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  • Stephen Scott Johnson

Agility - moving from friction to flow in iso

If you’ve been keeping up to date with the latest news, you will be aware of the staged plan to ease social distancing restrictions in Australia. This is a welcome announcement for all – the hope of reclaiming a sense of normality in our lives.

I’ve been reflecting this week on how we entered Iso and the key themes framing people’s experience. For many, it’s been one of distress and ensuring survival, and for all, reprioritisation of essentials to create stability amidst the disruption to usual flow and way of life. Approximately four weeks into lockdown a wave of optimism gave us glimpses of a shift in the societal narrative and mindset, as people began to adjust to the ‘new normal’ and social distancing measures. There are likely many reasons, notwithstanding when we recognise the ‘autopilot’ in our lives and start to focus on the present moment, it changes our experience profoundly, helping to minimise feelings of anxiety when we overthink things that are out of our control.

Truth be told, there have been days in Iso where I’ve had zero energy or focus, let alone the motivation to get anything of value finished. Determined to not let Iso inhibit my workflow and find the silver lining in this crisis – each morning I’d whip myself into a productivity frenzy only to crash in a heap with feelings of frustration and disappointment. That’s not to say I haven’t been focused and productive. More so, that being mindful of the fact that getting sh#t done in Iso is challenging and requires self-compassion and adherence to a routine that honours our personal and professional context.

What’s your experience of Iso? Have you felt pressure to perform at a higher level whilst working from home? Have you arrived at the end of a busy day feeling deflated because you didn’t come close to finishing what you set out to do? Either situation can be a struggle. Notwithstanding, the mixed bag of emotions that accompany the experience, such as shame, resentment, and feelings of failure.

In Smart Teams, my friend and bestselling author, Dermot Crowley, describes a prevailing problem in organisations referred to as ‘urgency culture’ and unnecessary urgency, and how people in today’s busy workplace are conditioned to accept a reactive approach to their work as normal. In lockdown it’s interesting to see this urgency culture now bleeding into our homes; irrespective of work context and whether you’re single. parent, or a parent juggling the demands of your role with home schooling children et al – a culture that accepts urgency as the legitimate driver of work priorities creates friction rather than flow. In other words, people become driven by a sense of urgency and what is most insistent and pressing, not by what is important. This desire for a quick turnaround is stressful and comes at a huge cost –killing motivation and reducing the quality of our outputs.

In an urgency culture everything is harder, things take longer, and we have to chase everything up.

With work-life boundaries increasingly blurred, as people adjust to working from home and adopt new tools for communication and collaboration, there’s a danger of unrelenting urgency taking its toll on physical and mental wellbeing. Suddenly, you find yourself burnt out holding the long list of competing priorities vying for your attention. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here’s 3 things you can do to reclaim your flow:

1. Give yourself permission to chill (it’s not business as usual)

A common misperception of Iso is that we must find our ‘inner Yoda’ and achieve Zen mastery of new skills and even higher levels of performance than usual. If you haven’t recently optimised your study zone, finished that elusive project, learned a new language, or become a social media fitness junkie – it’s okay. With so much extra time on our hands it’s normal to feel pressure to be productive and get caught up in the urgency of things. Relax – you are at home - trying to work and there is nothing ‘normal’ about this situation. The constant mental battle between working harder and doing nothing is real. The most important thing right now is to do your best and be kind to yourself.

2. Prioritise self-care

Right now, people’s nervous systems are functioning in a perpetual state of high alert from stress and anxiety. So, if we don’t prioritise self-care it’s only a matter of time before physical and mental wellbeing starts to suffer. Whatever this looks like for you – an aromatherapy bath with candles, painting, drawing, meditation, reading a favourite book – there’s really no excuse to not prioritise your wellbeing at this time. Begin your day with meditation, a walk, run, or yoga. These activities calm the mind and nervous system and help boost immunity. Also, getting adequate sleep is essential, and it is easier to deal with daily pressures when your brain is rested and healthy.

3. Go outside for some fresh air before you start your day After more than two months in lockdown is it really any wonder people are starting to feel a little insane? Social distancing doesn’t negate that we need sun on our faces and to breathe fresh air. It is scientifically proven that time outdoors lowers stress, heart rate, and blood pressure. In fact, 20 minutes outdoors is all you need to significantly improve mental health and wellbeing.

Until next time,

Stephen

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