I recently watched the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. In the movie, the character finds himself waking up starting the same day over and over and over again. I found myself relating to Bill Murray's character more than ever. My job used to be very different every day. I used to visit different locations and often travel across the country meeting new people. With COVID, I spend most of my time in one place sitting in front of my computer going from one Zoom meeting to another.
Even at home, things are strangely the same. I made a list of projects to do at home over the weekends and have been plugging away at that list. We've made incredible progress and the list is almost done. Our family would normally travel, but we have decided not to during COVID. We normally would think about a vacation, but we have put it off. The milestones and celebrations that give us an opportunity to "reset" are largely gone and the result is, well, Groundhog Day. It's exhausting. It's frustrating. It's hard to think.
So how can we combat this during COVID? How do we break up the monotony so that we can look at the world with fresh eyes? The answer is that we need to be very deliberate with our time. We are not living in a normal time. Things that used to happen organically through a normal day that help us to think clearly or re-energize aren't always happening. We are missing the things that help us refill our tanks, see the world as new, and energize us at a human and primal level. Fortunately, with a little deliberate effort, we can find some replacements:
1) Get Out - I have to credit my friend Rob Catlett for this one. I was having lunch with Rob recently and we were talking about the Groundhog Day challenge and he talked about how he and his family have worked hard to develop experiences outdoors. They go to the lake, go fishing, go for a bike ride, or go for a hike. Last weekend, I met a good friend on a trail and we hiked and I must admit, I felt more energy the following week. The outdoors are a big place. Find a new place outside and make an experience to help you reset your mind.
2) Break your Routine - As a team, we have learned to be very deliberate about our communication. Before COVID, we would run into each other as a natural part of our daily routines. Now, we don't. If we aren't careful, we can go days without talking with each other. However, I would say that that hasn't happened largely because we've been very deliberate about reaching out and communicating. We have a text stream to share socially and we do frequent calls (video and voice) often just to catch up.
3) Take Care of Yourself - My wife told me about an article she read by a psychologist who pointed out that humans have a reserve tank that exists for times of crisis. The reserve tank keeps us fueled during difficult times so that we can still function and even work our way past the crisis. When a crisis goes for a long period of time, we use up that fuel and the reserve tank requires refilling. The result is that we all feel tired, even exhausted. It's normal and it's almost universal. The first thing to do is acknowledge that it's OK to be tired. The second thing is to find out what fuels your tank and invest deliberate time and limited energy towards doing things that give you fuel. It takes a deliberate and thoughtful effort.
It is ok to feel like you are playing the same day, over and over and over...but it doesn't help you at work or at home. It doesn't help you innovate, refresh, or stimulate your brain. Stop right now, and go do something different - even if it is for just a few minutes.