If you’re a professional struggling with feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty, it’s probably difficult for you to sit idly by waiting for the latest news updates and troubling market reports. Many of us in the business community are finding it hard to concentrate on a next step. And as “doers” we’re struggling to find a way to take action that can positively impact our shared circumstance.
In my role as Director of Outreach at People & Performance Strategies, I’m normally very busy looking for ways to engage and serve our clients. But the last half of March, I found myself sitting at my computer bouncing from my task list to emails and not really actively working on anything. Over five years working from home, moods like this usually sent me to the refrigerator to mindlessly snack on frozen girl scout cookies, but that’s out of the question now because I’m worried about replacing our food at a picked over and disease-exposed grocery store. “How is this real?”, my miffed inner voice keeps asking.
I’ll admit, the first couple of weeks that Covid-19 pushed pause on my regular work routine, I was stumped on what to do with myself. For many “doers”, this not knowing how best to apply ourselves in uncertain times feeds anxiety and more paralysis. (And it absolutely did me in.) But on week three, the entrepreneur inside that can’t sit still even in a pandemic started trying to climb out of the fog. I started looking for positive opportunities wherever I could and trying to make progress on those things. If you’re like me, this isn’t the first time you’ve felt lost. A key quality of even moderately successful people is the ability to take what life gives us and make the best of it, even capitalizing where it makes sense. For me, this is what that looks like right now.
Four Actions “Doers” Can Take to Move Past Idle Worry
1. Learn something new.
If you’ve been putting off taking that online course or brushing up on the weakest skillset you need in your profession, now might be just the time to dive into your self-improvement. Skills have a value that cannot dissolve in a Pandemic. They’ll always be with you. And when the time comes, you’ll be able to use your sharpened capacity to perform better and seize opportunities that will come again even if you can’t see them now. Although your inner voice is probably distracting you in many ways, other distractions like social plans, meetings, and deadlines are not pulling you away from studying. In fact, with a little practice, you might be able to use your study efforts to drive out the negative thoughts and fears or at least take a break from them. The endorphin boost that comes with self-improvement can help to fight the anxiety as well.
2. Get organized.
Most professionals are never as organized as we’d like to be. There never seems to be enough time to clean up your inbox, reorganize files and examine your work systems for efficiency. But now, with decisions on hold and routine disruptions at bay, you’ve probably got the time it takes to declutter and trim the fat. Spend some time putting order into what you can control. Put items where you can easily find them. Build systems that support your unique work style and flow. Identify your bottlenecks in a “normal” workday, and see if a little more organization or re-organizing can help. You’ll need your optimized environment when productivity resumes because it will take everyone’s best efforts to get things back on track.
3. Stay visible.
Isolation heightens anxiety. While “social distancing” you can still reach out to clients and business contacts to connect with them on a human level and offer your sincere show of support. Most of us are feeling some level of isolation and fear. If you can offer a sincere word of support to those you’ve worked with over your career, it’s not only emotionally appreciated, but it shows your humanity and can strengthen real bonds that we all need at this time. It’s easy to focus on our own very real concerns and needs, but only pointing your focus inward sends many people into a spiral of negativity and hopelessness. Send personal notes of encouragement (not a mass email) with no intent to capitalize on the Covid-19 drama. Not everyone will read your emails or personal posts immediately, but when they do read them, a spark of connection will feel good to both of you. People will remember your kindness and how you made them feel long after the stall out has passed. We all need each other and expressing that speaks hope into the darkness.
4. Think strategically.
You may want to punch me in the face when I say this, but people become crazy inventive in times of constraint. You don’t have to be a CEO to get better at serving your team and your organization’s mission. Your ability to innovate and strategize has never been more valuable. Cut through the fog in your brain, and start throwing ideas around about how you can apply your unique skills and talents to deal with the present circumstances. Stockpile your ideas and share the ones that can be acted upon now. You just might find a new solution that changes your team or your organization for the better. Who knows, your ideas might spark a completely new re-engineered way of driving revenue. But even smaller, more subtle adaptations to the status quo can make all the difference. When you receive new information as it develops, don’t be afraid to anticipate the needs of your client base and hypothesize on how you can better serve them.
Go ahead and schedule your daily activities into your calendar to keep a structure around your day. For example- research at 10:00 am, reading at 12:00 pm, connecting with clients at 2:00 pm and physical exercise at 4:00 pm. (Physical activity will energize your mind and ward off stress-related illness.)
Of course, we all want the business climate to stabilize as soon as possible. What we wouldn’t give for a regular, even boring, day at the office. It’s hard to escape the fear and worry about the impact of Covid-19 on our families and our way of life. These four activities might help you to regain a sense of control as they did for me. Simply putting a steady effort toward improvement of any kind sets up the benefits to be realized if not now, then when this pandemic becomes a distant nightmare.