Protecting Your "New Normal"

Protecting Your "New Normal" by Ryan Hansen

Two months ago, how many of us knew the best spot in our house for a video call? How many of us knew how to share our screens or choose a virtual background? How many of us had ever attended a "virtual happy hour," or even heard of such a thing?

The last few weeks have been unusual, to say the least, and it appears that we're in the early stages of returning to something that resembles business as usual. So as the homeschooling winds down and video calls begin to dwindle, you might consider: Are there any components of this time that I want to continue?

That question might have sounded crazy in March, when everything was unfamiliar territory. Weeks later, though, some of us have started to find a new routine. We've adopted new schedules, picked up new habits, even tried to learn new skills. Surely some of those are worth keeping, right? Let's take a look at some of the common themes from this period of isolation.

Job Flexibility

Work may never look the same after millions of employees took working from home for a test drive. Many of us can attest that home office life isn't always ideal, but the flexibility may prove hard to give up. With supporting technology in place, working from home means more time for family and less time lost on a commute.

Maintaining Mental Health

Speaking only for myself, I've had more conversations about strategies to maintain my mental health in the last two months than I've had in the last two years. You don't have to look far to find signs that society is consciously sharing positivity - just look at John Krasinski's "Some Good News" web series, which spotlights the best things going on around the world. When the world became dark and scary and lonely, people fought back with hope and joy and happiness. This wasn't passive; it was a deliberate act to stay positive and keep from drifting into cycles of negative thinking.

Skill-Building

When the lockdowns hit, I saw a wave of emails, news reports, and social media posts sharing how people around the world were using the extra time to try something new. This took many forms, from reading (and writing) books to trick shots and Rube Goldberg machines constructed in tiny apartments. What a testament to the optimism and resilience of humanity. When the world went dark, people wanted to get stronger. The best investments we can make are in ourselves and the people around us. Imagine what it would mean if we continued to emphasize this perspective for years to come.

Keeping Your New Reality

As I write this, the world is starting to come back on-line. One by one, cities and states are reopening and businesses are trying to move forward in unfamiliar territory. As we have heard countless times, this is our "new normal."

Eventually, we will probably return to something that resembles our "old normal." We will go back to work, schools will reopen, and sports will return. Many of us will go back to our pre-COVID routines and schedules. When we do, our new practices will be tested against our old habits. And we all know that saying about old habits...

I have a couple of tips to help you anchor those new habits for the future:

1. Front and Center

Out of sight, out of mind, right? Keep your new project right in front of your face whenever you can. Write a reminder on your bathroom mirror. Set recurring alarms on your phone to trigger your activities. 

2. Make It Easy and Fun

Warren Buffett once said, "The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken." We fall into habits because they're convenient and make us feel good. You can flip this advice to work for you by creating convenient patterns to enforce your habits. If you want to read more, find books you enjoy and keep them close at hand. If you're learning to play the guitar, keep the guitar somewhere you can't forget to play it. Change your routine to make exercise fit into your schedule. When the habit is inconvenient, the excuses become extra convenient.

This global crisis has impacted every one of us. The luckiest among us have remained healthy and employed through these unpredictable weeks. With that in mind, I hope we can all look back on this historic time in our lives and remember it for more than face masks and take-out meals. Let's find the good and keep that ball rolling.


More from the Blog:

Resources for Leaders During Uncertain Times

A Simple Checklist for Well-Being

Leadership, Grief, and COVID-19

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