Living, in an uncertain time

We are in an unprecedented, extraordinary time. As I write this, something like half of the world’s population is either in lockdown or in a state of restricted movement. It’s a totalitarian dream! We’re all trying to work together to protect our most vulnerable, but at the same time, we need to focus on living and growing. So how do we do that if we’re confined to our homes?

It can be difficult to stay focussed and motivated when the world as we know it seems, if not to be ending, at least to be on pause. The challenge for a lot of us is that we don’t know when this pause will end. The endless news cycles of horrific numbers of infected and dead from around the world, of shortages of critical equipment and of human beings acting like idiots, can be distressing. In the first week or so at home, instead of reading more books, or listening to more podcasts, I read a lot of junk news. It took me a while to reset my head.

At times like these, it can be vital to focus on what we can control, and on what is important to us. As I’ve written before, we have very little that we control directly, other than our response to events.

I’m focussing on a few things at the moment. I’m enjoying the additional time with my family, especially (but not only – I have no favourites!) my youngest. She is growing up fast, and it’s a joy to spend time with someone so alive in any moment. I’m trying to bake with the kids every weekend – we’ve gotten pretty handy at lemon drizzle cakes and pear tarts 🙂

I’ve started “proper” reading again – I’m finishing Susan Cain’s book “Quiet”, on the power of introverts, and will also complete Jim Mattis’ “Call Sign Chaos” in the next day or so. I’m learning more about Agile software development, which I think is a fundamental topic for any modern technology leader. I’m trying to restrict myself to one perusal of the news app on my phone in the morning and one in the evening.

I’ve started regular exercising using a couple of new purchases – TRX straps and a kettlebell. I find I really miss going to the local gym, not just for the variety of exercises but also the camaraderie. My home gym may now be the back of the kitchen door, but I’m still able to keep my body moving, which also helps my mind.

I’m also trying to refocus on my work. I spent a number of weeks helping with Covid-19 response in one of my local roles. Now that most of the logistical work around that has calmed down, I can spend time on Cloud engineering efforts.

Because I don’t have to spend 2-3 hours per day driving to and from the office, I’m also spending time on getting an Azure Cloud certification. I’ll have to decide whether to renew my AWS Certifications this year, but at a minimum, I intend to pick up one new cert. It’s a modest enough goal, but I think it’s an important one for me this year.

It can be very challenging when the lines between work and home get erased. I’ve worked from home for long periods at other points in my life, and am lucky that I have a home office. This helps me make the distinction between “being at home” and “being at work”.

Apart from the suggestions above, one additional is to ensure that we’re making a mental separation between the week and the weekend. The weeks can seem awfully long if there is no distinction, and being hemmed in by the same four walls all the time can reinforce that sense of any day being like any other.

Finally, try to stay connected to your friends, co-workers and family. While certain apps may be problematic, there’s always a simple phone call, text or email.

Try to take this time as an opportunity to live, rather than just exist. Use the commute time saved to set a goal. Be patient with yourself and the people you’re sharing space with. And remember, this, like all things, will pass.

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