What’s your favorite description of 2020? There’s some pretty funny stuff out there, but my favorite came from a friend: “2020 feels like getting eaten alive by a duck… a thousand painful bites, one after another.” (Thanks Luke.)
I may be alone in my personal mayhem, but yesterday morning, as I sat at my desk to plan the workflow and priorities of the week, I realized I am not getting stuff done like I should. My typical productivity practices suffered significant erosion these past couple months. It’s like that stupid duck has eaten away at the daily and weekly habits I used to practice sub-consciously.
I don’t feel as focused as I used to. I don’t feel like I am getting things done like I should. Projects and assignments take longer than I would like. Interruptions derail my attentions and make it hard to get back on task. You get the idea. The point is, this really bugs me.
So, I took a good look in the proverbial mirror. Reminded myself that I am not a victim. And, went back to the drawing board. What helped me manage my workload in the past? What did I do to stay focused during those “normal” weeks before this giant pandemic curveball? What have I learned about getting back on track after repeated interruptions? The answers were not rocket science, it just took deliberate attention to interrupt the erosion.
One of the lessons I learned a long time ago about “personal erosion” is that adapting to temporary circumstances easily morphs into new habits that don’t serve me well.
Adapting to the needs of a moment is a good thing. But moments become seasons, Seasons form new habits, and Habits have long term effects.
In my case, I woke up to lost habits of productivity and focus. However, this pattern of erosion can lead to the loss of healthy habits in any area of life at any time for any of us.
Someone puts in a few extra hours at work because the urgent project-du-jour demands it. Before long, it is normal to work 60-70 hours a week. Communication between spouses gets cryptic because other challenges of the day leave them emotionally drained. Before long, the they hardly talk or are always on edge when they do. Someone over spends their budget because they need a break this week and before long, their budget is a phantom and their credit card has a big balance.
You get it.
These examples are simply recognition that we live in a crazy uncertain moment that causes all of us to adapt every day for survival. Those adaptations might make sense in the moment, but they also might introduce new normals that don’t serve us well.
Today is September 1st. I believe it marks the beginning of our next chapter in this Covid reality. I would suggest that the beginning of the fall marks a shift from the initial phase of react-adapt-survive and into the long haul nature of living in extended ambiguity. It is time to do the personal reflection needed to set ourselves up for effectiveness for the long term.
Can I suggest that you get alone and utilize the following questions as a starting point for personal reflection?
How do I feel about the pace and productivity of my work lately?
What daily or weekly rhythms have been lost during the last couple months?
What tools of life/work management have fallen by the wayside?
Are any of my life-giving relationships languishing these days?
Have any new habits crept into my life that aren’t serving me well?
I often find that just asking questions like these leads to answers I need. But, if it helps, consider asking next level questions like these:
What did I used to do that was helpful that somehow I just stopped doing?
What practices helped me manage my workload in the past?
What habits used to help me stay focused in demanding times?
Do I remember any tricks that used to help me get back on task after a major interruption?
Photo Credit: Personal Photo “12 Apostles” Great Ocean Rd, Australia. 2016