Doing the Time Together
There is an old saying among prison inmates. “You can do the time or let the time do you”. While I’ve managed to avoid being incarcerated, I’ve known plenty of people who have spent some vacation days as a guest of the State of New York and I think there is some old school prison wisdom that can be applied to the recent hand we, as a nation, have recently been dealt.
Like millions of others, I am on Day 6 of a self-quarantine sentence with no clear sight to my “release date”. Many people love working from home. They have their cozy home office all set up with inspirational posters and heartwarming photos of their children and pets. I am not that person. I prefer to completely separate my work life and home life. Also, I’m a very social person. While I do plenty of my work via phone, Skype, Zoom, Slack, etc., I also still really value being able to walk out of my office and engage with the super-smart people I work with at York & Chapel. Those days are over. Everything has changed and nobody knows what our collective release date will be.
So here is the part where that aforementioned prison wisdom can keep you going – emotionally and physically. There is an initial day or two when you first isolate yourself where everything seems a little overwhelming. I blame most of that on the 24-hour news cycle, that ironically, as a PR professional, I have been feeding stories for the past 20 years. But after a few days of shock, you need to ask yourself, “What am I going to do to get through this with my sanity intact?”
I would never assume to tell you how to manage your life. I can only tell you how I’m managing mine. Here are some things I’m doing to keep it together until these challenging times become a little less challenging.
Keep the same wake-up routine you had before all of this went down. I mean, get up the same time you have been for the past however many years you’ve been working, even though you no longer have that half-hour commute. Keeping your inner clock consistent will be one less thing you need to adjust to. Your body will thank you.
Dress like you did when you went to the office. This will seem ridiculous to many people, but studies show that people who work from home that dress for work are more productive and able to draw the line between work and mowing the lawn. So get out of those funky sweats, take a shower and put on your best Jake from State Farm Khakis.
Keep regular hours. Start and end your day as closely as you did when you traveled to work. For some of us, the “end” part of our day is, and will always be, a moving target. If that’s the case, at least try and start your workday at the same time. And definitely, make sure you break for lunch, coffee, snacks, etc.
Share positivity as it happens. With all this isolation, the good things can easily fall between the cracks and go largely unnoticed. We have started the practice of sharing “daily wins” with the whole team as they happen. These can include major wins like new accounts or a big sale to some new best practice that everyone might find useful. A little good news goes a long way.
Challenge yourself. Pick one thing that will challenge you physically or mentally and just do it. No rules. I’ve decided to do 100 push-ups a day for as long as this lasts. Maybe you always wanted to bake pies or learn to speak French. Now is the time for healthy distractions.
Get some fresh air. Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to avoid sunlight. If possible, go for a walk. And remember, if others are out and about, keep to the CDC-recommended six-foot distance from others.
Turn off your TV. There is too much information flying around for the average human to process. Other than some good old fashioned Netflix binging, my TV will remain mostly off. Instead, I’ve started using an app called News Break, that allows you to get local news updates that directly affect your daily life, like which stores are remaining open and where you can still buy toilet paper. Everything you really need to know can be found here on the CDC web site.
Be Kind. And most importantly, be nice to each other. Here in the U.S., things will almost certainly get worse before they get better. Kindness can have amazing healing properties in times of stress. So call that friend you haven’t spoken to in ages. None of us know how long our sentence is, but one thing we know for sure is that we are all doing time together.