For those feeling so overwhelmed that it has become difficult to make decisions or process the chaos, don't panic (even if that feels like your best option). This isn't the time to fall apart or become a victim to circumstances. You have to find a way to manage your emotions, find clarity, and create some action. Having led myself, my family, and even teams and companies through difficult times, I offer my go-to process here for handling a tumultuous situation.
Remember, it's ok if you don't know exactly what to do. Nobody on this earth has ever experienced this exact situation; we have to figure it out together. We don't have to have all the answers, we just need to know how to take the very next step, one little baby step at a time.
1. Your feelings are totally normal. It's appropriate to be nervous or scared or overwhelmed. Recognize that the primary source of your anxiety is because the future feels uncertain. Take a deep breath and as much as possible, focus on the present moment and what is right in front of you - right now. Don't try to solve the financial, business, or family ramifications for next month when you just need to know how to handle today. If you haven't picked up daily meditation as a habit yet - consider starting now. There are so many free resources out there. The Calm app or Headspace are two of my personal favorites.
2. Spend a few minutes with your family, your business partners, and leadership team. Make a list of everything you need to solve, everything you are worried about, everything that might pose a challenge. The act of getting it out of your head and onto paper or a whiteboard will help to free up a great deal of your mental energy. During this uncertain time and with the speed at which things are changing, you might consider doing this weekly or even daily if needed.
3. After you've made your list, clean it up. Did you write one topic down twice? Is there anything that felt important but once you consider everything else it doesn't matter anymore? Are there certain items that could be easily combined under one topic instead of two?
4. With the list cleaned up, prioritize the top 3 and only the top 3. Number them 1, 2, 3. If you are not sure how to rank, them consider this: is one more urgent than the other? Look for patterns in your list. Is there one issue that affects more people; like the entire team or family for example? This will help you pick out the MOST IMPORTANT topics that need to be solved.
5. Start with topic or issue #1. What is the real issue or challenge you need to solve for? Be as specific as possible. Instead of "everyone stuck at home" or "office is closed" what is the real thing you are worried about? "How do we adjust our schedule to get work and school work done while at home?" or "Can we pay the team while we are not seeing patients?"
6. The next step is critical- be disciplined about brainstorming and problem solving for this topic ONLY. Talk through all of the different angles, perspectives, options regarding this topic only. In times like this, normal is out of the window. Think out of the box, think creatively- throw every idea possible on the table for discussion. Be open, honest, and vulnerable. Poke holes in ideas, find ways the suggested solution will work and it won't work. Do your best to anticipate the different outcomes to each option. Take the time to do some "fear setting"- it's ok to talk about what the worst-case scenario might be. In fact, openly talking about worst-case allows us to face it and identify ways to prevent, avoid or even solve the situation if it does come true. Don't sit-and-spin on one topic- consider setting an allotted amount of time for each topic with more important ones getting more time than simpler ones.
7. Form a solution. Don't get caught up in over-analyzing everything. Avoid "paralysis by analysis" -just MAKE A DECISION. In times like this decisiveness is critical. Don't just sit back and watch your business, your family, or your livelihood slip away- fight for it. Inaction is the greatest mistake you can make.
8. List out the very next step or two that you need to make and assign it to somebody. You may not know how to solve the problem or challenge as a whole- but you can make a decision for the very next step. That might be working with your accountant or financial leader to see how long you can sustain business and payroll if incoming revenue were to stop today. That might mean making a schedule for the family that outlines when each parent navigates meeting times, meal times and ways to allow each family member the time they need to get their work done. What is within your control and what can you do right now? Be sure to assign each task to a specific person so everyone is clear.
9. After you use this process for your top 3 challenges, consider what the next 3 are if you still have time for discussion. If you don't, keep the list as a reference to come back to over the next few days/weeks.
10. Get on your feet and go to work. Action, momentum, decision will decrease your anxiety and get you headed in the right direction. We can sit and wallow in sorrow or we can get to work. There are people all over the world that will not only survive but come out on top after all this- the ones who do will be the ones that think creatively and get into action.
11. Practice gratitude. We will all learn a great deal about ourselves and each other through this situation. Gratitude will turn what we have into enough. It is highly likely we will all have some adjustments to make as this no doubt affects our economy and our businesses and families. It will be easy to be grateful when this is over and we've recovered, but we can be grateful now, we can be grateful for the hardship, the challenge, the loss; because that gratitude will teach us things we can't learn anywhere else. We are not getting out of this unchanged- but we can decide how it changes us based on our reaction.
In closing, I will leave you with a quote that my Dad always had up in our house. "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." How will you react? I know it's a scary time, but just as we have survived wars, illness, disaster, loss, and pain we will survive this. My hope and prayer is that we remember we are all in this together and we need each other now more than ever. Maybe not within six feet of each other right now 🤓, but we do need the love, support, creativity, and kindness of each other; now more than ever.
Take care, my friends- better days are ahead of us.