My work as a manager involves a lot of mentoring, coaching and problem-solving with my team. When I am not directly working with them, I am collaborating with other areas of the organisation on global projects. Added to that is all the action happening outside work (eg. meet-up groups, mentoring, networking, speaking, hiking, surfing, yoga, supper club, dates etc).
In summary, most of my time is spent running between appointments, talking and interacting with people. For that reason, I decided to make my home a place where I could get my energy levels back up at the end of every day and every week.
I’ve always considered myself someone that recharges by spending alone time, so I designed my life to suit my (almost unbelievable) introversion. I invested in art I love, covered the place in plants, bought amazing bed sheets, splashed in great kitchen utensils, and stocked on unlimited supplies of Muji pens, and above all, I decided to fork the cost to live on my own in Dublin.
Sounds great right?
It felt great… Until the quarantine hit. Suddenly, my one-bedroom apartment was the only space I have and being a one-person household meant I didn’t see any other humans. The location I chose, bang in the centre of the city, great for commuting but further from the mountains and the sea meaning my 2km ratio sucked.
The choices I made didn’t feel so great anymore.
Combine the lack of real-life human interaction with the lack of outdoor activities and throw a bunch of stressful COVID-19 related work situations, and I felt a rollercoaster of feelings. What I want to share in this article is what has worked for me on restoring my life in the new world we live in.
Establishing a new weekly blueprint
When this all started, I tried to keep to my usual schedule and activities. Waking up at the same time, exercising with the same frequency, working the same hours, hoping to talk to friends and family at usual times. While it might seem like a good idea to keep some level of normalcy, I quickly realised I was in denial about how long this was going to last. The situation was different now. I needed different things to structure my day in a way that made me feel good.
The first step was to recognise this.
The second step was to define what were my new needs/wants. For example, I only used to exercise 4 times a week because I cycled to work 10km every day and I walked a lot in work. To keep up with my fitness goals, I now need to ensure I am making more time for exercise. I only cooked one meal a day as breakfast and lunch are available at work. In the past, cooking was a great way to wind down after a busy day, however, it quickly became more of a chore than a pleasure when shopping and cooking occupied a couple of hours every day. You get the gist… things are completely different, and it was important to identify what were the things I needed now.
The third step was redesigning my blueprint with the new needs and wants in mind. Making a new calendar with set times for activities help me keep organised and structured, and ultimately it helps me build new habits. For example, I love getting fresh air and exercise in the morning, so I have a set time for cycling 12-15KM every morning and added a slot to make and savour breakfast before starting my day.
The last step was iterating on this blueprint, every week I note down what worked and what didn’t so I can do better the following week. Sunday evenings are great for this.
Talking about how you feel
I personally felt a series of emotions: overwhelm, happiness, loneliness, tiredness… the list goes on. Recognising and accepting my feelings was important, but personally, a key turning point for me was sharing how I felt with my manager. I am thankful we have the psychological safety to do that and openly discuss these matters. In my team 1:1s, I start every week asking how my team feels. It works both ways, they get to share and I feel more normal for not feeling great and bubbly all of the time.
With my friends, we have tried my best to be honest with each other. We shared our concerns for our families, our dating lives, our work… You might not feel comfortable sharing those emotions so openly at first, but if you decide to be vulnerable, you might be amazed at people’s kindness and generosity. If anything, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Don’t waste a crisis
This last point is one I am very passionate about.
People talk about how the future of work is here, but it’s bigger than that. Right now we are being challenged with a new way of being.
There are many challenges to it, but there are also incredible opportunities. I for one, have found two new hobbies: skateboarding and cycling (which I only did for commuting before). It has been great to be able to dedicate a lot of time to personal hobbies and I am climbing that steep learning curve nicely. I also decided to spend some time looking at authentic leadership (connected to the vulnerability piece) and use it to further develop professionally.
The beauty of having zero social life is that while I cannot meet my friends on a Friday night for drinks (who else is tired of zoom drinks?) or make the networking breakfasts, I now have open slots where I can schedule reading time. I can send deep questions to smart people and get considerate answers back because everyone has more time and is craving for deeper connections.
On a more transformative level, I realised that I am a child of nature. I learned that the sea and the mountains are vital to me. I discovered that they help me with balance and perspective. Therefore, I have made a decision to design my life around it and relocate while working remotely, so I am closer to both and to ensure that I am my most authentic and effective self.
Ultimately, life goes on. The “madness” becomes the new normal. So don’t stop and wait for things get back to how they were, because they likely won’t. The sooner you embrace the chaos and the change, the better equipped you will be for what the future of being looks like.