Managing yourself during lockdown

On Thursday April 9 we saw the national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 extended.

Faced with such difficult choices, I must commend President Cyril Ramaphosa and the crisis advisory team on the firm leadership displayed.

At the same time, I found myself giving a long, slightly pained sigh.

I had been counting down the days to the envisaged lifting of the lockdown.

Then I started to process some of the things we have been doing to navigate the journey to date.

Apart from learning how to take 10 000 steps in a linear distance of 25 metres; or embracing new learning in the use of Zoom, I suspect we all are developing “models” to process and meet the challenge.

There are no perfect models, only that which work for you, where you are at this moment in time.

Just before the lockdown, we bought a 1 000-piece jigsaw puzzle. An interesting purchase as my wife and I last worked on a puzzle many years ago.

We are only roughly halfway complete and thoroughly enjoying the challenge.

Allow me the indulgence of sharing five lessons that we have learnt so far through our “jigsaw puzzle model”.

Start by establishing the boundaries/framework.

We all know that a jigsaw puzzle is best begun by completing the outside, straight edge boundaries.

This makes for better working on the “inside” stuff.

The lesson? We have realised that we had to have a framework from which to work.

We understood the boundaries (lockdown principles), reviewed our resources and began with where we were.

What did my wife and I need to do to carry on our work commitments, albeit from a home environment?

How could we keep ourselves physically fit and in a reasonable frame of mind? What routines could we work on each day, for that day to keep us moving towards the big picture?

Understand people have different ways and timeframes of processing a challenge.

My wife has a very ordered way of working on the puzzle. She likes to group colours and patterns to assist with finding the missing pieces.

Again, she will spend a long time working on just one area of the puzzle.

I like to constantly look for patterns and am happy to move all over the place as long as there is progress. Neither style is better, they are just different.

The lesson? Be patient with each other, neighbours, work colleagues and even strangers. We are all on a journey together.

This is not the time for criticism and comparison, but rather for patience, kindness and a good sense of humour.

Remember the big picture. When we started, it seemed to take forever to even find the “straight edged” pieces that seemed to constantly hide from us.

It seemed we moved at a snail’s pace, hardly making any progress at all. Our only solace? To look again at the completed picture supplied with the puzzle.

The lesson? Each day of the lockdown has seemed to move at snail’s pace and one can become overwhelmed with monotony and uncertainty. Yet there will be an end to the lockdown.

We will return to some normal routine (with place to apply learnt lessons). We will once again, be able to enjoy the greatest riches our amazing country has to offer its resilient and valuable people. Let’s not forget the big picture.

Fit your response into a bespoke schedule.

We have learnt that it is best for us to work on the puzzle in little bursts of energy.

We “claw back” some time in order to keep moving forward.

The lesson? Many people are working from home, as are my wife and I. Yet this is not business as usual, but rather, prioritising the key activities to faithfully meet the new expectations of our stakeholders.

I have realised that in managing myself (my thoughts, time and actions) I do well to play to times when I am strongest (morning).

In addition, it has been helpful to do key activities the same time every day. I have downloaded a weight loss app, and exercise the same time each day.

We keep in touch with loved ones overseas via video call the same time each week. I think you get the picture. The benefit is that these little steps, done over and over again keep a healthy momentum.

Enjoy the process.

When we first started with the puzzle, I was hardly a ball of enthusiasm.

Yet as the picture progressed, I have found myself enjoying the “little distractions” more and more.

The lesson? We are in a crisis and it won’t be quickly resolved.

The lockdown extension may be the first of further moves to mitigate against its spread.

I am reminded, however, that our response to the virus is more important now, more than ever.

Author Stephen Covey writes of the 90:10 principle. Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we respond to the 10%.

I am keeping a journal of my thoughts, emotions, concerns and dreams during this time. I hope that the future me will look back and see that in the long run, I responded rather than reacted.

That I found some joy in the small things, rather than be shipwrecked by things I couldn’t do.

That I made regular choices of generosity rather than only self- concern. And that I found some joy in the journey. Stronger together.

Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at False Bay College. Contact him on Steve.Reid@falsebay.org.za