The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is creating an increasing number of telecommuters, most having never worked from home for any extended period of time. The adjustment to a new working routine will be disruptive initially, but it does present opportunities that many will not realize at first.
Sure, there will be a feeling of isolation, without the normal interaction that many experience in the office, at coffee shops, lunch counters, and retailers. It has been found that creativity may suffer as teamwork, collaboration and group interactions are impeded. Many will also need to adjust to working where spouses and children are also sequestered.
We don’t know how long this new reality will exist or how circumstances will change over time. This new future of work scenario is also very different for those who are healthy compared to those suffering from the symptoms of the coronavirus.
But, the new wave of stay at home workers aren’t alone. Even before the pandemic struck, remote work was increasing globally. In fact, the percentage of home-based workers tripled in the past 15 years, according to the Federal Reserve.
While it was many years ago, I was part of the segment that made this adjustment when I left the bank I was working at and started a career in outside sales. Below I am sharing what I have learned from my experience and the personal development opportunities that exist when times may look the most dire.
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The New Future of Work Reality
There are a ton of articles and videos created in the past week and before on how to prepare for a work from home adjustment. From having the right technology to having the right mindset, it is important to adjust as quickly as possible and not to use this new reality as an excuse to become unproductive.
In contrast, if you set up your new workspace quickly, you will immediately realize that you will get a LOT more done when you are working from home. When I moved from the office environment to a remote location, I usually got more done by 1PM than I used to get done in a normal work day.
The reason for this increased productivity was because I was no longer attending large meetings in conference rooms that I didn’t need to participate in. Instead, I was able to ask that I simply receive meeting notes that I could respond to. The second major reason for increased productivity was the lack of unneeded social interactions. I’m not talking about the human interaction we all crave, but those interactions we all wished we could avoid.
Many who are moving from a traditional office or branch to working from home will realize how different it feels when you don’t need to respond to continuous ‘urgent’ requests. To a degree, you will regain control of your daily routine, allowing you to give back to yourself while you are caring for others.
Building a Personal Strategic Plan
The first step in redefining how you want to spend your day in a work from home environment is to create a personal strategic plan. While the plan will include whatever is still required from your current employer, the exercise of creating your own personal strategic plan can help you identify what’s most important to you beyond your current job and can define what success means to you.
According to personal development guru Brian Tracy, the first thing you want to think about when building your personal strategic plan is increasing your personal ‘return on energy’. This means to focus on your newfound ability to think, to act and to get results beyond your previous 9 to 5 existence. “The way you develop your personal skills and use your earning ability will largely determine the quality and quantity of your rewards, both material and psychological, both tangible and intangible,” states Tracy.
The components of your personal action plan are similar to a business plan and include:
- Clarify Your Values. What values and virtues do I most admire and wish to practice going forward?
- Create a Mission Statement. A description of who you want to be and what you want to do in the future, leveraging your personal skills and strengths.
- Perform a Skills and Strengths Audit. What do you like doing the most and what are you best at that other people will value?
- Determine Area of Excellence. What will you do to achieve results that are far beyond what the average person could be expected to accomplish?
During times of disarray and disruption, a personal strategic plan can bring a sense of control back to your life. It can help you be intentional and proactive in reaching your goals, serving as a compass to help guide every day. This plan also sets the foundation for what you truly want to become going forward. If you can achieve some form of discipline with all of the distractions around you, a personal strategic plan can help you achieve your own definition of success.
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Working Towards Your Goals
There is no doubt that every day going forward, until some form of a ‘new normal’ returns, will be a challenge. There will be massive distractions, unexpected demands from those around you, psychological challenges and times of depression and boredom.
Having a personal development plan will help offset some of these challenges. So will having a daily routine that helps to defeat the tendency to wake up later than normal, spending too much time around the refrigerator and finding excuses not to do some of the things that made you happy in the past (working out, socializing, spending time with your family, etc.).
Here are some tools that can assist you in your journey. Even if you are still working from an office or branch, these tools can assist you in using this period of confusion and disruption to your advantage.
- Learn. After you build your personal plan and determine the direction you want to go with your future, you need to determine the additional skills you need to become the best version of yourself. For me, it was learning how to do research on the industry I loved and ways to share it with others. For you, it may be around a hobby, craft, skill set or personal strength that sets you apart. The best way to improve is to read books, articles and reports and to listen to podcasts or watch videos on your passion. Remember, this is an opportunity to shift to doing something that you love.
- Write. Just like when you went to school, the best way to absorb what you are learning is to document as much as possible along the way. Create a journal of your thoughts and ideas that you get while you are reading books, listening to podcasts and watching videos. This helps to support your goals at the same time as fine-tuning your thoughts around your future.
- Share. During your learning and writing process, it is important to share your journey with others. The power of social media has never been more important than during these unusual times. Share each step of your journey through written posts, short videos or any other way on the social channel(s) of your preference. By doing so, you will draw the attention of others who may have the same passion or maybe just those who support your journey.
- Connect. The process of personal development is best done with others. Reach out to people who have the same passion as you and begin discussions about your journey. Just as importantly, continue dialogue with previous colleagues, co-workers and family members. With the requirement of ‘social distancing’ it becomes more important to connect with others … not just by text, email and phone … but by FaceTime and other video options.
- Diet and Exercise. There is no better time to start a diet or exercise routine than when the world is upside down. Restock the pantry and refrigerator with only items that will help you achieve your goals. Also, establish a regular workout routine even if it only is to ‘get your steps in’. My go-to support tool was the digital wellness app, Noom. Instead of a diet program, this amazing tool helps you change (or maintain) healthy behaviors that will support the rest of your goals.
- Have Fun, Be Creative and Act Like a Child. It appears that we may be in for a long period of disruption. It is impacting every family member and friend you know. While you are pursuing self development options, be sure to leave time for having fun. Dig into closets for board games you haven’t played in years. Create new activities with your family that can take everyone’s mind off the ‘bad news’. And don’t be afraid to be crazy. (The TV is not a viable option for escape)
Working from home or significantly adjusting work schedules around the office are not easy. We are creatures of habit and have become used to our daily routines. It is time to build new routines reflecting the new reality we are faced with. But there are a ton of distractions.
With daily news reports and almost every media channel focusing on what is bad around us, it can be tempting to not even get out of bed. The best alternative is to double down on getting up at the same time (or earlier) and start the journey towards your own personal development. Free time can be your friend if used well. Build new routines that you are committed to.
Find what you are passionate about and pursue learning, sharing and connecting with an energy that reflects the amazing possibility of personal and professional development. The current circumstances have opened up a unique period where you pursue a hobby, subject matter or future career that you have always dreamed of.
As Nike says in their ads … Just Do It.
A personal note: Over the past decade, I have had the unique opportunity to pursue my own dreams of becoming a digital publisher, researcher, podcaster and keynote speaker. While my dreams are most likely not yours, I have helped hundreds of people pursue their passions by helping them through their challenges, supporting their journeys and sometimes just giving words of encouragement.
If you want an ‘open ear’, drop me an email with your phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise I will get back to you and help if I can.