I wanted to take a little time to share how my professional world has changed for me and how I am able to cope and carry on doing the things that I need to do and the things that I want to do. Life for all of us has drastically changed and we are now operating in a world apart from our friends and much of our extended family. Likewise, things have changed on the professional front as well. Our colleagues are also apart from us and we are working from our homes on a daily basis.
Certainly no one expected as 2019 came to a close and 2020 began that the year would become the year of the pandemic. No one really knew what a pandemic was nor how damaging and devastating it could be. After all, this pandemic involves a virus that we cannot see with our eyes and we cannot fight like we would a human enemy. Yet, here we are. It is the middle of April. The weather is beginning to turn warmer. And we are mostly confined to our homes and the world outside our homes has become far scarier than it once was.
For starters, I am writing this on my sofa with one of my cats sitting on the sofa near me. I am watching the sun rise outside above the trees surrounding my house. I am physically comfortable. This is my sixth week of working exclusively from home. My work email is open. I am available to respond to requests. I have a plethora of tools available to connect with others and others with me including Skype, Microsoft Teams, Office 365, and my phone. I have always prided myself on being responsive to requests and that has not changed.
The past week was consumed by meetings ranging from ones dealing with information security, data privacy, responding to an RFP, and a few employment law matters. A normal week before this time of the pandemic was similarly filled with meetings about a myriad of issues. What is not normal is all of these meetings took place with all of us in different places. Yet, we carried on as if we were all in the same place and were able to productively address the issues we needed to face. This is the essence of what we all are being asked to do now. We are being asked to carry on our businesses and our professional lives as best we can. That ask, however, is a very difficult one.
What has been left unsaid so far is that working from home and with our family members also being asked to work from home means that everyone is at home. This could be significant others, parents, and children. We all have our lives that we are trying to live. Yet, doing so under the same roof means needing to adapt and adjust to how others need/want to live their own lives. Proximity has become/can be a significant challenge for us. Children may interrupt us, demand our attention, make noise when we don’t want them to. Significant others may impose their own challenges as they try to work and we try to work at the same time. For example, one could be on calls all day long and the other needs to work on writing something all day long and needing quiet to do so.
I would be remiss if I didn’t devote a bit of the post talking about what this blog is typically devoted to – legal technology and legal innovation. We do not know what next week will bring. We do not even know what tomorrow will bring. We do know, however, that as the pressure has been put on us all to adapt to the reality of today that technology is helping us continue to do our work whether it be via a conference call, jointly working on a contract, or planning out the steps of a major project. We have so many tools at our disposal and we no longer can choose whether or not we use these tools. We have to. We are no longer in the same physical space as our colleagues and yet we need to stay connected and continue to collaborate. It is up to us all to make use of these tools and understand that even when some degree of normalcy returns, these tools will still be there to help us. These tools include not just ones like Zoom, Skype, or Office 365. They include others that can help automate the drafting of basic documents, respond to standardized requests, and manage workflows. In this time when the demands being placed on us seem to both increase and shift constantly, we are starting to have little choice but to make use of these tools as appropriate simply to survive and continue doing things as we need to. Let’s hope that this pandemic will help show that these tools are not going away and that they can and are incredibly useful, especially when everything around us seems to be in disarray.
Given this time of uncertainty, this time of shifting demands, this time of anxiety, how do we mentally cope? How do we manage the anxiety of uncertainty about when this will end, how it will end, and what will come next? How do we manage our daily lives that have been so severely disrupted and continue to do our jobs? There is no simple answer or a single answer to this question. We all need to make decisions, often brutal ones, that will best help us keep moving forward into the unknown of tomorrow while maintaining some semblance of normalcy? All I can offer is how I am handling things and hope that my sharing will help you.
I have developed a variety of management methods to help me cope with stress and these methods have come into play daily. One method is to be mentally fluid. What I mean by this is simply that we need to be adaptable and dynamic to the demands of each day. Some days will be better than others and there sometimes is no telling whether a given day will be a good day or not. For me, the more I have been able to adapt and go with the ebb and flow of each day, the less strain I feel on myself and less tired I feel at the end of the day by being mentally on edge.
Another method I have found useful is to ensure that each day I do things that bring me joy. These things include playing with my cats, writing, reading, and watching mindless tv shows. Doing these things help allow me to focus not on the uncertainty of now, but on enjoying what I can still enjoy in spite of the uncertainty and restrictions on what we all can do. Writing, in particular, allows me to organize thoughts that I have percolating in my head and provides some control of my internal thinking process. Another method I employ is ensuring that I take time each day to connect with others visually. Whether it is a video call with a parent or a friend, I do so each day. This visual stimulus helps me remain connected to others and reinforces those human bonds we all seek and desire with one another. A third thing that I do is I write emails to friends or colleagues to simply check in on how they are doing. More than ever it is important to be empathetic and understand that this pandemic is impacting us all differently and some harder than others. We all need to be mindful of this as we go about our lives as best we can.
As the world is facing a massive challenge, we, as individuals, are facing that challenge ourselves. I was once told that the only thing that we can control is ourselves. Indeed, this is true. As hard as it is, we need to let go of trying to control those things we cannot and focus on ourselves and what we each can do to help ourselves get through these trying days and end up the better for it when things finally improve.