Until about a month ago, my days were dictated by clocks, schedules, and deadlines. My mornings almost always started at 4:30 a.m. As the founder of a bootstrapped business, I’d use the time to get some work done before the sun rose. By 6:30 a.m., it was time to wake the kids, help them get ready for school, 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 it was time to go to sleep.
Fast forward to today, and my daily routine has changed drastically. Now that we’re home and practicing social distancing, my days still start early, but my girls now sleep until their bodies are ready to wake up. And while mornings still consist of the same activities, they’re unhurried and now include a full breakfast and a family walk before I tackle my new workday.
Instead of working straight through the day, I now find myself carving out breaks to support my children’s learning, alternating with my husband. 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 incredibly uncertain right now, it seems odd to say that I feel calm and centered. 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. In a sense, having this time to adjust to a new normal has actually been a gift.
In reality, remote work isn’t an entirely 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.
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. It’s also about finding room for compassion and fun. For example, we have a Slack channel dedicated to our pets.
In other words, treat colleagues like friends and friends like family. Help the people you know find a balance during this uncertain time, and try to find a way that works for you and your family. Here are a few things that have been working for me:
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 partner 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. Stay active. It’s finally stopped raining in Atlanta, and I’m really grateful for the sun and beautiful weather. I’ve found that during this time, staying active or getting a healthy dose of fresh air is key. Crack the windows, find a great home exercise routine if you’re so inclined, or just walk around 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.
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