Turn Obstacles Into Opportunities

In the last few weeks, the global pandemic COVID-19 has sparked major changes. If you’re like me, you now consider “going out” to be a trip to the grocery store and “socializing” to be a video chat with friends and relatives.

With schools and recreational centers closed, and my business as a solo lawyer and productivity coach continuing to run, I’m navigating the increased blending of work and home life. I have been doubling down on routines, structures and boundaries to stay sane. At the same time, I am giving myself grace, flexibility and margin as the situation keeps unfolding. 

On April 8, in the State of Minnesota, Governor Tim Waltz extended through May 4th the stay-at-home order, which restricts people from leaving their homes except for essential activities. Other U.S. states and countries around the world have curfews, self-quarantining directives, and lockdowns of varying degrees. These measures aim to slow the spread of the virus, but they also bring logistical and economic consequences.

While I do miss hanging out with friends in person, eating out at restaurants, having chai lattes at coffee shops, and taking piano lessons in Minneapolis with one of the greatest (but unknown) composers, I am noticing the silver linings. 

Today’s technology and amenities allow us to stay connected even as we are physically distanced from each other. We can have a virtual coffee chat on Skype, Zoom or on any of the other platform available. We can still get take-out food or drive-through coffee. We can keep up with our lessons online, as I’ve done with my weekly piano classes.

Yes, there is sadness, disappointment, restlessness, and perhaps fear and anxiety, from time to time, around these changes. The 24/7 news cycle and social media feeds that highlight the rising number of confirmed cases and deaths can make things seem more dire than they really are. That’s not to say that many people aren’t suffering from this crisis, both in terms of health risks and financial impact. 

But if you quit the daily news reading and watching, and contant check-ins on social media feeds, you will be better able to build mental bandwidth and emotional resources to focus on what is going well. 

And if you intentionally design a more curated life, you will start to feel more grounded, more present, and maybe more in control (at least over the small but important things).

Before COVID-19, we never had complete control over any of the big issues. When you take a long-term view, this will be a small blip in the cosmos and over the course of human history. 

Although this pandemic is unique on many fronts, this is not the first crisis we have experienced and it will not be the last. By all means, stay informed. Take the necessary precautions. Protect your health. Strengthen your immune system.

Recognize though that trials can be turned into triumphs and adversity can be transformed into advantage. 

Several months ago, for example, I had prepared to give a talk to lawyers on the problems with presenteeism and the emphasis on long hours at the office to prove productivity. This was to be presented as a break-out session at an in-person seminar. The event was scheduled for late March and was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 situation. 

Many lawyers and other knowledge workers have switched to remote work, as small businesses and large organizations are being encouraged or required to do so. This is a valuable opportunity to develop habits and skills to stay focused and productive while working from home. 

In my experience with remote work, which I’ve done successfully for the last 5+ years, I have stumbled on 3 big obstacles to thriving in remote work. If you are (or someone you know is) struggling with the Work-From-Home scenario, I encourage you to read my newest articles on my productivity blog:

Overcoming Obstacles to Thriving in Remote Work: Part 1 – Asynchronous Communication

Overcoming Obstacles to Thriving in Remote Work: Part 2 – Blurred Lines

Overcoming Obstacles to Thriving in Remote Work: Part 3 – Competing Priorities

These articles contain some of the techniques and approaches I use to set the wheels in motion, take steps forward, and maintain momentum, even in circumstances that might seem less than ideal.

Remote work is not an obstacle, but a unique opportunity to produce great results and attend to things that matter, with intention and autonomy. 

Stay well. Stay healthy. Stay connected.

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Dyan Williams is a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and make time for what truly matters. She is also a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC from her home office. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps, an e-book at http://leanpub.com/incrementalist.