4 Tips to Not Be Bad at Working from Home

I was talking with a client recently who kept saying they are “bad at working from home.” Throughout the conversation, they mentioned their ability to be a forward or strategic thinker was hindered because of distractions at home.

Though we can all relate to having distractions at home in whatever form they come in (kids, roommates, the pile of laundry you’ve been meaning to do, food, neighbors, pets), learning how to be more efficient in your work-from-home approach will help you in the long run, especially as we try to imagine what life will be like during cold and flu season just a few short months after the stay-at-home orders around the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, first, create your space. Assess what you need to get done and create the space that will ensure you can achieve your performance expectations. Do you need privacy and quiet? Do you need a large computer screen? Do you need additional technology and connections? Do you have Zoom meetings that will show your space on screen? Create what you need to be successful.

Second, remove the obvious distractions. Working at home can put many distractions right in your reach. Scan your area for anything that will distract you such as the TV remote, the availability of snacks, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, other household activity. Take a step back and just observe your workspace. Ask yourself: what could disrupt me in an unproductive way? Then remove it.

Third, create a daily to do list. Spend whatever time you need at the start of your day getting your head in the right place. Review your calendar so you know what calls or deliverables are required. Consider creating your to do list in order of priority with the items at the top of the list that need to be done today. Or, if you like to see the red marks as you cross things off your list, consider creating an “at work” list and an “at home” list. Identify 2-3 big things for each list you want to accomplish for that specific day and stay focused on getting those tasks done.

And finally, divide your day into blocks of time. This includes work and home times. For work times, set your day up to tackle the biggest, most important or thought-provoking items you need to complete during the part of the day when you are most productive. Be sure to define a clear start and end to your workday to also be able to accommodate the home requirements. This may take some time to notice what works best for both your work and home responsibilities, so challenge yourself to take note of what works best to get done what has to get done.

Working from home can be challenging when there are multiple distractions outside of your control. But following these four tips can help you set yourself up for success as a productive work-from-home employee.

Take Action
Take each step on its own. Master each one before you move on to the next. Take a day to get adjusted to the approach and give yourself some grace in learning this adjustment. There will need to be some flexibility for the first week or so, but stick to your new guidelines. You’ll see a drastic improvement in your productivity and mental capability.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Balance Working From Home With Kids

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How to Help Your Kids Decide What to do After High School

Asking a 16, 17 or 18-year old about what they want to do for the rest of their lives can be daunting, especially now. Our world is unpredictable and, lately, pretty volatile. It’s hard to plan for something next week, never mind next year.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking our high school students – and even our college students – about what comes next. It all just depends on how you’re asking the questions.

Consider these four tips to learn how to ask productive questions of your high school student(s) to encourage self-discovery and a greater conversation about what comes after high school.

First, ask questions that help them focus on what they are good at and what they like. Questions like “What do you want to do with your life” are unproductive. These are too large and focus more on the end. Most people, regardless of their age or where they are in life, would probably answer “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” because this type of question can feel overwhelming. More productive questions include:

  • What is something you really love to do?
  • When you are the happiest, what are you doing that makes you feel so happy?
  • Tell me about something you’re really good at, something that comes naturally to you.

All of these questions set up the conversation to explore what they could do with their lives, but it starts by putting them in a comfort zone: asking them questions they know the answers to.

Second, build on that self-awareness by digging deeper. Ask for examples of when they feel successful. Ask about what impact or contribution they want to make. Ask about what gets their attention for careers and why. Ask about the things that matter to them and what careers could lend themselves to making the things that matter the priority. Encourage them to dig deeper into who they are, what matters to them and how they could see themselves. Despite being the parents or caregivers, you may find yourself discovering new things about your kids that you may have overlooked in the busy day-to-day of life.

Third, be prepared to explore a variety of options. This is the time of explorations, not solutions (those will come). Many teens have limited views of what is possible because what they think is often based on what their friends or family say. Help them see greater options to expand what they consider. Having a greater number of options can improve the selection of one that is truly meaningful. Options could include trade school, a 2-year institution a 4-year institution, a gap year, or going right to work. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so be flexible and encourage your kid to find the right fit for them, based on where their natural talents and passions lay.

And finally, be supportive. Regardless of what your kid(s) may want to further explore or what talent they want to expand on, it is their life they are building, not yours. Remember that your role as the parent and caregiver is to guide from the side, not be the sage on the stage. Guide and support, don’t direct and tell. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, you’ll find you are much more comfortable gently nudging your kids back onto their path as opposed to paving the way for them.

The conversation about what comes after high school (or college) shouldn’t be about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. The conversation should focus on what you know of yourself and how that self fits in to today’s world. This takes guidance, patience and regular conversations to create greater self-awareness and self-discovery, two pieces of getting to know and understand the real you. Once you have this insight into yourself, when you learn how to tune out the world and all its demands, you will feel empowered to make better and more intentional decisions that fit you.

After all, like Buckminster Fuller once said, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know how to do that won’t get done if I don’t do it?”

Take Action
Start today. Pay attention to how you are helping your high school or college students prepare to make good life choices. Ask a lot of questions. Be available to discuss their responses. Be open and remind yourself that they are living their lives, not yours. Help them discover who they are so they can live it wisely and intentionally.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Help College Grads Succeed in Your Organization

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How to Balance Working from Home with Kids

Everyone is feeling the strain right now. The truth is that we’ve all been feeling it for months: the need to get your work done when you’re working from home when your kids are also home.

Regardless of how old they are, kids need guidance. Babies need your attention for just about everything. Toddlers can’t be left to their own devices for long. Tweens and teens need encouragement and support, especially as they work through remote learning. And adult children are likely look for emotional support and guidance, especially as they try to work through what all of this means for them and their independence, their friends and their family.

Trying to balance getting your work done while meeting the needs of your children is exhausting. We’re trying so hard to make it all work, trying to do it all. And though we don’t want to admit it, here’s the truth: a balanced life is not real. Time spent on one thing means time spent away from another.

So how do you successfully balance working from home when you have kids?

Consider these four tips:

First, identify your one big thing for work and home life that you want to achieve each day. Regardless of how many action items you have outstanding on your to do list, pick just one thing for work and one thing at home that, once done, will make you feel like it was a good, productive day.

Second, create a routine. This is as much for you as it is for them. Get used to starting your day the same way. Identify your work time. Identify school time. Identify free play time. Consider starting your day with a family meeting, maybe even over breakfast. Talk to each other about the day ahead. Communicate big events (like important work calls) or deadlines. Share frustrations and concerns. Make it a daily event and it will start to come easy.

Third, establish boundaries. When you’re working, it’s work time. No interruptions (except in extreme situations, and be sure to define what those are). When it’s school time, everyone is engaged. No excuses. Clearly define what “free play time” means and, if needed, put limits on screen time. I have found that having a brief family meeting each morning is a good way to reconfirm and remind everyone in the house about the boundaries, including a consequence for not supporting them. This is, after all, critical to making things work at this particular moment.

And finally, create a mental well-being space. Give a name like, Me time. Down time. Relaxing time. Whatever you choose to call it, make sure you build it into your day. You cannot pour from an empty cup (and I think most parents right now would say they operate on about 50% battery power on a good day).

These four tips – identify your one big thing for the day, create a routine, establish boundaries and create some mental well-being space – are how to get your arms around this working from home thing.

Whether this is temporary or permanent for you, it will require your thought, focus and intention to build and sustain something that works. Defining it and bringing everyone into knowing the approach will help ensure its success.

Take Action
Being told that the way to be effective working from home means doing more work can sound like a lot, but take it one step at a time. Start with the one thing from tip #1. What would a productive and successful day look like for you? Set your intention for the day, for both work and at home. Focus on getting those two things done and you’ll feel empowered to try the next tip.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

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Identifying Your End Goal Can Make it Happen

I was reading Corduroy with my kids the other day and I was impressed with the underlying message: identify your end goal or you won’t know how to get there.

For those of you who don’t know the story (or who haven’t read it in years, like me), it’s about a little bear in a toy store who is missing a button on his overalls and, as a result, no one wants to buy him. The story is about his adventure to find his button, which he does not find. Disappointed, he finds himself back on the toy store shelf only to be purchased by a little girl who always wanted a bear like him – just has he was. The book ends with her sewing on a new button for him, explaining that even though she likes him just the way he is, the button on his overalls will be more comfortable.

Big lessons here.

First, you are perfect the way you are. Each of us come packaged with a unique assortment of abilities. When we take the time to get to know and value these, we can better use them to make our difference in the world. I love this quote from Buckminster Fuller, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?” The world needs us to be our exact selves and bring those selves to the world to make it better.

Second, the people who love and respect you for who you are will support you and value what is unique and amazing about you. They don’t require you to be fixed, improved or be different than you are. They won’t bring you down or make you feel less valuable because of a trait you lack or something you have too much of.

And third, decide what you want and go get it.  Corduroy tells himself, “I think I want this” throughout the book, uncertain about what looks or feels right to him. We can get continually distracted by what others tell us we want or need for ourselves. But in the end, like in Corduroy, we have to decide what is right for us and then go get it. Commit to getting to know yourself – who you are, what abilities you have and where in your world can you use them or be your true self – so you start to define what you want. You can’t know which way is forward until you’ve defined the end goal you’re working toward.

Take Action
People set goals all the time. You have an idea of something you want to have happen and you set out to make it reality. But what if that goal isn’t your goal? What if it’s an idea or goal for someone else? Learn to listen to your inner, wiser voice when it comes to you. You know you best. What really matters to you? What will connect you to your greatest abilities and potential? What will make you happy? It all starts with you – and your ability and commitment to knowing yourself.

And once you understand who you are in all your unique greatness, surround yourself with people who appreciate and respect you for who you are, not those who want or expect you to change for them.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Give Me Clarity and Courage

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Don’t Go Back to Normal. Instead, Focus on Becoming Better

At this moment, so many people say they just want what they had – to get back to their “normal.”

I get it. We are creatures of habit. We like the normal, the routine, the comfortable.

But when we truly stop and notice, I think many people will realize they were not living healthy, being kind, respecting the planet or bringing their A-game to work. We were caught up in doing the same old, same old. We were getting by. We were in habit mode, just moving through life on autopilot.

But COVID-19 changed it all. The pandemic became our stop and notice moment; it forced us to reflect on how things were and challenged us to do things we never thought we could (or would have to). For example, you never thought you’d teach your kids at home and now you do. You never thought you could work remotely and now you do. You never thought you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere, anytime and now you can’t. You never thought you would be able to be at home for a week without going out, and you did.

So much has changed.

So why rush back to your old ways when you see you are capable of new – and better?

I’ve shared the rule my father had for my 5 siblings and me when we were younger, and it applies here: constantly ask yourself as you are faced with the things going on in your moment, “What could I do to make this better?”

COVID-19 gave us an amazing opportunity to reset, to step to the side, view our work and lives and give us time to decide what to do next.

You can be upset at this interruption and the changes in your life, or you can refocus your energy and use this unique moment to take inventory of what worked and didn’t work in your old version of normal. Then, with greater clarity, commit to creating a new “normal” that builds on what worked before and eliminates or moves past the things that did not work.

Focus on making things better. Better relationships. Better work. Better at home. Better health. Better finances. Better hobbies. Better planet. Better neighbor. Better habits.

The thing I have learned most about COVID-19 is that we are stronger and more capable of handling change than we think. When push comes to shove, we can do it. When no pushing and no shoving occurs, we don’t do it. Spend a moment with that. Why is it we respond only when we are backed into a corner?

We have had a tough moment. And it won’t be our last one. But no moment in time is ever wasted. Each moment has a lesson for us if we choose to see it and use it.

Don’t waste this one.

Take Action
Don’t be in a rush to return to normal. “Normal” may have had a lot of things you didn’t like about your work and life.

Don’t be in a rush to get back to comfortable. Comfortable didn’t help you build and achieve goals.

Don’t go back. Go forward. Commit to reinventing a better normal, one that uses your abilities more, treats others more kindly, respects the planet like the sacred place it is, shares more generously, responds more quickly and acts more intentionally.

Don’t let people push you back into normal. Hold out for better. Push for better. Insist on better.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Move Forward When You Don’t Know Where you are Going

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Triggers, Meltdowns and Outbursts, Oh, My!

Weeks of isolation and quarantine. Frustration with waiting in line to shop with a very limited selection available. The inability to see, spend time with or even hold the people who matter to us. Worry about our health and the health of our kids and parents.

Yup, we’re all pretty frazzled.

And that’s our starting point as we re-engage with society. A few months ago, we were comfortable being out and around people. We expected crowds in certain places at certain times. We anticipated grumpy people or rude people or nice people. And we rolled with it.

But now, as we start re-engaging with society, we’ll be operating in a new normal, a world where we’re realizing just how many people are strikingly self-unmanaged. And everyone seems to have a shorter fuse.

The frustration with someone who cuts in line seems to be turning into brawls. The request to wear masks when shopping seems to be an offensive ask that is a deliberate attempt to take away the freedoms we have as Americans. A rude person is shot at.

We’re seeing this across the news and some states haven’t even fully re-opened yet. Unchecked rage. Uncontrolled behavior. Less patience. Less tolerance. Less understanding.

It’s the complete opposite of the heartfelt posts shared across social media just a month ago as the thought of being out in public again was but a hopeful wish.

And it’s happening because people are self-unmanaged. To be self-managed means to be aware of yourself (your emotions, feelings and abilities) and to manage each of your attributes so you can be successful, respectful and effective when dealing with others. When you are not self-managed, you aren’t able to control yourself when you become irritated, aggravated or frustrated. It’s not pretty to see someone – especially yourself – having a meltdown because you were triggered by something someone else is doing.

Think about a time when someone did something or something didn’t go your way and you reacted. As a mindfulness coach, I always remind my clients that in any moment, it is your choice how to be in your moments – pleasant ones or difficult ones. You choose to think and respond or react. The situation doesn’t make you do it. You do it. The situation may be challenging but that is why it is called self-management: manage yourself no matter what the situation.

Where we are today requires us to be more self-managed than ever before. We exist with others and, therefore, things will happen that are beyond your control. Some of those things may even frustrate you or trigger you. But you must stay in control so the situation doesn’t escalate and you don’t let your day be ruined.

Without being self-managed, every disappointment or challenge will get you. You’ll always be ready to explode.   

So how can you become self-managed? By better understanding your triggers. When you know what sets you off, you can start to notice when a situation is triggering you. And when you’re aware of this, you have the ability to take control of your feelings and ensure a more productive outcome for the situation. Take a breath. Remove yourself from the situation. Focus on something else that is more valuable to you.

Be self-managed.

Take Action
Start by coming up with a list of the two or three things that are your primary triggers. An easy way to identify them is to complete this statement: “I hate when people _________ ” or “I hate when [fill in the blank] happens.”

Know your triggers, then think of a few things you can do to calm yourself when you feel yourself being triggered. This could be breathing, forcing yourself to smile, changing your self-talk to something positive, refocusing on something you like, or changing where you are. Those are just a few ideas.

You will have to pay attention on purpose, catch yourself when you feel yourself being triggered or starting to meltdown, and use whatever approach you’ve identified as a way to stay calm.

Today, everyone needs to be more self-managed than ever before. What will this look like for you?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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The Lessons You Find in Movies: Tangled

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at Tangled. This is one of my favorite Disney movies. I love this version of the Rapunzel tale (I grew up watching a VERY bizarre version of the story). The music combined with the great characters and the comic relief make for a very entertaining movie.

But just like every other movie I’ve been watching with my boys, there are big life lessons the movie can share with us.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: The good guys can sometimes do bad things. – Flynn Rider is introduced at the start of the movie as the charismatic and funny one of three thieves who steals the missing princess’ crown.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, good guys do bad things. It doesn’t make them a bad guy, per se. It just might mean they veered off the path they were supposed to follow in life; they might be a little lost.

The Communication: This was a surprisingly important and really big discussion point for my boys who are big on superheroes fighting the bad guys. To them, the world is still just black and white. Good and bad. Right and wrong. Good always triumphs over evil. There’s no gray area to them yet, no extenuating circumstances that make explaining why something happened the way it did a bit easier to comprehend.

So, when I explained that Flynn Rider is actually a good guy who does bad things? Mind. Blown. We talked about how there are levels of “bad things.” Something like hitting or punching your brother is a “bad thing,” but it doesn’t make you a bad person. Something like stealing is a bad thing, and it can, perhaps incorrectly, label you as a bad person.

This also opens up the conversation to talk about how you perceive yourself and others. The labels you assign to yourself and to others carry a lot of weight, whether intended or not. So how do you identify yourself? And how does the world see you? The reality is often somewhere in the middle. (This can absolutely lead to an even larger discussion about what labels do to us and to others.)

Lesson 2: Always be kind. – Despite everything, Rapunzel is always kind and honest and generous to whomever she meets. In her first adventure outside the tower, she is brought to a tavern where all the “bad guys” are hanging out and in a twist Flynn never expected, she engages them all in a song where they each share their hidden dreams and wishes.  

The Takeaway: Being kind goes a long way. Not only does it invite kindness toward you (hello, karma), but it can also create amazing friendships. An added bonus? You often feel really good after you’ve been kind to others.

The Communication: The world can be a hard and challenging place, and some people might not know how to deal with the difficulties life shares. It’s a known fact and for that reason, there have been a number of efforts to encourage the world to be kind. Things like #bekind and #passiton and #givingTuesday are all intentional events that encourage people to think of others first.

So, think about what you could do today to be kind to your family, your friends, your neighbors, a stranger. How could you improve on something today to make the sun shine a little brighter for them so they feel recognized, valued and appreciated?

Lesson 3: Be strong enough to stand up for what is right. – In one of the final scenes of the movie, Rapunzel stands up to the witch, telling her that she will no longer bend to her wishes.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, standing up to what you believe in is hard, takes courage and may go against popular opinion. But, it’s important to identify your core values and beliefs to be able to stay true to them in a world that will frequently challenge them.

The Communication: It will always be difficult to be the one who stands out from the crowd, especially when it’s against popular opinion. But this is why it’s so important to know and be committed to your values and beliefs and to identify your guardrails. Your guardrails keep you moving on your road in a way that fits and matters to you. They also help you notice when you are being swayed to do something you’re not comfortable with or be someone you’re not. Talk about your guardrails and help others identify theirs. Life is so much easier to navigate when you know what your road looks like.

Take Action
I love Tangled. It’s a fun, entertaining movie and the music is terrific. But the life lessons it inconspicuously shares are powerful. At the end of the day, being true to who you are is ultimately what helps you identify, and consistently and wisely move forward in, the direction of your life. And the ability to be kind, regardless of what life shares with you, will always benefit both you and others, and will take you far.

How are you staying true to yourself and remembering to be kind with your family, friends and others in good times? In challenging times? In the time of COVID-19 quarantine?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading more Lessons in Movies

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The Lessons You Find in Movies: Shazam!

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at Shazam! This obviously isn’t a movie for young kids, but the purpose of these posts is not to focus on just the conversations you can have with kids, but the conversations you can have with anyone of any age. These posts hope to encourage you to see and hear beyond the obvious and learn how to communicate it, expand your thinking and engage with others.

Ok, so, let’s chat about Shazam.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: Know your powers. – Just like any other superhero movie, one of the most exciting parts is seeing the superhero discover and use their superhero powers. In Shazam, we see lead character Billy Batson as Shazam, trying to figure out what his superpowers are and how they work.

The Takeaway: You’ll never discover your “superpowers” (aka your talents, strengths and unique abilities) unless you’re willing to explore what they could be and how they could be used.

The Communication: If you ask any kid what their superpower would be, you would get a slew of preferences. “Flying! No, x-ray power! No, super fast speed! No… um, super strength! Um, wait…”

But if you ask an adult? I’m willing to bet you won’t get many ideas, if you get one at all.

This is because in the adult world, we get stuck in doing what we always do instead of making time to discover, develop and live what our unique “superpowers” are. We get stuck in the monotony of our schedules, frequently overlooking our unique abilities because we just don’t have the time.

Take the time now. What is it you are truly remarkable at? What do others applaud you for?

When you know this, ask yourself how you can use your superpowers to make things better. Try it. What are you noticing and how could you start to bring your superpowers into more of your days?

Lesson 2: Don’t put off til tomorrow what you can do today. – Shazam (the original) kept denying passing on his powers to anyone he essentially interviewed for the role, saying no one was worthy or pure or heart to take on his job. He waited so long that he wasn’t strong enough to do his one role: keep the seven deadly sins trapped, ensuring they didn’t escape and unleash their destruction on the world.

The Takeaway: There’s an old saying, “don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” Sometimes, waiting to take care of a big task can create more problems for you in the end. But sometimes, it’s not just procrastination. Sometimes, you can create an idea in your head so spectacular it’s hard to see it as anything else. And this can create a block or obstacle for you, one that you’ll need help overcoming.

The Communication: Building a picture in your mind about what you want a situation, event or even life in general to be can be inspiring. But left unmanaged or unchecked, it can mean you lose touch with reality. You have heard the phrase “paralysis through analysis.” Sometimes getting started instead of waiting until the perfect moment will deliver you greater results than you imagine.

So, consider how you could change that goal, or the end-result image, to be more attainable. Try this: chunk it. Break it into smaller, more manageable pieces. This is by no means a discussion about limiting your dreams or to stop you from imaging being better in every aspect of your life. This is to encourage you to set small, achievable mini-goals to help you stay focused and motivated on your course. This is what it looks like to be self-managed and keep your ideas and ideals in check.

Lesson 3: “Family” is entirely up to you. – Throughout the entire movie, the lead character – Billy Batson – is on the search for his biological mother. A constant foster run-away, he finds himself moved from foster home to foster home until he lands in a group home with an unlikely cast of characters. The final scene reveals the importance of family, in the way he decides it should look.

The Takeaway: Each of us has the ability to add value to those in our lives by caring deeply, valuing others and bringing our best to what we do, whether we call them family or not.

The Communication: How do you define family? Is it the biological family you were born into? Is it a close-knit group of friends who would do anything for each other? Is it a combination of the two? Regardless of how you define family, the real value is this: you are there for each other. You are all there to recognize and celebrate each other’s unique strengths. You’re also there to help each other navigate blocks and challenges life shares. This is what families do; they walk through life with each other, guiding, supporting and helping each other grow into their best and most “super” selves.

Take Action
Shazam was an enjoyable movie. Some great laughs. A lot of tough love and lessons learned. But in the end, it really showcased the importance of discovering, developing, owning and living your true self – and allowing others to do the same. This could mean avoiding unrealistic expectations and instead identifying achievable and tangible goals. It could also mean that we’re defining who we call family. This reminds each of us that we can choose who we want to surround ourselves with and, as a result of that intention decision, we can be supported and celebrated to be the best version of ourselves.

So, the really big, important question: if you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading more Lessons in Movies

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How to Move Forward When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going

As a language major in college, I spent part of my junior year in Europe. A semester in Florence was followed by the summer in Paris. The period between the two programs gave me the opportunity to roam through Europe with a backpack to see places I had only heard about.

Sounds exciting, right? Not for me. I’m a planner, so I frequently found myself frozen about where to go because I didn’t have a clear direction.

So, my fellow planners, raise your hand if you love knowing where you are headed so you can create and implement a plan. Needless to say, my hand is up high.

Now raise your hand if jumping in feet first and figuring things out on the fly works for you.

Good for you. And quite frankly, this is where we are at the moment. We are in a world where our old definition of normal is gone and we don’t quite know how a new definition will look.

So, how do you navigate in a world without a clear direction? Consider these three ideas.

1. Get a solid footing. It is difficult to move forward when your world is still moving. You still have people you need to communicate with and continue to communicate to. Ensure you have a crisis team and that they are clear of their role in getting you through the crisis. This includes ensuring your people are safe, your financing and aid are figured out, your expenses are under control and your balance sheet is managed. Ensure proper and timely communication with customers, suppliers and stakeholders. Get stable. Then, catch your breath.

2. Gather information. Then, set up your plan-ahead team. This is different from your crisis team because their focus is on information-gathering. Stop and notice what about your organization worked well and didn’t work well before and during the crisis. Don’t judge it; just notice it. Things that worked well can give you an idea of what to lead with in the new normal. Things that didn’t work well can be improved because any situation, including crises, provides opportunities.

Don’t limit your information-gathering to your organization. Stop and notice what is going on around you because of the crisis, as well. How are consumers acting? How are people communicating? What do people need, want or choose most? What challenges became clear during the crisis that won’t go away without attention? What opportunities did the crisis create for you, your people and your business? Take inventory. Now you know what is actually true versus what you believe to be true.

3. Create future scenarios. Since we don’t know where we are headed, flexibility and adaptability will be your best allies. Start first by building or imagining several possible future scenarios, based on the information your plan-ahead team gathered about your organization, the workplace, the world and trends. You can’t wait until everything becomes clear; the plan-ahead team needs to envision a future through the clouds and fog of the current moment. This ensures the organization starts thinking and planning in several different directions to be able to respond when the fog clears. The worst thing an organization can do at this moment is sit back and wait to see what will happen.

Consider, also, that the organizations that act nimbly and responsively will set themselves apart as the visionaries when things settle. Having thought about the direction things may go can accelerate a response and help you become a shaper of what the new normal becomes. How could your organization step up and lead in this period of confusion, in a way that is responsive and successful?

So, how do you move forward when you don’t know where you are going? Get on solid ground. Understand what is going on. Build scenarios of where things could go. Then stay close to information as things change to be able to add new scenarios or modify the ones you have until you start to develop some clarity about what the future looks like.

This is how I navigated my time in Europe. At the start of each day, I took a breath to stay calm, I took inventory of my resources (i.e. cash, time), then I created options for the day. Though my plan for the day was to visit Milan, bumping into a friend who was on his way to Madrid allowed me to be flexible and respond as my world changed. Madrid became my new destination, and I knew I had the time and the resources to make it happen.

Seems like this approach could serve us well at the moment.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Define Your Edges

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Three Steps to a Better Post-COVID-19 Workplace and Life

Every year, my big Italian family would have a family meeting on January 1st to discuss what happened during the previous year and what we wanted to achieve or do in our new year. My dad encouraged each of us to take inventory of what has been, imagine what we each wanted and then build a plan to achieve it.

I built on this approach and created the Review, Rethink and Respond process. What follows is guidance in how to Review what has happened, Rethink what you want to achieve and Respond by developing a plan to move forward in our COVID-19 world.

Review

Step out of the panic, anxiety and concern of the moment and calmly, rationally and intentionally look at your situation. Notice the details. Gather information, don’t judge them. I find the best way to do this is to start with a blank page. Draw a line down the middle to create two columns. Title the left column, What Worked. Title the right column, What Didn’t Work. Create a page for each of the areas below for work and life. This will help you create a process to always get clear about what is so you can then imagine and build a future response.

As a leader or manager, review these workplace areas:

  • Your leadership approach.
  • How you handled moving employees to remote status.
  • How you handled / are handling layoffs and furloughs.
  • How you handled / are handling employee engagement in a crisis.
  • How your employees responded in and to this crisis.
  • How your employees supported / are supporting your customers in this crisis.
  • Other areas you and your team can think of

As a parent or guardian, review these life areas:

  • Your parenting approach.
  • How you handled / are handling working at home.
  • How you handled / are handling home schooling.
  • How you kept the family together, energized and safe in the crisis.
  • How your family responded to the crisis.
  • How your family (including extended and remote) supported each other in the crisis.
  • Other areas you and your family can think of.

When you take the time to create a summary of each of these areas, what does it tell you? What decisions and choices created things that worked? What decisions and choices create things that did not work? You now have clearer information about how you reacted or responded in the crisis. Every action shares information with you if you are open to seeing it and reviewing it, so you can use it to be wiser in imagining and directing how to move forward.

Rethink

This one may be tough because there is so much uncertainty about what “normal” even means. So much has been turned upside down from the way we used to do things that perhaps it is unreasonable to think that the old normal is possible, or even desired. We know that many things about work, home, our planet and other areas were not working well in our old normal. Could this create a moment to reset, to imagine something better?

Ask yourself: what could post-COVID-19 look like? Imagine what it could look like, what it could be like for you, your family, your colleagues. You don’t have to get this right. You just have to imagine in this direction and stay tuned in to how things are developing.

Imagine what these workplace areas COULD look like:

  • Your leadership approach.
  • How employees work and what the workplace is.
  • Which employees belong on your team and your plan to replace or add others.
  • How to keep everyone informed through improved or new forms of communication.
  • How to source, interview, hire and onboard new talent.
  • How to manage (guide, support, develop, meet, activate and coach) employees in whatever way work develops.
  • How to keep a sense of team identity and drive engagement in whatever way work develops.

Imagine what these home/life areas COULD look like:

  • Your parenting approach.
  • How work and school can share the same space.
  • How schooling and learning will be done.
  • How you and your kids will build / maintain social contacts.
  • How to create a nurturing and supportive environment to accommodate a world of change and a new normal (safe space).
  • How to keep family members safe, healthy and mentally well in changing times.

The quality of the answer in a period of extreme uncertainty isn’t as important as the commitment to start thinking and imagining the scenarios of what could be so you can take confident steps forward when the time is right.

The reason to create several possible scenarios is that too much is currently uncertain. Thinking about several approaches to what could be considered successful in a post-COVID-19 response enables you to not only respond quickly but to also, and perhaps most importantly, influence the direction of change.

Respond

You have noticed and assessed your current situation – what worked and what didn’t work.

You have started to imagine a broad direction of a path toward a new normal.

Next is preparing yourself by defining a plan and setting trigger points, the things that will trigger your action plan to get started.

In a mindful, intentional and logical way, define the trigger points so, when they happen, they serve as your indicators to implement or to act. This lets you focus on your current moment with full attention because you have thought about your options and are watching for when something requires action. For example, it could be defining for your family or workplace what moving back into public means (when it is approved by your state) and what precautions your workplace and family will follow to do it safely.

Ensure that everyone on your team or in your family is included in your response. Everyone should have a role and know their role to support the successful achievement of any response. This both engages everyone involved because they know they have a stake in the outcome, and it helps them stay more connected and vigilant in watching for the activation triggers.

Though our world can activate our feelings of anxiety, worry and fear, having the Review, Rethink and Respond process can help us more mindfully and calmly learn to look at our world, wisely assess our situation, creatively invent options and resiliently work on a plan. This can help us remain focused on not just surviving in a crisis but thriving to come out better on the other side.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading The Year to Get Clear

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