Why Is Time Management of Key Importance During the Global Pandemic?
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Mentees of the 5th generation of the program “Creative mentorship”, as well as mentors and our partners, had a chance to participate in a workshop “(Re)organize yourself – worry, focus, and efficiency” held on July 28. Eva Velimirović, a psychologist and senior consultant in GI Group, the main educational partner of “Creative mentorship” led the workshop dedicated to the importance of (re)organization in the struggle with challenges and expectations we have when it comes to working from home and big changes in social dynamics.
Eva drew the attention of participants to the fact that what we are going through is much more different from everything we are used to. The situation we are in is challenging even for those who are used to work from home because it’s rather about having to stay at home due to the Global pandemic and not about out-of-hours ability to stay at home. Accepting this is especially demanding for our brains and our mental health generally speaking. However, besides adapting our daily habits to new circumstances we have to deal with self-care and care about our family – their health, finances, and many other segments which adds even more pressure on us.
To understand all the best ways to handle the circumstances we are facing now, we should first understand how our brain reacts in certain situations. Due to constant stress, our brain is in a permanent state of caution and fear, which then deepens the feeling of stress for our organism, we become more sensitive, tend to react with more emotions, and overreact to things and situations we usually wouldn’t. It’s really important to be aware of the following: we need a part of our energy to handle stress and to adapt to the “new normal”. If we direct our energy to work giving all our efforts to act as if nothing has changed (for example if we are used to working from home) we will have no energy left to adjust to situations and circumstances which can lead to psychological and emotional burnout. What we need is optimization. We do not know how long the circumstances will last. We should choose wisely what we spend our energy on and what do we focus on. Therefore, we should optimize our energy, and we should put the key skills on maximum.
One way to optimize and save our energy is to make detailed daily planning. Due to frequent changes and many pieces of information we absorb every day, we can have the impression that we are losing control over things; the key is to address our attention, time, and energy to things we already have and to aspects of our lives that we can control. A daily routine is one of them. In other words, to save ourselves and keep one part of our energy to overcome daily stress, it is necessary to make a precise plan of work and to stick to it strictly, doing one task at a time, without multitasking.
While planning our day, we should pay attention to dedicate some time to self-care as well. Usually, we tend to take time for ourselves for granted; we delay it or simply give up on time for boredom, time to relax, time for reflection for sake of “more important” work, and needs. This, like all other tasks, belongs to our daily plan and discipline. Enough sleep and physical activity are necessary for good mental health. We should dedicate at least 5 minutes every day to do something we enjoy and to value the present moment. In this way, we give ourselves space and enhance creativity, which we can lack in ongoing circumstances. To achieve the best balance, we can alter more often shorter periods of doing tasks with brief pauses to rest and regain our energy. On the other hand, we should not forget that 40% of our day goes to unpredicted activities. Keep this proportion always in mind to avoid making an overambitious list of daily tasks or setting unrealistic goals.
The fact that we should plan even the unplanned tasks helps us a lot to see things in the most realistic light. It also makes it easier to see ourselves objectively and to know our boundaries and how much we can expect from ourselves. If we insist on keeping the same intensity of the focus, motivation and creativity there is a high probability that we will feel bad due to expecting to achieve unachievable. Instead, we should accept that high motivation is not sustainable at all times. That is exactly why we should maximize our chances to achieve as much as we can in the current situation and to discipline ourselves accordingly. Motivated by the things we can accomplish, we are more likely to keep our hope and motivation high and to feel good about ourselves.
If we look at it from a different angle, making detailed daily plans can be exhausting and overwhelming. We can find ourselves in a situation where we should give up on some daily tasks that we enjoy doing. Still, we should always keep in mind that abandoning some pleasant chores serves to unload our capacities, so we can handle the crisis easier and that some time remains for us to dedicate ourselves to ourselves.
Other things that we should not oversee are the obstacles and distractions that come with spending most of the time at home. Many online meetings and calls, the presence of our family members, and lack of space dedicated only to work as well as a huge amount of information that we should process disturb our concentration and efficiency. We can control these things by reaching a compromise and establishing clear boundaries with our colleagues and family, by organizing and sharing work and tasks in all the fields. Then we can utilize that to set new routines that will help us work more efficiently.
However, we may waste a lot of time delaying things and procrastinating. If it is procrastination that holds us from fulfilling our tasks, we should first understand that the core of procrastination is fear. Often, we are anxious because a certain assignment seems too big for us, and we do not know where to start from, or we fear failure and, consequently, disappointment. Once we are aware of this problem, we can apply techniques to help us overcome the fear of task and failure. Some of the techniques Eva recommends are, Pomodoro , a technique that can help us divide work into smaller, time-limited tasks and to include short breaks as well, ABC technique, which can help us control pessimistic thoughts, by tracking inner dialogues and analyzing them or practicing gratitude journal for 90 days, which can help us notice good things. These techniques can help us practice self-discipline and rethink our goals. We can also find inspiration and motivation in remembering all the things that we accomplished regardless of the deadlines or size of the tasks, or by introducing a new routine in our day. Even if setting a new routine can seem illogical and demanding, it can help us optimize our time and improve on different levels. If we do things every day at the same time, our brain adopts new habits more easily and, over time, it invests much less energy into executing them.
In the end, we should accept that normal functioning known to us is not sustainable at present. Even though we can achieve only 60% of our full capacities, given the circumstances, we shouldn’t settle for the lower quality of performance or to jeopardize the quality of our work. On the contrary, we should rather think of ways to redefine our tasks and obligations. Let’s go back to the beginning: if we still achieve 100%, we risk spending all the resources necessary to surmount the crisis happening on different levels, requiring adjustment on each one of them.
The race ahead of us is a marathon it’s not a sprint. What we have in front of us is a lot of work, acceptance, and adjustment. It is really important to become aware and to learn how to apply different techniques for facing and overcoming instability. That can be done by practicing gratitude by noting at least three things that we are grateful for, by choosing a mental Guru or buddy, a person that can help us survive difficult moments; doing meditation, and breathing exercises, keeping in contact with people dear to us, and who support us. We can establish new routines but above all, it’s important to prevent burnout which can endanger us and lower the quality of our lives. We can say that the main steps for surviving are: making a plan, putting the plan into practice, and completing it gradually. That is a good way to respond to all the pressure of the “new normal” and to keep our mental health.