How small changes helped me stay focused on my goals during the lockdown
“Finding a balance between work and our interests is the key to staying productive and motivated, and all it takes is a bit of planning and discipline”—writes the Chief Creative Officer of a global marketing firm, in this deeply personal account.Updated: Jun 29, 2020 10:18 IST
Being a Chief Creative Officer at a global marketing firm comes with tonnes of questions. How did I do it? How do I do it? How do I manage my family? Am I the same boss at home, too? You think of a question and I’ve been asked it. And the answer is: no. I’m not the same boss at home. Rather, I have always kept strict boundaries between my personal and professional life. But now, under the lockdown, lines are blurring. I’m a boss, but at the same time, I’m a daughter, mother, and a wife. I’m the president of a youth development organisation. I’m a health enthusiast in my friends’ circle. And trust me, years of compartmentalisation fails when you work from home for over three months.
A junior colleague who took the lockdown pretty hard recently asked me how I was managing to stay productive during these times. I told her it wasn’t easy for me in the beginning, but just as the pressure started to get to me, I told myself I was better than that and did what I did best. Think creatively about the situation and set some processes! I think there is no better time than now to share some of these, hoping they might help you navigate these unprecedented times.
I set boundaries
When the lockdown came into effect, my husband and I decided to live with his parents until it was lifted. While this gave us more time to spend as a family, it was also quickly turning into a mad house. As people who were used to having our personal spaces, we were constantly in each other’s space! My five-year-old would walk in on my Zoom meetings, or the older one would text me about being hungry. After the initial two weeks and the extending lockdown, we started setting boundaries – at home and at work. I had clear work hours when I preferred not to be interrupted, and the kids used that time to do their assignments or help their grandparents with chores. It also helped me to have a dedicated corner for ‘office’, as moving away from it made me feel like I’d come out of office.
I chose the right allies
If there is one thing I’ve learnt in my career, it’s that it takes a village to get things right. It’s never an individual effort. This is why I take my time picking the team I want to work with, or even friends I want in life for that matter. I only want people who can shoulder their responsibilities, people I can trust. You see, I’m a big believer in positivity and there is no place for toxic relationships in my life. It doesn’t even stop at people, I look for the same things in the services I choose. For example, last week I noticed that suddenly my phone was flashing “No SIM”. Turns out the 5-year-old SIM card was acting up a little. I called up customer care and thankfully, I had put some thought in becoming an Airtel Platinum member and that paid off. They took up my request for a new SIM on priority and had it delivered to my doorstep the same evening. As expected from Airtel, the delivery person was taking all necessary COVID-19 precautions too. My phone was active again, within just a couple of hours of making the request. I was so glad I picked an ally that cares for its customers and doesn’t let the relation become transactional.
I adopted new routines
I still start my mornings with taking stock of the day’s tasks over a cup of coffee. While working from home has eliminated my travel time, it has been replaced by the increased number of household chores. Since the entire family was living together now, we assessed all the chores and took responsibility for different duties. In a way, this reduced some of the domestic pressures, and I tried to complete them before I got pulled into meetings and calls. Factoring in my share of household chores into the routine helped me plan my day better.
I concentrated on achievable goals
I found that writing down my goals helped me gain more clarity, as I could analyse them and strategise according to how close I was to achieving them. If that sounds very robotic, trust me, it is. Over the years I realised the importance of being more flexible and somewhere between these two approaches lies the one that is perfect for me. This especially came in handy when the pandemic threw most plans out of the window. So, I regularly update my checklist of goals to figure out if the current approach still works, what changes I need to make to stay on track, or if I should prioritise something that has a higher scope of being achieved. Concentrating on things one at a time ensures I pay more attention, work smart, and don’t get stressed.
I took breaks
Just like I have work hours when I prefer not to be disturbed, I also have my personal time when I don’t entertain work calls. As someone who was more used to managing tasks between business trips, working from home posed a challenge. I had to consciously prevent myself from getting distracted or losing productivity due to the monotony. I found that something as simple as a five-minute break between two different calls can help me stay more alert and contribute better. I use these breaks and my personal time to connect with my family, practise yoga, or conduct a webinar for students and young talents. This helps me stay motivated and productive.
As work from home begins to become more common, it is important to remember that we are more than just our job titles. Finding a balance between work and our interests is the key to staying productive and motivated, and all it takes is a bit of planning and discipline.