“What can I realistically accomplish by the end of the year? “Now is the time to ask yourself that question. It’s only a couple more months until 2020 is over (thank goodness!). You’ve probably already given up on dreams that 2020 will be the year you make it big on Broadway or write a best-selling novel. Now it’s time to make your goals even more realistic.
If you’re like me, you start off every year saying, “This is the year I’m going to make X happen!” or “I’ll make a real commitment to Y!” One of the frustrating things about 2020 is knowing that you might have accomplished X or Y if the pandemic and economic collapse hadn’t gotten in the way.
The Little Engine That Couldn’t
But you can’t keep saying, “I can do it,” when, in fact, some circumstances are outside your control. Yeah, we all love the story of The Little Engine That Could, but its determination to reach the top of the mountain wouldn’t have mattered if—for example—there were no train tracks. Expecting miracles from yourself isn’t good for you—or the people around you. Sometimes the healthy thing to do is to admit your limitations. And if there’s ever a time to admit them, it’s at the end of 2020—when you should congratulate yourself on not hiding under the covers all day.
Now is the time to consider what you can do to help your business recover from and adapt to the disruptions of 2020. The world is experiencing a new reality and you need to put new systems in place to manage it. This is certainly true for me. In some ways COVID-19 has made my life easier. Finding myself in the middle of a monsoon made me batten down the hatches and clear the deck. I triage everything—problems, challenges, opportunities. If it doesn’t fit into my schedule, it gets thrown overboard.
For example, I had a business opportunity: a cool new way to leverage emerging technology to help market my company. It was the latest thing! A chance to get ahead of the curve! Cutting edge! For a couple of months the question of whether I’d take advantage of this opportunity sat on my to-do list and mocked me.
And then my children started school.
School means distance learning. Over the summer it had been a challenge to keep the kids out of my hair while I worked. But that was nothing compared to managing three Zoom schedules, providing lunch, ensuring they understood the material, and checking that they did the work. “Poof” went any chance of doing something extra—for myself or my business. There aren’t enough hours in the day.
Now I try to deal with every email—every problem—when it arises. I can’t promise I’ll deal with something tomorrow because I know that tomorrow will have its own problems. I can’t kick the can down the road; the road is full. If I put something off, it’s in danger of getting lost or forgotten.
So I had to take a hard look at what I can realistically accomplish in Fall 2020. Not only will I not make it on Broadway this year, but I won’t have time for tap dancing lessons—even on YouTube. I realized that I had to coordinate my kids’ school schedule with my work schedule (really, it’s just one schedule). I need to be strategic about when I can be on calls; they need to be scheduled when I know the kids won’t need me.
We tend not to think of parenting as work since we don’t get paid, but it’s definitely work. If you’re not spending your time relaxing or playing, you’re working—and it’s stressful. Researchers used to talk about the “second shift” – the housekeeping and childcare labor that women had to do when they got home from their jobs. But we don’t even have a word for this new paradigm: the childcare and education efforts you have to do while you’re simultaneously working.
Surviving Until 2021
Have I bummed you out completely, yet? Fortunately, I’m here to tell you that you can do something about this situation. First, don’t be a perfectionist—something that is easy to do even when you think you’ve let go of perfectionist tendencies. Let things fall by the wayside; reduce your expectations for yourself–not just at work but personally, as a parent, etc. Instead, you need to be strategic and focused about how you spend your time. Maybe you need to hire someone to take over some part of your business—or to help out with parenting. Maybe you need a break in the middle of the day where you have some downtime. Maybe you need to get up earlier in the morning—or later.
One of the ways I survive is I have daily meetings with myself. Fortunately it doesn’t require a very big conference table. Every day I evaluate what is working and what isn’t working. Since COVID is presenting us with a new situation for which there is no precedent, I have to forgive myself if something I do doesn’t work. When you are in uncharted territory, you’re bound to get a little lost occasionally. The important thing is to recognize when something isn’t working and to fix it.
And, give yourself grace. We all have a voice in our heads that tells us how we should be doing everything better. But ask yourself if your best friend would talk to you that way. Or if you would talk to your best friend that way–or even your worst enemy. Undoubtedly your friends think you are entitled to some understanding if things don’t go perfectly (if they don’t, you need new friends). You should grant yourself the same understanding.
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