As a former Captain in the British Army, I have led people in life or death situations.
Now as a leadership mentor and performance coach I have put together some strategies to help you lead your teams better as we all adapt our way of working.
The way we start our day determines how our days unfold. Rise early and create your own, personal morning routine that will set you up for success. It could be running, a few stretches or yoga poses, mindfulness, journaling or simply planning your day before others start placing demands upon your time.
Research tells us that the optimal amount of exercise for maintaining good mental health is just three or four sessions of 45 minutes per week. This could be a jog, virtual yoga, a HIIT session or just a brisk walk.
Routine and structure
Every decision that we take during the day draws upon our limited cognitive bandwidth. Having a routine reduces decision fatigue, thus allowing us to apply our full decision making abilities to the most important challenges. It will also help us adjust when the world goes back to normal, whatever and whenever that will be.
Shop well, eat well
Will power is like cognitive bandwidth in that it’s a limited resource. The more we exercise it, the weaker it becomes. If our cupboards are full of crisps, biscuits and chocolate we’ll eat them (and feel more tired). If the junk food isn’t there, we can’t eat it.
Turn off notifications
You’ve probably never had so many messages coming at you as you do during the COVID-19 lockdown. There are WhatsApp groups for work, friends, family and school. Then there’s MS Teams, Email, Slack, Trello, Messenger, Zoom calls etc. It’s a communication tidal wave. Turn off as many notifications as you possibly can and check them on your terms.
Limit your news
The Media Psychology effect describes how the media we consume impacts on our mental health, well-being and productivity. With that in mind, limit the amount of media that you consume each day and ensure you’re only paying attention to credible sources.
Audit your social media
There are some truly heart-warming stories about acts of service and human kindness on social media right now. There is also a lot of scaremongering and fake news. The solution is to avoid the channels and people that drain your energy and seek out those that lift you up.
Clear you desk
The start and end of the working day can be a little fuzzy right now, which has an impact on our productivity and well-being. Where possible, close the door to the home office or clear your work things off the dining room table. Having the laptop out of sight really does help get work out of mind for a few hours.
Everyone’s COVID-19 experience is a little different. Whilst some are finding that they have more time, I’m finding that juggling my work, my wife’s work and looking after out daughter means we have less time. Everything seems to take a little bit longer and feels a little bit harder. I’m trying to re-calibrate my expectations as opposed to fighting them.
Pause to plan
This has never been so important. Back to back Zoom calls and the communications tidal wave mean that if we don’t start each day with fifteen minutes of planning, we’ll simply spend the entire day reacting to everyone else’s priorities.
Multi-tasking isn’t actually possible. When we think we’re multi-tasking, we’re actually in a process of continual task switching, and every time we switch task we leave a little of our attention and energy on the previous task. It’s called attention residue.
(Try to) be fully present
This one is tough, but it’s worth trying. Do your best to be fully present in each moment. When you need to work, do all you can to be fully focused on the work. When you’re with your children or partner, do all that you can to close the laptop and put the phone away so that you can be fully present with them. When you do, you’ll experience some wonderful moments that would otherwise be missed.
Have a digital sunset
Replicate the setting of the sun each day with your technology. Close the laptop when your work is done. Put the mobile and tablet away an hour before you go to sleep. Turn off the television. Relax, read and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
We’re all human. We’ll all have bad days. We’ll all have a wobble from time to time. We’ll all snap at our children, partners or work colleagues. We’ll feel that lockdown life is getting on top of us. And that’s ok… because we’re all human beings navigating a totally new way of life.