In 2020, many of us experienced the same restrictions, but for each and every one of us, our day-to-day was affected differently. Thus, everyone’s experience throughout the pandemic was unique to them. That’s not to say we can’t find similarities in how we felt throughout this period – but we should acknowledge that some people certainly had it tougher than others.
If there’s anything that history has taught us it’s that through adversity comes opportunity. So how do we zero in on and capture some of this opportunity? By reflecting on the year that was, we can pave the way and prepare for more than a ‘COVID normal’, we can begin to think about the next normal – what we want that to be, and how we can truly live more fulfilling lives both at work, and at home.
In this article, we’ll explore some key learnings from 2020. We’ll also visit Whole Brain® Thinking to ascertain how we might’ve adapted during the pandemic, and what we should take from that moving forward.
Key learnings from 2020
Ask for help, and be open to receiving help
We sometimes forget that it’s human nature people love to help – so why have we become so hesitant to ask for it? Maybe it’s because we don’t want to burden our loved ones, or maybe we worry our manager will think we’re not up to task. In reality, knowing when to ask for help (and following through) is far more sustainable and often leads to better outcomes and relationships.
Receiving help doesn’t reflect poorly on us, it simply shows that we have the self awareness to engage extra resources when necessary. Dare we say this is something that nearly all bosses would prefer than work slipping through the cracks, or expectations not being met! In 2020, for the first time many of us felt more inclined to ask for help. Emotions ran high, and for many of us something had to give. We shouldn’t forget what it was like asking for help, receiving it, and how often it resulted in stronger relationships and better outcomes.
Be comfortable saying ‘no‘
How often have you been asked to do something, and without thinking twice you’d already said ‘yes’?. This year, some of us learnt that sometimes we really do need to say no – and that’s a good thing! When we know our limits, we can stop ourselves from becoming burnt out. Many of us have reached this point this year, and we know how hard it is to overcome.
Saying no doesn’t have to be as bad as you might make it out to be. Saying no can involve offering alternatives, seeking extra support or resetting expectations and shifting priorities. You can only spin so many plates before one drops and shatters…so stay in control and feel empowered by your ability to push back when necessary.
Invest in your development
Things can change quickly. Investing in your development often equips you with better job security, or empowers you with a more positive and productive mindset that results from continuous learning. You need to invest in yourself if you want others to invest in you – and that includes your company, colleagues, superiors and subordinates.
On a more personal level, this year you may have identified some areas where you struggled. Whatever you’ve done to manage your mental health, continue to practice this in future. Whether it’s keeping a journal, taking walks or meditating, prioritise this in the next normal. Surely we’ve all realised this year just how precious and fragile our health is, and how it deserves our full attention.
Practice gratitude (everyday!)
Throughout 2020, on many days (at face value) there may not have seemed much to be grateful for. But by practicing gratitude, you can really see the big picture and become more intune with yourself. It doesn’t have to be everyday, but start off by writing three things down that you’re grateful for a few times a week. It’s easy to write the same things everyday, though (eg; family, friends, food, etc). Challenge yourself to come up with unique things. It can be as simple as a warm shower, or the feeling of the sun on your face. You’ll find so much to appreciate.
Create your own definition of ‘work-life balance’
Sometimes we really do need to just stop and ask ourselves what is most important to us. Is checking and replying to a few emails late in the evening really good for our stress levels? Would it really have mattered if it had taken another eight hours to send that message?
Work life balance is an interesting topic because it really is different for everyone. To you, this year may have taught you your life is better when you work from home a couple of days a week because you get to make your kids breakfast. Or maybe starting late on a Wednesday is great because you can head to your favourite gym class. Whatever it may be, when it comes to the next normal, retain a work life balance that allows you to lead a more fulfilling life.
Whole Brain® Thinking and the ‘next normal’
If you’ve completed the HBDI®, your profile will help you be more effective in how you use your thinking to accomplish what you want to accomplish – for example, by paying more attention to what other people need or by paying attention to what the situation requires.
You’ll also be aware of how your behaviour might change when you’re under pressure or experiencing stress. By harnessing this self-awareness, and living through the stresses of COVID, there may be ways in which you’ve adapted that should give you confidence in future. If you prefer…
The Upper Left Blue A Quadrant: The Analytical Mindset
You might’ve initially struggled with the pace of change at the onset of COVID-19. But when you had to, we bet you excelled. Remember when that colleague opened up to you about how they were feeling? Did it feel good to build your relationship with them? Have confidence in your ability to adapt to change, and try to appreciate (just a little bit) the warm and fuzzy stuff!
The Lower Left Green B Quadrant: The Practical Mindset
Was all that stress and worry about change for nothing? Could you have better channelled that energy into something productive? We bet you had the chance to Zoom with some colleagues or friends (and although you may have disliked it at first), you got the chance to open up on a deeper level and form some strong relationships. Know that even when faced with sudden change, you’re still in charge of your destiny. Sometimes things don’t go to plan – and that’s okay!
The Lower Right Red C Quadrant: The Relational Mindset
So…a little alone time, working from home, and no Friday office lunches wasn’t the end of the world, right? Maybe you’ve learnt to value and appreciate what a bit more time for self reflection does for you. Or maybe you’ve found you can be more productive if you spend a day or two a week working from home. We’re sure you probably won’t be putting your hand up to work from home more permanently, but finding a balance is good!
The Upper Right Yellow D Quadrant: The Experimental Mindset
Working from home you might have found your mind wandering. You may have gone off topic a number of times thinking of new ideas and sometimes…steered a bit too far away from the final goal. But, when push came to shove, we bet you were able to reason with yourself and deliver on work and projects independently. In future, keep deadlines in mind and try to recapture that reasoning to deliver time and time again.
Capture your thoughts and take action
Of course, it goes without saying that tips and advice are merely that unless you implement them and take action. You might like to reflect on these, your own learnings in 2020 and make an action plan. Set yourself some goals, and be sure to take note of how you’ll know if you’ve achieved these goals.
2020 was a tough year. But as we near 2021, let’s take the time to reset, refresh and bring newfound optimism to what the next normal has in store!