Originally posted on Thrive Global, April 13, 2020
About a month ago, clocks, schedules, and deadlines dictated my days. Mornings almost always started at 4:30 a.m. As the founder of a bootstrapped business, I’d use the time to get some much needed work done. By 6:30 a.m., it was time to wake the kids, help them dress, take a shower, and rush out the door with breakfast in hand. Then, I’d work until 5:30 p.m., head home, eat dinner with the family, and scoot my girls off to bed before catching up on work until 10 p.m.
When you fast forward to today, though? Oh, how times have changed.
My days still start early, but my girls now sleep until their bodies are ready to wake. And while mornings still consist of the same activities, they’re unhurried and now include a full breakfast and family walk before I tackle the workday from home.
But instead of working straight through it, I now find myself with breaks to support my children’s learning (alternating with my husband, of course). After work and home schooling, we sit down for a family dinner, thoughtfully reflect on the day, and enjoy some time outdoors before heading off to bed.
While the world is so crazy around us, it seems odd to say that I feel so calm and centered right now. I’m much more grounded than before, and I’m now integrating my days with work, family, and personal time. I’m no longer mindlessly rushing through life. It’s actually a gift.
Making It Work for Work
Admittedly, remote work isn’t a new thing for me. Since starting my business, our team has always been dispersed, and we use Slack as our “office.” It keeps us connected and allows us to communicate, celebrate, and just stay in flow. Airtable and Google Docs come in handy for managing, tracking, and collaborating on projects, and Zoom gets us face to face for our daily video chats.
In fact, Zoom is being repurposed these days not only for work meetings, but also for friends and families to enjoy each other’s company (more than 600,000 people downloaded the app in a single day in March). Likewise, Google Docs is now used for group chats. It’s amazing how resourceful people can be — molding work-from-home tools into places to gather socially.
But even with such great connectivity, communication can break down. Families who are used to physically seeing one another regularly might start feeling isolated, and so can those who are new to remote work. Days lose structure, motivation ebbs and flows, and unadulterated productivity becomes a thing of the past. And with loneliness being the second most reported challenge of working remotely, I’m certain folks are itching to get back in the office.
Speaking From Experience
Because my team is distributed already, the transition to this new normal has been a little easier. Sure, we’ve always paid a “communication tax” for not being in the same space for eight hours a day. That tax has also become higher with many people schooling children from home and nearly everyone working through the psychological burden of living through a global pandemic. But our talent is flexible — and you will also acclimate.
For us, it’s authentic, honest conversations and collaboration that collectively pay this tax. After all, one of our core values is “we speak plainly,” which creates space for us to share fears and needs as well as ask for and accept feedback. It’s also about finding room for mutual fun (for example, we have a Slack channel dedicated to our pets).
In other words, treat colleagues like friends and friends like family. Help everyone find a balance during this uncertain time, and try to find a balance yourself. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, I can tell you what’s worked for me so far:
1. Wake up early. I continue to wake up well before my family, as the solitude is a much needed respite from all the craziness of the previous day. Whether you meditate, exercise, or enjoy a cup of tea, a morning ritual is important to lend an air of normalcy during this time.
2. Reconnect. I find that my relationship with my spouse often gets pushed to the back burner amidst parenting and running a business. So after my husband and I get the kids to bed, we go screen-free to reconnect. No matter how you choose to reconnect with others, devote some time to talking about the important things with those you love.
3. Get some fresh air or stay active. It’s finally stopped raining in Atlanta, and I’m really grateful for the sun and beautiful weather. However the spirit moves you, stay active or get a healthy dose of fresh air. Crack the windows, find a great home exercise routine if you’re so inclined, or just sit on your steps (as long as it’s not too crowded) while on a conference call.
4. Journal. This is new for me, but I’ve found it to be a bit of a reprieve. Journaling is a place where I can share my hopes and fears without judgment. I can work through how to manifest the life I want to live and the impact I want to have. In your journaling, write whatever you want. There’s no right or wrong way to journal, but you might use the process to gain clarity, find appreciation, or keep a record of the things your mind is focused on at a certain moment.
One of the gifts of being a mother is learning that everything is a season. Nothing will last forever — even the most challenging times. We’re in a season of change that can feel unnerving, but you still have choices. Choose to find gratitude and hope. Choose to focus on the things that light up your life. And by all means, choose to keep an open heart.