My seventeen-year-old daughter and I were talking last night about social distancing and quarantining our family for the next couple of weeks to support the community efforts to reduce the spread of the Covid-19. She said, “We need something to look forward to. With all our routine activities being canceled, what can we schedule as a family to do together?” This quickly launched us into brainstorming: game night, campfire night, singing together, pencil drawing, pizza making, Tai Chi in the back yard, and on we went.
As I reflect on my daughter’s insightful question, two simple leadership lessons emerged that we could do during times of difficulty. First, create experiences to look forward to doing. Second, find ways to create routines.
Let me start with the first idea of creating experiences to look forward to doing. This is a principle that can be applied to both our personal and work life. The execution of this is simple, do what my daughter and I did. Brainstorm enjoyable activities that you can do, decide which ones are best, schedule them, and do them. But why is this helpful? This is helpful because it is a “future focused” activity. It is visioning. We need the anticipation of future events to keep us motivated and focused during the present experiences, especially if the present activities are difficult or uncomfortable. It gives us hope, and hope is a strong motivator.
The second principle is to create routines. During difficult situations that disrupt our normal activities, I believe it is important to determine and establish some routines. People need a sense of stability in order to function well. Granted, some people need a greater sense of stability and some people need less. Stability allows people to feel more comfortable with their current situation. Here is a simple example. To help me manage my own well-being during long-distance international travel, I create a schedule of activities to do during my 25-hour journey. These scheduled activities include reading, listening to music, watching a movie, eating a meal, doing work, journaling, sleeping, and so forth. It’s amazing how scheduled activities create a routine that makes the trip much more enjoyable. As you consider leading yourself and others through difficult situations, consider my daughter’s insight that combines these two principles. Take time to create experiences to look forward to doing and establish a routine to do them.