Welcome to our dire new reality. The escalating coronavirus pandemic has massively disrupted our everyday work and lives. COVID-19 has confined millions of people around the world to their homes. How can you stay calm, productive, and optimistic while working from home in the coming weeks, or more likely, months? Consider following these twelve tips.
1. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best
The coming months aren’t going to be pretty. The current health crisis will linger on for weeks to come, leading to a global economic crisis that may reset business as we knew it. Some industries will fade away. Many companies will go out of business, including some big, prominent names. Millions of people will have to cope with temporary salary cuts or even lose their jobs. So, brace yourself for a recession. Cut all your spending down to the essential necessities. Ensure you have enough cash flow personally. Do you run a business? Consider embracing one of the government-guaranteed loan programs that many countries are now beginning to offer to keep the backbone of their economies intact. Make tough decisions earlier to gain peace of mind sooner.
2. Minimize the noise
In times of crisis, we need to catch up on the news to keep up with and effectively respond to the evolving situation. However, when we dedicate too much time browsing the COVID-19 horror stories in the media, we only increase our stress levels — and reduce the odds of staying productive. Limit your daily news consumption to half an hour. Focus on sources that provide the facts, and stay away from wide-eyed opinions and ballyhoo.
3. Look for the upside
The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of two symbols — one means ‘danger,’ the other one ‘opportunity.’ What opportunities does the crisis offer to you? Opportunities to develop new skills? Opportunities to explore new business models for a better future? Opportunities to connect more deeply to your partner and children who now all are trapped at home? As Albert Einstein noted, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
4. Establish a daily routine
When we’re under pressure, and confined to working from home, it’s more important than ever to bring regularity and order into our lives. A daily rhythm allows us to feel more in control. It increases our productivity and feeling of well-being. So, invest half an hour now to craft a steady daily routine for you to follow. Draw up a plan for when you intend to work, do chores, socialize, and play. Thereby consider adding some of the suggestions that follow below.
5. Connect to your spirit
At the start and end of each day, take a few minutes for spiritual practice. If you like, take comfort in saying a prayer. Realize the beauty of the force of creation that outshines and outlasts our present reality. Find peace in the words of the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Reserve at least 5-10 minutes in your daily schedule to meditating. If you’re a novice, consider using a guided meditation app (such as Headspace.com) to get started. Otherwise, practice the technique you’ve learned to soothe your mind. A few months ago, I took a course in Transcendental Meditation. Ever since I meditate twice a day for 20 minutes. I can feel how well this technique helps me to offload stress from my central nervous system. And in times of COVID-19, stress abounds.
Consider adding a few Yoga breathing exercises into your day. Left-right nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama) can help us clear our sinuses and our minds from negative thoughts and anxiety. It also balances the more analytical left side and more creative right side of our neocortex, thus leading to a bright, integrated mind. Kapalabhati is an energizing breathing technique where we alternate forceful exhales with passive inhales. If you own an Apple watch, follow the invitation to breathe for a minute whenever you get a reminder tap.
8. Exercise daily
During the past weeks, have you noticed your butt hurting at times, indicating too much sedentary activity? In normal times, we automatically walk thousands of steps each day while undergoing work and life. But in times of COVID-19, most of us are confined to our homes and our desk. So now it’s more important than ever to exercise. What if you’re strictly limited to your home? Do Yoga. Do workouts using your body weight and whatever tools you can find in your apartment (e.g., tables, chairs, door frames, etc.; check out the app from Bodyweight Training by Mark Lauren). If you like aerobics or group workouts, look for online classes on the internet. Whatever sports you like, make sure that you move your body at least for 30 minutes every day. If possible, exercise outdoors in line with the next point.
9. Spend time in nature
If your local lockdown regulations permit, get out of your house and into nature. Take a walk or enjoy a relaxing run. Look up to the sky. Hug a tree. Walk barefoot on the grass. Feel the wind, or the rain, or the sun rays, on your skin. Relish these precious outdoor moments and reconnect to nature.
10. Learn something new
While you’re under lockdown and working from home, consider enrolling in webinars and online training, especially now that many learning platforms and top universities offer courses for free during the crisis. So, use the time you save from your daily commute to acquire new skills and knowledge that can be useful for you now (e.g., online work skills) and in the future. Also, invest some time to learn more about your true self by finding answers to these questions: Who are you? Why are you here? What are you passionate about? What do you really love doing? What do you really value? What are you really good at? What is easy, effortless, and enjoyable for you that is difficult, demotivating, or drudging for other people?
11. Focus on work outputs, not work hours
When you have to work from home with the whole family around during a crisis situation, expect lots of interruptions and disruptions to limit your productivity. In all likelihood, you will have fewer work hours at hand compared to working in the office. So before you start your work in the morning, focus on the one thing that you commit to getting done today. Specify the outcomes of this essential work. Then, consciously plan how to produce your best work by answering these questions:
- What is the most critical work that I need to focus on today?
- What is the outcome I commit to producing today?
- Why is this essential?
- Who else is involved?
- When and where do I work on it?
- How can I do this most effectively?
- How much time do I need to commit to producing the desired outcome?
12. Give support to others
Humanity needs to master the COVID-19 crisis collectively. Yes, we need to practice social distancing physically but not emotionally. So each day, give time to support your loved ones and those who need help or a sympathetic ear. Do one thing every day to ease the life of someone whose life got walloped by the crisis. Give and be of service to others every day. In essence, it will make you feel good and be a small but essential contribution to jointly master the current crisis humanely.
Conclusion: Stay optimistic and take on the fight
In all of us, the stimulus “COVID-19” triggers the automatic “fight or flight”-response in our autonomous central nervous system and the part of our command center known as the reptilian brain. How do you intend to individually deal with this situation? Do you resign yourself to your fate, and allow the virus and its coverage in the media to take up all your mental energy (flight)? Or are you up for the fight? Will you commit to being productive, regardless? Will you focus on preparing yourself and your business to take off right after the crisis, or maybe even in the midst of it?
The Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote in his seminal book “Man’s Search for Meaning”: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In the coming months, let’s all respond consciously and wisely.
- Do you need a sounding board or some fresh inspirations on how to best maneuver the current Covid-19 crisis? Contact us and tell us more about your challenges. We love to give you some ideas on how to turn the crisis into an opportunity for yourself, your team, and your business.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2020. The article is published in the Thinkergy Blog on April 9, 2020. It will be re-printed in a shorter version in the Bangkok Post on April 16, 2020.