all learned the hard way – if you won’t choose rest in your life, you’ll be forced to rest. You’ll get sick or break an ankle or get worn down or whatever.
Now that i think of it, that’s exactly what the entire world has been forced to do. We all, as an entire world, have been forced to rest – at least, rest from the way we used to do things. I appreciate some of you are exhausted because you’ve worked harder than ever in your life this week. I’m not dismissing that: but life looks different. We’re not going out to as many places, buying and selling as many things.
And it’s hard.
It’s tempting to want to be productive and achieve and write the best selling novel. To be Shakespeare who apparently wrote King Lear whilst quarantined from the plague, or Isaac Newton who developed all these theories and laws on gravity and motion while he was holed up avoiding the bubonic plague.
But the truth is, these guys were holed up for a long time. Apparently Isaac newton was holed up for two years. He wrote several papers, but it took him over a year to do that. I highly doubt ol’ Isaac showed up at the cottage or wherever he was staying and was like “Right! Let’s get that paper written! Day one, chapter one!”
I would guess he had some days of struggle. And weariness. And grief. And sleep. I would guess he was worried about friends and family, and his job at the university, and whatever else was going on. And I would guess the very reason he used his time so “productively” is because he didn’t rush it. He rested, and then he did deep work.
So if you need to take a few days, or a few weeks, or whatever you need to adjust to how you feel, you do that. If you don’t feel very productive or someone else is winning at life and you’re just getting some food made or doing some laundry, that’s okay. It’s called rest, and you need it, and you just take it wherever you can. The productivity will come.
Because yes, productivity and creativity and all of that does flow out of tough times. And for some it’s time to step up and be fast – like restaurants and shops scrambling to offer more delivery and takeaway, or delivery drivers working more hours, or teachers learning how to teach online.
But if all you can do doesn’t feel like very much, that’s okay.
Slowing down is okay.
Being quiet is okay.
Resting is okay.
The productivity will come.
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