Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed I’ve been getting a feeling of increasing discomfort and niggling unease.
On the surface this makes sense– I mean we’re in a pandemic right. ‘Unprecedented’ times as everyone is saying.
It’s a time of uncertainty where the rules are changing by the day.
All this is true and a good reason to feel anxious, overwhelmed and incredibly wobbly. However, I’m actually ok with not being ok with this whole crazy ass COVID19 situation we find ourselves in.
There’s a time when stress is appropriate and right now is probably it.
Our stress to a point helps us to be vigilant and do what we need to do to look after ourselves and keep safe.
I’m definitely surfing this wave of stress and I’m trying my best to remain present, attentive and cautiously responsive so I stay / cling on to the board.
However, this discomfort and unease that I’m feeling, with a side serving of pressure and guilt, has actually been related to something else. I didn’t realise at first, I had to dig deeper and investigate and when I got closer, this was what I realised.
This was about me feeling that I should and could be doing more to help people, that I’m falling short in some way and should be peddling faster to adjust my business. That I should be getting way more shit done and that I’m negating some kind of personal, business and social responsibility if I don’t.
All around me there are fabulous people leaning in, quick smart, getting into action, putting themselves out there, doing free webinars, videos, virtual meet ups, online courses, live classes, blogs, all types of stuff.
It’s wonderful, I salute them, but it’s also clickbait productivity porn, and it is everywhere right now.
In addition, there is the email tsunami that’s taking place with every business coming out of the woodwork to email me and tell me in detail, exactly what they are doing in response to the COVID19 pandemic. Even if that business is one that I possibly used some time in the distant past and I have no idea who they even are.
I’ll be honest, I don’t care – not enough to get a gazillion emails live streaming into my inbox, that I’m filing under bin without even reading because it’s all too much and there is enough going on. I’m just working on keeping my head above water.
Now before you possibly judge me, don’t get me wrong – I think all this quick mobilisation to adjust and help is AWESOME, I really do – gogo power rangers and all that. Seriously good work is happening and high fives to everyone on this – I genuinely mean that.
However, all this productivity everywhere has triggered something in me that I already struggle with and I don’t think I’m alone.
All the experts and Get-Sh*t-Done Gurus say “don’t wait”, “seize the moment”, “do or die” and “pivot quickly”.
BUT……..what if …….rather than ‘seize the moment’ we should ‘pause a moment’. what if rather than ‘get sh*t done’ we should ‘let sh*t go’? What if rather than running around virtually, we should just be still for a moment and pull our wings in.
Not for ever, just for a while and see what floats up.
It’s worth considering and now I’ve finally dug deeper there is a big part of me that feels a strong pull that way….and then there is the other part, the energiser bunny, the ‘try hard’, the helper, the ‘Do-er’.
All this hustle bustle of productivity has flicked on my ‘doing’ switch, my striving addiction and inner conditioning that I’m only able to be useful in this world (particularly in a crisis) through my physical outputs and ticking off tasks on a to-do list.
It’s triggered a deep-seated belief I think so many of us have that if we don’t churn out some things we can ‘show and tell’ about, then we have no worth.
I say to you and I’ll say to myself, again and again ‘this is NOT TRUE’. It’s just a thought in our head and it’s bxllshxt. We are so much more than our physical outputs.
What I’m talking about is ‘PRODUCTIVITY SHAME’.
I first heard about the term ‘productivity shame’ a few months ago from Jocelyn K. Glei who is an author and researcher on creativity, productivity and resilience. Jocelyn, who is also the host of one of my fave podcasts Hurry Slowly, describes productivity shame as
“a toxic substance that slowly corrodes your ability to take any joy in your work.”
I also believe it affects our ability to
A. Be present and curious to the experience that is happening right now because we distract ourselves with all this flapping around DOING stuff.
B. Focus on what matters most – because if we aren’t tuning in truly to what’s happening how can we really understand where we might be most useful, really needed and truly valuable right now– not just to others but to ourselves.
In a crisis, such as we are facing, being present is not necessarily a pleasant place. It’s a big change to the norm that hasn’t been planned for, so there is no fancy strategy in place to manage it.
We don’t have answers to many of our questions like ‘how long will this go on for?’, ‘will life be the same?’, and ‘is it safe to plan stuff in 3 months’ time?’
This uncertainty sucks and it creates a void, that we look to fill any which way we can.
So we get busy, because who the hell are we if we don’t. How can we be the same person, delivering the same value we were yesterday, if we don’t keep the pace and general game the same or even raise it?
How about instead, we feel our way through it one mindful step at a time, because if this isn’t one massive sign to pause and move a little slower for a while I don’t know what is.
So what to do and how to be in a time like this.
I’m not suggesting laying there like broccoli (name that movie film geeks), or hitting the chippies and packets of Oreos while binge watching ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix. That’s avoiding the situation as much chipping away at your to-do list like an elite productivity athlete.
Now is the time to reflect on what truly is most important in this moment and start by moving and acting from that place alone, rather than comparing our value and subsequent outputs to what everyone else is doing. Now is the time that YOU DO YOU. What others are doing is none of your business and what you are doing is none of theirs.
4 QUESTIONS TO ASK THAT WILL HELP
With all that in mind here are the 4 questions I’ve found useful to ask that might help guide you on where to place your time and energy during this time.
1. How can I best take care of myself right now? – This is about self-care and exploring what you need in this moment to support your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Are you exhausted? Do you need extra sleep? Would it help to talk to someone that puts a smile on your face or provides you with the support you think you need right now? It’s important to look at what YOU need to fill your cup at this time because you cannot drink from an empty cup and neither can anyone else.
2. How can I best support those closest that need me the most? – This might be your family, loved ones, close friends and work colleagues, or if you are a leader, those in your team. Think about people you deeply care about and have responsibility for. What do they need from you? If you’re a leader and all you do is have virtual catch ups all day with your team to check in how they are going and support them, then you are doing enough at this time.
3. What am I learning right now? – During any crisis or major unplanned event there is always so much to notice and learn from. Some of it is obvious, but some of it not so much. These are small but fundamental nuances that can be missed if we don’t stop and really look. A few years ago, I was forced to stop, from my busy beaver lifestyle when I had to undergo a double hip replacement, which definitely wasn’t in my master plan for life. I was to forced slowdown, big time, during the time and process when I was recovering I saw signs and learned many lessons about how I was approaching things in my life that I hadn’t seen before, because I’d been too busy rushing around.
4. What rituals and routine can I put in place to support me through this time? – Our same old same old, trusted way of living our life has been thrown up in the air. As humans we like routine and structure, and it’s particularly important during a crisis because it helps sooth us and make us feel safe. Once you have answered the 3 questions above – think about what your new schedule might look like and rituals you can put in place to best support and navigate you through these times, this includes white space to do nothing and recoup (I write about white space here). Remember to be flexible and open to evolving your routine as the situation and environment around you unfolds and changes – which it will. The only thing you can rely on is that nothing is permanent.
I’ve found these questions so useful to reassure me and settle my inner critic that has been going into hyper mode like a sugared up pre-schooler, these past few weeks.
The inner critic that has been misinforming me to do things that weren’t necessarily the right thing to do.
Instead I’m staring it in the face and rebelling against it, which means letting go of much of the ‘doing’ and the need for ‘doing’, that really isn’t serving me at this time, and instead bask a little more in simply ‘being’.
After all we are human beings not human doings.
So maybe the sanity that can come from this madness is a lesson in letting sh*t go rather than getting it done – something that is usually an anathema to me and I believe many others, but it’s what keeping me on the surf board, albeit on my knees, riding this ‘unprecedented’ wave, that will eventually pass, as everything does.