Five Lessons 2020 Taught Us That’ll Keep Us Sane In 2021
Do you practice what you preach?
It’s something I struggle with. I’m quick to tell my clients how important a proper break is, but I’m terrible at actually taking one.
So before 2021’s challenges of running a business, being a mother, and (more recently) homeschooling my children take over, I thought I’d take my own advice for once and reflect on what 2020 taught us, and the lessons that’ll keep us sane in 2021.
Let’s get started.
Rest is more important now than ever
Have you ever heard yourself saying: “I don’t know why I’m so tired, I’ve done nothing all day”?
I bet you have. You see, doing ‘nothing’ is tiring when you’re used to doing the opposite. And with many of us now working from home, although you’re not out and about visiting clients as much as usual, it’s a different kind of ‘work’ sitting at your desk (or kitchen table) all day.
Taking a break now is not a waste of holidays
I know you can’t jet off on holiday to Spain for two weeks, but that doesn’t mean holidays are wasted in lockdown. You need to recharge now the same as always.
Take some time for yourself
Whatever time for yourself looks like (doing a jigsaw with a large glass of wine, playing guitar, or going on walks listening to podcasts) taking time out to do the things you love has always been essential and that shouldn’t change now.
Taking a holiday is not selfish
Why do we feel bad about spending time doing things we enjoy? They make you feel good – so focus on that. Besides, how are you meant to look after your family, friends, and clients if you don’t look after yourself?
Spend time with your family
Lockdown gives you a unique opportunity to spend time with your immediate family (or bubble), so take it with both hands. Your kids will love it (and not just because it gets them off homeschooling).
Ultimately, take a break when you feel you need it. And enjoy it when you do.
Your mental health and physical health are equally important
Just like your body, your mind needs a rest too.
As an Organisational Development practitioner, when I work with a client there’s rarely one big thing wrong with their business. 99% of the time it’s lots of little issues that build up and impact the overall system.
My approach is to look at businesses holistically. What I mean by that is, every cog in the machine has its role to play in its overall success.
Small gains in specific areas make a big difference to your overall business performance (including how much money you make), and your body is the same.
There’s no quick win. Small, targeted actions make an overall improvement.
When you’re stressed it affects your focus, judgement, temperament and physical health: they’re all interconnected.
So at a time like this, psychological safety has never been more important.
What can you do about it?
Take regular breaks, as we’ve discussed, and use your support network.
Whether that’s your family, friends, colleagues, or members of a networking group, identify who your ‘people’ are so that when you need help, you know where to go.
The power of kindness
Looking after your staff now could mean long-term loyalty
True, many people are out of work which may lead some employers to think they hold all the chips, but in the UK, we have a long memory.
Your power is in your people and they are what set you apart from your competition. Getting the best out of your staff starts with treating them properly, so now more than ever is the time to show respect, understanding and kindness.
Cut each other some slack
We’re all in the same boat. Your friends and colleagues are facing the same struggles as you. Share successes and remember there’s always someone worse off than you both personally and in business.
I lost my Grandma in December and wasn’t able to go to her funeral. It didn’t tell anyone and it was really difficult. So if someone’s snappy via email or cuts in front of you at Sainsbury’s, try and remember that one small action doesn’t define them. You don’t know the day they’re having, or what they’re dealing with.
In my business, everything seemed to take longer than usual last year. Thankfully, my clients couldn’t have been more understanding. I’ll be forever grateful for their patience last year.
It feels nice to do good deeds. We don’t like to admit we do nice things to make ourselves feel good, but it’s not something you should be ashamed of. Try volunteering, or share advice with someone who needs it without expecting anything in return.
Work as a team
In December, I entered into a civil partnership. As amazing as the experience and the day were, it was incredibly stressful to organise.
The day only happened because of a team effort. I stayed true to my values and used small independent businesses, which made it so special. I can’t thank Joe Laws, Boo K florists, and Olive & Bean enough.
I’d love to see this collaboration and teamwork ethic with everyone going into 2021. We’ve all got our part to play in beating the virus, but we’ve also got our past to play in helping each other cope with the challenges it brings.
Without getting too political, this is one I wish the government would take on board.
Whether or not you follow politics and irrespective of your political views, do you not think we’d all have far more respect for the government and empathy for their situation if they simply admitted they don’t have a solid answer to solve the pandemic?
I’ve spoken before about how, as business leaders, we need to be authentic. Your team will have more respect for you if you admit you don’t know something. Katherine Plumber summed this up nicely, saying: “being a boss doesn’t mean you have all the answers, just the brains to recognise the right one when you hear it.”
Zoom calls have shown us we’re all the same. Everyone’s internet cuts out now and then. We’ve all got distractions to contend with. And not everyone has a fancy home office. Use this as an opportunity to share some common ground and build real relationships in an increasingly virtual world.
Expect the unexpected
Nobody saw 2020 coming.
Maybe we should have. After all, we knew about the virus way before it reached the UK, but we collectively buried our heads in the sand about it.
But on the other hand, getting cross or worrying about things you can’t control is a waste of energy, so it’s not surprising it was too hard to think about, let alone calm ourselves down enough to put together any kind of strategy to deal with it.
I’ve discussed the importance of resilience before and that’s so important now.
‘Pivot’ was perhaps the buzz word of all buzz words in 2020, but we’ve all had to pivot in both business and life after the constant barrage of things thrown at us. If anything, that’s shown we must be agile now more than ever.
Because if you stand still, you’ll get left behind.