We have been living with uncertainty for months now, and most of us have been lamenting the inability to plan. At this point, we know for certain that the demands of work and home will not be easing up any time soon. We have to move from survival mode into a new and sustainable way of living and working. How do we begin to redesign our lives?
The first thing to do is to take inventory of where you are currently. At WLF, we like to ask, “How are you doing…really?” What is working? What isn’t working? Given the current reality, what needs to change?
If it feels too big to tackle all at once, take a deep breath, and consider taking it one step at a time. Here are some key areas to focus on as you create a new path forward.
Women need to know they will not lose their jobs or their career trajectories if through no fault of their own they cannot operate the same way they did pre-COVID. Requests for assurances around compensation and evaluations cannot be made one woman at a time. It must be a collective request, and it must include women and men. What conversations do you need to have with your peers, your firm, your team?
Childcare / Schooling
This is the straw that is breaking the camel’s back. What are your family’s needs concerning childcare and schooling? What options are available to you? What do you feel comfortable with? Some families are joining “pods” or creating learning co-ops, some are moving in with family members, some are staying in vacation homes in different school districts. For some, few options are available, and firms need to find ways to support these lawyers. If you feel that you don’t have options, think about the conversations you can have with your firm and your peers.
Space at home has never had such a profound impact on our success and our emotional well-being. Our house or apartment is now our home, our office, our gym, our children’s school, our restaurant, our movie theater, etc. What do we need to be successful in the long run at home? For example, is your home office fully operational? Do you have the optimal computer? Do you have enough computers and desks for all family members? Do you need a second screen? How about a laser printer? How is your WiFi signal? Do you need to change around the rooms in your house or apartment? For example, turning a guest room into a gym. Consider the space you have and what you need moving forward. All of these things will make a significant difference in your energy, happiness, and success.
Zoom is the new virtual business space (office and conference room) and Zoom is not going away, even after the pandemic is over. Your reputation depends on how you present over this medium. Do you need new lighting or a better computer setup? Is your video background one that you are proud of? Do you have the right attire? How about internet speed? You cannot over-invest in making Zoom work well for you.
A Realistic Routine
Routines need to be reinvented. Review all of your existing routines with everyone in your household and all main relationships in your life. What schedule will work for you over the long haul? How often does it need to be reviewed/revised? What can you request? How can you create a schedule that includes stability, for what matters most, and the flexibility to handle the unexpected?
Concentration is the currency of productivity. The inability to find undistracted time is the number one complaint from our clients. Do everything you can to set yourself up for success. Productivity hacks are ubiquitous right now. Take advantage of all of the articles, podcasts, and social media posts to find a few things that really work for you. We love noise-canceling headphones, chunking time using the Pomodoro Method, and MITS.
Consider all available resources at work and at home – both human and technological. What assistance can be offered from your firm, extended family or friends, school, online, and other support services? How can WLF help?
5 Steps to Redesign
1. Find at least 2 hours by yourself, with a partner or friend to plan. (Yes, we said 2 hours!) We recognize finding time to do this may seem impossible. The question is what is it costing you NOT to redesign? Remember to sharpen the saw!
2. Create your list of life categories. For inspiration, you can use the list outlined above, Covey’s list (physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional) or create your own.
3. From your list, write down everything that is working well. Keep that.
4. Write down everything that is not working well – try not to get discouraged or overwhelmed. Simply ask yourself, “What do I need to make this better?” Even minor changes can make a big difference.
5. Once you create your plan – implement it ASAP before your saboteurs talk you out of it.
These are unprecedented times. Remember to be kind to yourself. Have confidence. Breathe deeply and take the first step – however small it may be.