When we hear the words “break down,” we automatically think of a nervous breakdown, a mental collapse, or a slump in our life where we reach our lowest point. But breaking down isn’t always so melodramatic. In fact, it can be a simple breakdown in communication, having to relearn how we remotely work with others.
The pandemic has changed our lives and the way many of us work. Companies have had to become more flexible with how they allow their employees to work. Remote work or hybrid opportunities have never been greater than it is post-COVID. As someone who is extremely prompt and on time with my responses, I have also learned that not everyone holds themselves to the same standards.
For me, the pandemic has sharpened my communication skills. I’ve found myself making extra efforts to communicate effectively to reduce misunderstandings. One of my strengths is being a high performer and someone who doesn’t have to be reminded or asked to respond to emails and projects on time. I’ve found myself working smarter, not harder. “Time” magazine had a humorous yet educational article on, The 14 Worst Kinds of Late People. Just reading the list made someone like me who’s ultra-punctual—cringe. I’m the kind of person that isn’t just on time, but early. Delays and tardiness are my pet peeves. To be very transparent, I consider such behavior a show of utter disrespect. Having a project management certification from Villanova and my master’s degree, I pride myself in almost always making deadlines ahead of schedule while juggling multiple projects.
In many ways, I have the pandemic to thank. It has helped me to not break down but to break through and find constructive solutions to time management for better productivity and focus. Some of the below lifestyle tips and successful habits are what helped me.
Smart Working Moms Don’t Break Down, They Say Yes To Daycare & Afterschool Programs
Projects aren’t the only thing many of us juggle since working from home. We’re also trying to manage work-life balance. Being a working mother, I’m a proud mommy of two beautiful kids. As a creative professional, aspiring author, and woman—I chose to plan ahead. Having two kids, I’ve ensured my eight-month-old is at a great Montessori school, and my daughter is in a fantastic after-school program. I recognize that not everyone can afford to do this, and not all parents feel comfortable putting their children in after-school or daycare programs, especially when their baby is under two years of age. Personally, it’s the best decision I made, and it works great for my family.
I love planning and staying organized. I even paid my son’s Montessori school five months in advance. Planning ahead like this has helped reduce stress immensely, and it gave me the opportunity to focus on my nine-to-five. Because kids should be in a structured environment and not be the excuse for why projects aren’t completed on time. It’s also unfair to have children stuck at home in front of the television. Kids get bored quickly. Both my six-year-old and eight-month-old are super smart and advanced. They require tons of hands-on. It isn’t their fault if they need attention. It’s better to have kids with professionally trained teachers that can give them the extra one-on-one they require. It’s better for their social skills as well.
Break Through Post-COVID Stress & Time Distortion For Better Productivity
When it comes to stress, not everyone handles it the same way, regardless of whether you’re a mother or single and without kids. I’ve worked on projects with individuals that seemingly broke down from COVID. Part of it could be being stuck at home for lengthy lockdowns that have altered time for people. The “Axios” article, COVID Time Warp, explores how time has gone either too quickly or too slowly due to lockdowns. I have experienced this phenomenon, and many people I know have complained about a similar sense of time shifting since the pandemic.
Regardless of the reason, those that I’ve noticed breaking down seem to lack a sense of urgency even with tight deadlines. Instead of answering emails on time, it often took three weeks to get a single response. I’d found myself having to constantly send reminders, messages on Microsoft Teams, text messages, etc. It’s never fun having to chase down key stakeholders when working on projects in order to receive important deliverables. It is never fun having to nudge, remind, email, text, call—just to get approvals or get a project completed, especially if you’ve done all that you can to be, well, early or at the very least on time. But, delays happen. Especially given that there are also time-zone differences to consider when collaboratively working with others. COVID has taught us more than how to wash our hands. The pandemic has been one big lesson on patience.
But breaking through time warps can drastically improve how you feel. A simple way to break out of any sluggish COVID-brain-fog is to become more prompt. Email people back right away. CNBC even wrote up 5 reasons it’s a good idea to instantly respond to emails. While you’re at it, respond to text messages as soon as you get them, even if they’re not urgent. Call people back and follow through instead of letting any strange remanence of time distortions from lockdowns slow down your momentum. I’m big a big proponent of following through on any task, no matter how small. Because ultimately, it comes down to showing courtesy and reliability. At the end of the day, it’s straight-up rude and inconsiderate not to mention unprofessional to ghost, flake, or not show up with your A-game. It sounds elementary, but practicing prompt responses really does help improve work ethics, respect for others, and can help you complete projects in a timely fashion.
Try Breaking Through Communication Barriers By Communicating More
Some people shy away from communicating too much. But, in the era of COVID, a little over-communication is better than shutting down, stonewalling, and worst of all—ghosting. The truth? A breakdown in communication is one of the chief reasons misunderstandings occur. A lack of communication can cause a breakdown of morale. When morale is low, people start to feel unappreciated. When that happens, resentment can set in, along with a sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. A breakdown in morale isn’t just a work-culture thing but an issue that can impact just about everything.
Morale boosts can be beneficial in all areas of our life. It can help improve how we see ourselves, build our confidence, improve our productivity, and so much more. A morale boost means that we feel good about ourselves. The best part of building morale is that you don’t have to wait for an employer or any other outside source to give it to you. According to a “Working Mother” article on How To Boost Your Own Morale, doing so requires finding meaning and purpose in our lives. If you can do this, it works wonders in helping you focus on what you’re truly doing all this for. Boosting your own morale means building yourself up. It requires self-care, personal grooming, exercise, and a lot of self-love maintenance to fill our own love tanks. In order to give back, we have to have enough love within to show ourselves.
Successful Relationships Break Through & Say Yes To Couples Therapy
Loving ourselves means wanting to perform at our best. It means giving our professional careers and personal relationships our best. It’s not about doing just enough to get by. Even relationships with our children and spouses often need a morale boost and clear communication regarding needs, expectations, goals, and personal life vision.
A communication breakdown is one of the chief reasons seemingly successful marriages end in divorce. As a matter of fact, COVID has strained not just businesses, how we work, educational institutions, or whether or not we nudge with our elbow vs. giving a hug. The pandemic has increased divorce rates by 122%, according to a new survey. So it seems work colleagues aren’t the only ones that require a refresher course on communication to avoid odd stonewalling behavior. Better communication can improve all relationships, from marriages to parenting our children. Better communication can significantly reduce toxic behavior and replace it with a healthier teamwork culture in our virtual workplace.
Lengthy lockdowns, career adjustments, and societal changes due to COVID have strained the strongest relationships. Learning to articulate your feelings and wants requires being open to seeking couples therapy if you have to in order to open the channels of communication. Couples therapy can help couples talk through stressful changes due to the pandemic and learn to talk to one another instead of stonewalling or yelling. Both communication styles are equally unhealthy.
Writers Can Break Through Writer’s Block By Welcoming Revisions, Feedback & Breaks
Many writers thought that being at home more would make the creativity flow better than it ever has before. But some of us have experienced writer’s block or thinking we’d have all this time to write but finding ourselves with less time. Being open to feedback and critiques can help dislodge that feeling of being stuck on either a completed manuscript that needs revision or even on a current #WIP. Feedback can help us see our work with a new perspective and allow us to consider changes we might not have realized. Whether you’re in the flow or blocked—it doesn’t hurt to take a step back from our work.
Daily meditations or stepping away from our work to read a book is sometimes just what we need. Even beta reading someone else’s unpublished manuscript to identify issues can potentially allow us to identify issues in our own work. It trains our brains to get better at catching plot holes, slow sections, too many characters, POV issues, awkward sentences, etc. When we practice critiquing other manuscripts, getting away and working out, or doing some other enjoyable activity, we can revisit our work in progress with fresh eyes. Everyday life can also occupy space in our minds and distract us. Practicing project and time management can help us think more clearly so that we have the mental compacity to get our creative juices flowing once again.
In my own words, I “break it down” ala TikTok style. For those on TikTok, feel free to follow and I’ll #followback.
The Bottom Line
The pandemic has made us all adjust to new changes in both our professional and personal lives. The way our children attend school, how we work, meet with one another, and communicate still remains affected. In fact, even with the vaccines available for kids, my daughter’s after-school program got shut down for the first few weeks of January due to the Omnicron strain that put many vaccinated students and after-school instructors in quarantine. One of our favorite restaurants also shut down in January because of a shortage of workers.
Luckily both the after-school program and our favorite restaurant are back up and running as of this week. But, these sorts of unexpected situations are here to stay and the new norm. Just because parts of our world shutdowns doesn’t mean that we have to. Open communication is far healthier than hostility, stonewalling, and worse yet—ghosting. Instead of letting things get to the point of a breakdown, we can break through by planning ahead and having a more responsive approach. Being flexible and willing to improve communication demonstrates a level of maturity and leadership that can benefit our community, our younger generation, and reduce misunderstandings with others.
It’s not so much the monumental goals or awards we achieve that leave a lasting impact. Rather, it’s really in the small steps we take every single day that accumulates to a significant portion of our life. Minor adjustments can surprisingly result in a major boost to our creativity and ultimately lead to our growth as not just writers but our evolution into adaptable humans.