Taking Control of our Uncertainty

We’ve made it two weeks. Two weeks of COVID-19 quarantine with two small toddlers and two meeting-heavy careers that are not slowing down. First, we are thankful for our beautiful life, the opportunity to love our daughters deeply and to both continue working (and collecting two paychecks).

Now that we have acknowledged that, we can also admit it is hard. It is a juggling act to ensure we are taking care of ourselves, our daughters, and each other while also making sure our colleagues, clients and bosses are served as well. As we move into the 3rd week of quarantine, we are going to attempt to establish a more consistent routine by using a technique called “block scheduling”. Read below to see how we got here. Also, I have sprinkled real-life captures of quarantine life throughout this post for your enjoyment!

Part of my professional expertise is in change management which means I move people’s cheese a lot and then help them settle into their new normal. Let me be clear, this in no way means I am comfortable when my own cheese gets moved. It does mean I have the skills to manage change should I choose to use them.

After two weeks, it’s time to use those skills. Why now? Because the first two weeks of any major change is about observation, instinct and grace. Then it’s time for action.

  • Observe the situation and take note of what is and is not working.
  • Use your instinct to react to each experience and don’t be afraid to use the S.T.O.P. mindfulness technique to manage heightened emotions.
  • Offer a lot of grace to yourself and everyone you interact with as we are all navigating this new routine (a.k.a. we will get a lot of things wrong as we adjust to our new “normal”…and that’s to be expected and perfectly normal).

My husband and I learned a lot through this 2 week observation. We determined we are exhausted and ready to find a routine that is more sustainable than our initial chaos of COVID-19 quarantine. What we learned:

  • Saying thank you for even the most normal help is important to remind one another we are grateful for each other’s efforts (taking out the trash, cooking, calming down a toddler tantrum).
  • An hour by hour handoff schedule is not conducive for being effective at work.
  • Our daughters do better with free time during breakfast with an activity around 9am that includes undivided attention from one of us.
  • 2pm is the right time for quiet time. Putting the girls on separate couches (on separate floors of the house) is our best chance for success.
  • One of us taking the girls on an hour (or longer) walk in the early afternoon allows the other to have a silent house for a brief moment (and we trade off days).
  • Bribery is allowed (candy, screen time, presents – it’s all allowed).
  • My husband is better at reading and science experiments and I am better at arts and crafts activities.

Now it’s time to put our learning into action.

Let me be clear, it is never easy to open our minds to being ready to take action. For us, it took little nudges of both encouragement and frustration to indicate we were both ready to discuss our options. Once we acknowledged we were ready to talk openly, we did a few things on Friday morning to prepare for our change:

  • We got up a touch earlier and did a 15 minute, online yoga class together (small changes, big impact).
  • We talked afterwards and determined the biggest desire on both sides was finding a schedule that allows us to be intentional and focused in our given roles (parent, employee, spouse, human).
  • We agreed on an approach where both of us would attempt to adjust our calendars to block out chunks of time for work and parenting.

First tip: understanding we likely will fail initially as we try different techniques and that is ok as long as we fail fast and fail forward.

Next week we are trying our block schedule technique. In theory, this will help us know when we can schedule meetings, help us know when we will be able to get non-phone call work completed and also when we are free to build forts, go on walks and complete art and science projects.

The tactical step we took on Friday to prepare for this week was pulling up our weekly calendars together and determining our overlap in meetings and where each of us might be able to adjust to accommodate the schedule.

We tried to start with Monday and that proved difficult. So we moved to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday where it was easier to identify clear blocks of time. Once our creative juices were flowing, we went back to Monday and were able to each find a meeting or two that we could adjust. Then, we decided Friday was going to be open for what each of us may need in order to wrap up our weeks.

I cannot promise this approach will work, but I can assure you it feels really good to have a plan to try. One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill and feels very appropriate right now:

Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.

Winston Churchill

Stay tuned to see how this approach provides us a bit of sanity during these uncertain and hectic times and where we fail forward and make adjustments to find the right new normal.

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