Written by Danielle Hook, Learning and Development Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development
This past month has many of us experiencing the feeling of “…this again?” Frequent and unexpected changes to priorities, workspaces and expectations can make productivity and focus feel impossible. Perhaps you find yourself working from home with small children (again), adjusting to staffing changes within your team or experiencing feelings of burnout or languishing.
In addition to requiring greater patience and flexibility, we’re finding ourselves called upon to take an alternative approach to how we normally complete our work. Whether you feel like you’re stuck in a pandemic time loop, where each day blends into the next, or you’re struggling to manage your time and projects while in a state of uncertainty, there are a few simple steps that can help guide your work approach during this time.
Have a Plan
If there is a chance you could find yourself pivoting quickly to accommodate a change in your work plan — your child’s daycare closing, a new colleague, uncertainty about whether you’ll be working in-office or remotely — a loose plan can make the transition a little smoother. The reality is that no amount of planning can fully alleviate the physical, mental and emotional drain many of us feel when faced with this much uncertainty. However, with a bit of intention, a sudden change in circumstances can become an opportunity instead of an obstacle. Having a structure in place that allows for adaptability and accounts for your specific circumstances can provide you a clearer path should things change unexpectedly.
Align Expectations With Attainable Goals
Consider how you would define success during this period of time. Identify what might indicate success and align your expectations accordingly. Set truly attainable goals, both personally and professionally. Think about the types of activities or tasks you could reasonably make progress on under the circumstances in which you’re working. Of those things, is there something you can work on that might even bring joy or satisfaction?
Choose Work That Fits Your Circumstances
This requires some insight into your strengths and work style. Consider the nature of the various tasks on your to-do list. Where possible, prioritize those which hold the highest likelihood of success within your current context. Your supervisor may be able to help with reprioritization and appreciate being informed of your plans. Here are some examples of this differentiation.
- Some individuals will find the most success with independent work that allows them to engage in spurts and intervals. This work can easily be left and returned to without consequence.
Examples: drafting documents, working with data and metrics, developing strategy, processing forms.
- Others may find success using this time for engagement. Making calls and participating in discussions can be a great use of time for someone with busy hands who can’t be in front of a computer.
Examples: an informal project check-in, idea generation discussions, one-on-ones with your team.
- Is there a way you can use this time to catch up on things not often prioritized but still important?
Examples: Cleaning up an inbox, managing or reorganizing documents, getting caught up in Teams.
- Alternatively, sometimes there are things that can be set up now that benefit your future self.
Examples: Did you know you can use the Quick Parts feature in Outlook to store templates for email content you use repeatedly? Or, that with Microsoft Planner, you can set up multiple tasks lists, assign them to yourself and others, assign due dates and more? Consider drafting and scheduling email communications that need to be distributed at a future date.
- Professional development is another option to expand your skillset and engage in learning around the topics that mean the most to you.
Examples: Virtual courses through HR Organization and Professional Development, Health4U, and IT Training, self-paced elevateU learning programs, professional podcasts, audiobooks, and live webinars.
It is worth recognizing that each individual situation is unique, and solutions are never one size fits all. Some resources to help guide you through this period are included below, and know there are many additional services available to you as an MSU employee if you’d like further assistance, including Organization and Professional Development, the WorkLife Office, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and Health4U.
Adapting to Change
Rapid Change: Making Your Way Through (blog post)
Strategies to Thrive Through Change (2-minute video)
Determining Your Work Style and Strengths
Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work (3.5-hour Zoom course)
Identify and Maximize Your Strengths (4-hour Zoom course)
Mental Health Matters: Resources from MSU (blog post)
Motivation and Focus
The Art of Staying Focused (on-demand, 30-minute virtual course)