(Hello, type-A personality!) By the time I’m ringing in the New Year, I try to have working editorial calendars approved by clients and a draft strategic plan to help me reach my personal goals for the coming year. In normal times, those plans ebb and flow a bit but, generally, they provide a great framework for me to be the best me—from the virtual board room to the physical dinner table. But there’s nothing normal about a global pandemic.
No class or conference prepared me for what happened on March 16, 2020. Before the close of business, after weeks of watching COVID-19 make its way across the United States, my agency made the call to go remote. That same afternoon, as I unpacked my computer monitor from my trunk, my son’s school announced their decision to implement e-learning for an unspecified period of time. (Let me repeat that for emphasis: Unspecified. Period. Of time.) I was conflicted. Would it be nice to work from home in athleisure? Sure. But the larger, more nagging questions had me wondering how long my son and I would be at home all day, every day, together and how we’d get through this pandemic staying healthy, entertained, and sane.
To date, I’ve weathered four months of working remotely. This includes being available to my clients, helping serve the students I teach, and being the unofficial tech support, maid, chef, and teacher when my teenager needs guidance. Sixteen weeks into this ever-changing journey, I can also confidently say that there is nothing normal about the “new normal.” Despite that, I’ve found a few paths to comfort, focus, and clarity during this incredibly delicate time and my hope is the tricks I’ve learned during my often-difficult journey can help you with yours.
As I mentioned above, in my full-time role, I serve as the director of public relations for Well Done Marketing. My job is to advise our clients with various public relations, social media, and strategic communication needs. As part of my role, I not only have ongoing communication touchpoints, but I encourage my clients to call, text, or email as needed. So, when I settled in in March, I knew the first thing I needed was a quiet, private, dedicated workspace.
Once I set up my office in my master bedroom (which also doubles as my gym—cheers to small space dwellers!), my son and I developed a habit of previewing our days the nights before. I thought that would help me manage expectations for when I could and couldn’t be available the next day. I also developed a system of door open vs. door closed. It sounded simple at first, but anyone with talkative teenage kids knows that there’s never not a time where a story or complaint or request can’t strike! Prior to the start of Zoom, Google, or conference calls, I’d close my door to indicate I wasn’t available. I still use this system and I’ll admit it sometimes makes me feel like an awful mom. But I also recognize I’m not capable of giving my best to anything when I’m focusing on too much at once.
I’ve also started prioritizing finding ways to walk away from work. This practice is counterintuitive and incredibly uncomfortable for self-proclaimed hustlers, boss babes/dudes, and good public relations professionals. But dedicating daily time to step away from my screen has helped me achieve balance from my workaholic ways, gain meaningful micro interactions with my child during this incredibly weird time, clear my headspace, and often get a few breaths of fresh air while I walk my dog. Block your lunch break. Give yourself a 15-minute afternoon walk. Or heck, take a call from your front porch. There’s something to be said about changing your environment and giving your brain the space to be innovate, creative, and to think in out and around the box.
And though those adjustments have made this difficult time a bit easier for my household, there’s no perfect recipe! About a month into home isolation, I realized I was just down. Concerned about the world, worried about keeping my family safe, and, well, desperately needing a manicure. So, I ordered a gel manicure kit and taught myself something new. While I’m still mastering the perfect nail shape, this small time gave me something to look forward to while improving my look and my mood.
If you’re feeling the pinch of trying to do and balance it all during this pandemic, take a step back and give yourself a chance to catch your breath. Public relations professionals aren’t great at putting their oxygen masks on first, but it’s essential that as humans we’re able to rest and restore our hearts, bodies, and minds to go out in the world and be an asset to those around us.
Have you adjusted to your new normal? I’d love to hear what’s working for you and, yes, I can also tell you where to get the manicure kit. Send me a Tweet at @CaseyNCawthon to continue the conversation.
– Casey Cawthon is director of public relations at Well Done Marketing