Previously published on Forbes
Here’s what might seem like a radical idea, but it’s one I suggest you take to heart: Dump the idea that you should be getting extra stuff done while you work from home right now. Despite everything you might be hearing to the contrary, there are no big, creative projects you should be tackling while “things are slow.” For starters, things are most certainly NOT slow.
Well, let me clarify. If you are sheltering in place like many of us are around the country, our day-to-day activities are slower. It takes hours to get groceries, including making a list so that you don’t forget anything you’ll need to cook all of your meals at home for the next two to three weeks, donning mask and gloves and working up the courage to walk into the grocery store, and finally bringing the groceries home and putting them in your decontamination space to spray and wipe and wash before anything comes into your living space. Grocery procurement has suddenly become an ordeal.
Getting your mail is similarly precarious — an invisible virus on the paper may kill you. So, you bring it into your decontamination space and spray and wipe and wash each piece before it can be opened.
If you have kids, you’re now running a full-time homeschool and daycare center. And you’re spending many more hours making meals. Turns out, you ate a lot of your meals out — at Starbucks, at the food court, at local restaurants. Now, you eat every meal at home. This means more food prep, cooking and clean-up time. I’m exhausted just writing about it.
When it comes to work, it’s no longer just the work. You may be finding yourself more taxed by new technology, from Zoom calls ad nauseum to learning how to create break-out conversations, to making decisions virtually. Plus, you no longer have clear boundaries between when work starts and when it ends now that you have your office in your living room.
So, no, you do not have downtime during a global pandemic.
Collectively, we are stressed and off-balance.
Each week, and sometimes daily, a new wave of information or restrictions is delivered to us via the news, Instagram or Twitter. Yesterday in the state of Washington, we were told that schools would not be re-opening until Fall of 2020. This is a major disruption for all parents, who now have to figure out creative solutions to this new reality. For working parents, they may get some help and ideas from the boss—or they may not.
So, for your own sake, dump all of those bright ideas that you were going to get something big done during the “downtime.” There is none. Let yourself off the hook. Attend to the basics — responding to people who need you, getting your fundamental work done — and no more.
If you take good care of yourself and your family and do what you are asked to do — stay home, wash your hands, observe social distancing, wear masks — you will likely find yourself safe and healthy on the other side of this pandemic. And you will need all of your sensibilities with you to walk into this new world.