One of the many terms highlighted by the pandemic has been “asynchronous” – referring to learning and/or working at different times and places.  We haven’t had much choice while working from home but my clients are realizing that there can be real challenges to this approach.

Paint the Big Picture

Think about a jigsaw puzzle of an elephant.  If you haven’t seen the picture on the box you wouldn’t know that your piece is the knee.   It is too easy for each person to focus on his or her part of a project and overlook how the pieces fit together.  When the leader paints the big picture of success and everyone’s role in achieving it, the team can work in synch with clear priorities and refresh the picture as the project evolves.

Make the Connection

To nurture connection between team members in an asynchronous environment, I recommend inviting each person to talk about how others are contributing.  Regular live interaction and gratitude are essential to reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Staying connected to the big picture and to each other are two ways to make the best of our asynchronous world.  If you are feeling disconnected, I encourage you to reach out to someone.  They are likely feeling the same way.

How Can We Change Our Fear DNA?

Everyone I talked to last week agreed that it has been really tough to think strategically.  Worrying about the potential long-term challenges of working from home and making decisions about how to re-enter public spaces is keeping our brains occupied with the basic need for safety.

Looking Back to Look Forward

In the middle of feeling stuck trying to edit content for a website refresh, I attended a webinar that reminded me how I got there.  I recalled from my training in systems theory that we tend to repeat patterns passed down like DNA through generations.  Judy Wilkins-Smith suggested I look back at which of my ancestors might have been afraid of losing income, consider their circumstances, accept their decision, and then make a conscious decision to respond in a different way.

Fear as a Gift

Judy offered a new perspective on fear – consider it an opportunity to grow instead of something to avoid.  Thinking about a time when I overcame fear took me back to jumping off the high dive at the neighborhood pool for the first time.  Very scary before I did it and a little less scary each time afterward.  That jump gave me the gift of courage, which is what I need now to keep moving forward and trying new things.

I invite you to consider which of your ancestors experienced something similar to whatever it is you fear right now and then decide how to use that fear in a constructive way.

 

Blog where are you going compass

Can you envision your world after the pandemic?  It’s almost impossible to do because there are so many unknowns, including how to define when it’s “over”.  It’s hard to know where we go from here.  Listening to Brené Brown’s podcast on Grief and Finding Meaning helped me process my feelings about the losses I’ve experienced and reminded me to refocus on my purpose: I make the world a better place by helping people be the best version of themselves.

FINDING MEANING THROUGH PURPOSE

In Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl explained that having a clear purpose helps us avoid feeling that we have suffered in vain.  I went back to this exercise from my training at Six Seconds, the first and largest organization 100% dedicated to the development of emotional intelligence (EQ):

Step One: Create a Mission Statement

Follow the example answers in red through each step.

First write at least three words to answer each of the following questions:

1. In the world I want to see less  (emptiness    judgement    anger)

2. Instead I want more  (caring    compassion    patience)

3. To make this happen people need to  (be healthy    consider other’s perspective     understand themselves better)

Go back and circle the one answer to each question that jumps out at you.

Next answer this question:

4. What quality do I want to strengthen in myself so I can help make this happen?   (EQ    empathy   self-awareness)

Finally, create a Mission Statement by putting your answers to those four questions together like this: 

I will #4 to help people #3 so the world is more #2 and less #1.

Example Mission Statement:  I will tap into my EQ to help people be healthy so the world is more caring and there is less emptiness. 

Step Two: Define Your Purpose

Consider why that mission is important to you.  What do you want people to say at your funeral?

Example Purpose:  I make the world a better place by helping people be the best version of themselves.

MOVING FORWARD

To move forward we need to make sense of our experience.  Asking these questions can help:

  • What have I learned that makes me feel grateful?
  • How will I apply what I have learned to fulfill my purpose?

With a clear purpose you can now take action, regain some sense of control and reduce stress.  What is one way you will fulfill your purpose in the next week?

Let it out!

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling.  Cry because you can’t see your mom in the nursing home.  Admit that things are really scary and you’re afraid of months with no income.  Vent your frustration with being stuck at home.  I’ve done all of those things in just the past few hours.  Sometimes we just need to wallow in our feelings for a little while without being told not to worry and everything will be fine.

Sometimes we also need help moving beyond our misery.  Taking a deep breath and reassuring myself that it is perfectly normal to feel this way is a start.  I know my brain is wired to avoid uncertainty and keep me safe.  That statement comes from the rational part of my brain and calms me down.

Now I’m equipped to choose how to respond to the uncertainty.  Instead of checking the news every 15 minutes and revisiting my worst case scenario plan, I can find ways to be grateful and stay connected.  Reaching out by email or text helps me feel less alone; phone or zoom calls and greeting a neighbor from six feet away are even better.

I want to be like the people who are singing from balconies.  Will you join me?

Urgent or Important?

Coaching clients often say, “I feel like I’m just putting out one fire after another and I never have time to step back and think about the big picture.” A Google search for prioritization generates 51 million results so it’s obviously a common struggle.

In the number one most influential business book of the twentieth century, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey described a matrix for sorting urgent and important activities. These quadrants are still relevant today:

Quadrant 1 – Important & Urgent: This is fire-fighting mode – dealing with a crisis, meeting a deadline, handling an irate client. Spending too much time here leaves us feeling stressed and burned out but we can get addicted to a temporary sense of accomplishment when we cross things off our list. Covey refers to this as “urgency addiction.” When we recognize what feeds the addiction, we can make a choice to focus on Quadrant 2 instead.

Quadrant 2 – Important & Non-Urgent: Covey calls this the magic quadrant because spending more time planning, preventing problems and building relationships helps us feel calm and reduces the time we spend in Quadrant 1. One strategy I recommend is asking yourself, “Does it have to be me and does it have to be now?”

Quadrant 3 – Urgent & Not Important: When we allow ourselves to be constantly interrupted by texts, hallway conversations and responding to other people’s priorities, we can feel stuck and frustrated. Saying no can help us minimize the time we spend in this quadrant and give us more time for Quadrant 2.

Quadrant 4 – Not Urgent & Not Important: These are the distractions that provide an escape when our brains are overloaded. It’s OK to take an occasional break to check social media or do a little online shopping as long as we don’t overdo it. Setting a timer is a good solution for this.

Answering Covey’s questions can help you determine whether you’re operating from a paradigm of urgency or importance:

  • What one thing could you do on a regular basis that would have significant positive results in your personal life?
  • What one thing In your professional life would bring similar results?

Most likely your answers will be in Quadrant 2 – Important & Non-Urgent. If you know these things would make a significant difference, how will you start prioritizing them now?

Need to Clear Out the Mind Clutter?

Why is it that every time my laptop acts up, the IT expert says, “have you tried rebooting it?” Because it works! It cleans up the junk and gives me fresh start. That sounds like a great way to start off a new year.

Here is some junk that a reboot might clear out of our minds:
• Old grievances – imagine how energizing it would feel to let go and forgive
• Self-doubt – envision what could be possible if you move forward with confidence
• Ruminating thoughts – consider what inspiration could occur if you get off the gerbil wheel

A good way to get things out of your mind is to write them down, preferably on paper. Research tells us that handwriting increases neural activity in the brain, similar to meditation, but use your keyboard if that’s the best option to get you moving forward.

I invite you to take a deep breath and visualize rebooting your mind, then commit to taking action today.