Life is short.
Most people I know have completely changed the way they think about managing their time after living through COVID. For almost a year, we all were holed up in our homes, forced to put a pause on in-person interactions, and simultaneously challenged to reprioritize our entire lives. And as someone who has spent the past however-many years crazily attending events, dinners, conferences, and “industry opportunities,” COVID was the first time I stopped to ask the question, “How important is this, really?”
In a post-COVID world, no longer is just about cramming as many To Dos into your calendar as possible. Now, it’s much more about intentionally choosing whether it’s something you want to spend your time doing, period.
- “Does this really have to be an in-person meeting? Or can it just be a Zoom call, email, or maybe even a text message?”
- “Is my attendance absolutely necessary? Do I really need to be present?”
- “Is this a relationship worth prioritizing in this way? Or can I maintain a positive connection with this person in different, less time-consuming ways?”
To some people, this might sound harsh. But the brutal truth is that COVID has taught us a lot about what it means to remain connected with each other — and there are many relationships (in each of our lives) where connection can be maintained in ways that don’t require as much in-person interaction. In fact, both parties may be better off for it. Fewer obligations, less travel time, and faster, easier ways of communicating equals happier, less stressful individual life experiences.
So, what lessons can we learn from the past year and a half about not just managing our time, but managing our wants, needs, and obligations?
Here are 3 new rules to live by in a post-COVID, remote-first world:
1. Not every relationship needs to be maintained in person.
Here’s a good question to ask:
Who did you prioritize seeing (in-person) pre-COVID, and how many of those relationships did you prioritize during COVID?
One of the unforeseen benefits of living through a global pandemic like this is it has taught us a lot about the ways we interact with each other. I know for me, a lot of the people or events or “things” I felt were important pre-COVID, I ended up completely deprioritizing in the middle of the pandemic. Unintentionally. Some part of me understood who and what I needed in my life, and prioritized those people and obligations accordingly. And everything else could wait.
As we proceed forward, it’s worth auditing where and how this played out in your own life, and whether you feel an obligation to cater to people now that the world is opening back up. Or, if you can maintain certain relationships or fulfill certain obligations without over-committing yourself (as you might have done a year or two ago).
2. Maintain a more fluid schedule, remotely and in-person.
Another one of the strange benefits of COVID is that it helped a lot of people create more fluid working schedules.
- Companies became less strict about when you “started” and “stopped” each day.
- Employees gained more autonomy working from home.
- Company leaders started valuing the end results produced by employees more than the number of hours they worked each day.
All of these things had an impact on the way people worked — and how we all thought about structuring our days as a result.
As we think about work post-COVID, it’s worth remembering the things you created for yourself in your schedule that worked well for you, and continuing to make them a priority. For example, personally I have found leaving my Mondays more open and fluid has helped me look forward to the start of each week. I used to fill my Mondays with back-to-back meetings. Now, I give myself a bit more freedom. And it’s a great way to start the week. So I’d like to carry that forward, even after things return to “normal.”
So, what freedoms would you like to keep in your schedule moving forward?
3. Live guilt-free. Remember: we’re all struggling with the same priorities.
We’re all juggling a million things.
A good rule of thumb is to make decisions without feeling guilty about the fact that you are asking for more time, space, and personal freedom. For example, there are a number of people — personal friendships and work relationships — that I’d love to connect with. That said, they may not be urgent and they may not take priority over the mission-critical work and/or inner circle relationships. At least not for this moment, when my schedule is jammed.
And if I try to fit even more into my busy schedule, all that’s going to happen is I’m going to end up stressing myself out and not enjoying the experience.
So, “No, I can’t right now. But, I’d love to later.”
There was a point during COVID (maybe we’re still there, it’s hard to tell) where everyone was completely burned out from Zoom calls. If you asked a friend if they wanted to catch up, and they said, “Sorry I’m so burned out from talking on the phone,” it was not something you would take personally. Chances are, you probably felt the same way.
This sort of guilt-free understanding of each other is going to become more and more common. In many ways, it’s already the norm. So, let people know you care about them, you want to maintain the relationship, etc., but don’t feel the need to turn your life upside down in order to make it a priority tomorrow. Live guilt-free.
Then, once you’ve gone through and seen how you can live by some of these new rules in a post-COVID world, I encourage you to help your team members, coworkers, friends, and even family members do the same. The world has changed so much in the past year and a half, and it will continue changing as we make our way out of the pandemic.
Communication, and the way we relate to each other, is no exception.