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Today I wanted to share a recurring discussion I’ve been having with clients I’ve been coaching during the pandemic; how do to keep the work we planned pre-pandemic going? How do we deal with the unanticipated curves and challenges?
I think this is most definitely the time to get proactive; politically, personally, professionally.
Staying positive and proactive, but without any hint of Pollyanna
I know - this all sounds very nice in theory. Yet, the effects of lockdown, the anxiety of the global pandemic, the distressing disaster politics of white supremacist capitalism make 2020 as far from an ideal set of conditions to work in and through as we could imagine.
Nonetheless, we somehow still have to work, live, learn, write, care through it. There are some things that remain constant within all of the changes.
There is also you.
What do you still want to do this year?
My word of 2020 was ‘proactive; it still is.
Back in January, I decided to select a word to reflect my main goal for the year. I don’t set resolutions, but I did want to have a word that could act as trigger for my mindset and planning if things went off piste; as they tend to do - even without a global pandemic.
I choose proactive because it was the opposite of how I had felt my approach to work and life had been as an academic; entirely reactive.
Being proactive is about taking the initiative and maintaining control over the choices you make; choices that are going to help you to progress.
In my old job, I never felt I had the time, head space, or clarity to make proactive decisions about what I was doing, or where my career was really going. I continually felt on the back foot - reacting to increasing workloads and shifting goalposts.
So in leaving academia and building my own business, I wanted to also learn how to plan and work well. If you are still in academia, this can work for you too.
A 6 month stock-take: pared back to the essential
June is a good time to reflect on how well we are meeting our goals - pandemics aside - we are halfway through a year and no doubt, tired.
In HE, we still hear talk of that mythical ‘summer’ period. The setting of unrealistic writing goals that are about ‘catching up’.
Yet, the pandemic and shift to online teaching and meetings has increased workloads. It has caused stress and anxiety. Illness. If you have kids, you are caring, teaching. The hours you have for work in a day have reduced.
So, somethings will have to be parked, or undertaken over a longer period of time.
Even without a pandemic, you should pause to ask yourself; what really matters? Who am I trying to ‘catch up with’? What do I need to do?
Ask yourself whether the goals set in January 2020 still hold 6 months on.
It is absolutely fine to reset, recalibrate - and, dare I suggest it, ditch things that don’t work.
This is not about never engaging with difficult work; it is about recognising when difficult work is necessary; when it is going to lead to the rewards - as opposed to simply more difficulties.
But Vik, what are the essentials?
One problem I had in while in academia was the feeling that everything had to be done and yesterday, preferably. This is enforced by the working cultures and ways in which certain forms of productivity are valorised.
However, you can choose to play along with this way of working, or choose to work in your own ways - within the parameters of annual reviews and other auditing cultures.
Ask yourself; what do you really HAVE to do by the end of 2020?
What will give you a sense of momentum?
Are the things on your lists going to move your career forward?
One easy way to begin to prioritise is to play the ‘What if’ game; i.e. ask yourself for each task or goal - ‘what would happen if I didn’t do this thing (now)’?
Pretty soon you will have at least one thing that you could easily not do without negative consequence. How much headspace would this give you back?
Again, always be really clear on why you are saying yes to anything that comes into your workload.
You cannot make time; you have to take it
If the pandemic and being in lockdown has shown us anything it is that you have to take the time you have and decide how to use it. We cannot make more time.
We have to make decisions about what we want our days, weeks and months to look like.
If this means our 2020 goals become smaller, or stretched - what is the worst that could happen? I don’t mean this flippantly; there may be consequences, but it is important to face them, know them and recalibrate those plans. Ask for help. Make new deadlines.
You are in control, even when it feels like the entire opposite is true.
Ask me anything…
I write this newsletter for women working in academia. I understand the challenges intimately. I want to create content that helps you to gain clarity, a sense of control, confidence.
I don’t ignore the structural and cultural barriers and I don’t believe in ‘quick fixes’ - not least because women are not in deficit requiring to be ‘fixed’.
My inbox and social channels are always open if you have any quick questions. If you have a longer question or want to work with me, please email me to discuss possible options.
I’d also like to ask a favour; I’d love to hear what you would like to see covered in the newsletter and on my blog.
I’m planning some new content about how I’ve navigated my professional identity in leaving academia and becoming a new business owner. Is this of interest?
So, ‘ask me anything’!
You can do this by hitting reply to this; emailing me at hello@vikturbine or dropping me a DM on Instagram or Twitter.