The past two months have been long, short, quiet, chaotic, busy and idle. They’ve torn down; they’ve built up. Yes, the pandemic has turned our world upside down, but many people are finding appreciation for their new vantage points.
From clients and loved ones, I’m hearing things like “it’s strangely calming not having any social obligations right now” and “I don’t want things to go back to the way they were.“
So, what should you lean into right now, while home and work collide, to transform your life and career?
1. Having the time to exercise (R.I.P. morning commute)
The best thing about saying goodbye to bumper-to-bumper traffic and standing-room-only subways? You now have more discretionary time in your day. Why not use it to improve your physical and cognitive health?
View exercise as part of your job, because it strengthens your focus, enhances your creativity, reduces your stress, and boosts your mood, which your colleagues will certainly appreciate. A study by scientists at Stanford University showed that walking significantly improves cognitive efforts, specifically convergent thinking – the ability to come up with solutions to a problem – and divergent thinking, which involves conceiving open-ended, original ideas.
And remember: exercise isn’t one-size-fits-all. You can break a sweat in whatever way agrees with your body and motivates your mind. Check out nearby hiking trails, discover new exercise channels on YouTube, do yoga on your back patio – no dread necessary.
2. Seeing your loved ones, more than just in passing
We may never experience a drag on the pace of life like this again. Kick off your days by eating breakfast with your kids. Go to “happy hour” on the patio with your spouse. FaceTime with friends and family without feeling rushed, allowing time to really connect.
We all have the opportunity to emerge from this temporary Twilight Zone with stronger bonds and even fond memories.
3. Eating healthier because lunch-on-the-go is no longer the default
Excuses be damned, you finally have the time and tools to prepare balanced meals. You’ll be and share your best self with loved ones and colleagues – whether you live alone or with your cramped-yet-cozy family – when you give your body and brain the nutrition that it needs. Good food choices also reduce inflammation and help keep sickness at bay, according to research.
So, pick up a new culinary hobby and experiment with healthy foods in your “at-home test kitchen.” Then light some candles and put on music – create an ambiance that’s conducive to taking the time to really chew, taste, enjoy and digest your food.
4. Finding your circadian rhythm
Sleeping more at night is important, but so is following your own body’s clock. The pattern of the sun affects night owls and early birds differently. Pay attention to your energy levels at various times of the day, and create a routine that lets you sleep when you’re sleepy. Your productivity will be optimized if you harness the hours when you’re most alert, which is late morning for most people, research shows. But, of interest, people often do their best creative thinking when they’re tired, according to a study examining the effects of time of day on problem-solving.
If you know you do your best work and thinking early in the morning, how should that impact your nightly routine? What requests do you need to make of others in order to hit your goal of getting the shut-eye you need? Answering these questions can make your days a LOT better.
5. Organizing everything from your schedule to your stuff
Order is the mother of peace. The stress in your life will be decimated when you know where things are, where to start, and when and where you (truly) need to be. This sabbatical from chaos is the perfect time to rejig your universe. A bit of purging things no longer serving you will also feel fantastic!
6. Getting lost in thought
Be intentional about spending time in self-reflection. Take stock of what really matters to you. Our time on this earth is limited; don’t waste another day without evaluating whether doing things society has programmed into you makes you happy. Is scheduling a child-enrichment activity every night of the week really enriching your family? Is it getting in the way of being able to achieve your career goals? If some habits are hurting more than helping, don’t go back to the same routine when this is all over. Decide what quarantine quirks you want to take with you into the future and what part of your pre-pandemic life you want to either minimize or never see again.
While you may be someone who hated working in the office but now miss the camaraderie, there are certainly benefits to be reaped from the slowdown. “New normal” can be more than a platitude…you have an opportunity right now to define what it means for your own life.