The power in doing less

Overworked mom signing forms with kid

When we first received orders to shelter in place, businesses felt pressure to respond quickly and strongly. We were no different. Without skipping a beat, we kept cranking on projects while scheming ways to maximize productivity from home. Our response aligned with the deluge of content pouring out from across the internet telling us to push forward and keep busy.

One month in, though, the value of slowing down is beginning to reveal itself as work/life boundaries fade and new responsibilities and anxieties pile up. We’re reevaluating our initial instinct to charge ahead and asking ourselves tough questions. How do we give this moment the gravity it deserves, preserve morale, and establish new priorities? As an agency, we’ve decided to take a collective step back to deal with mounting stress and media overwhelm. 

Readjust your expectations.

We’ve all heard by now that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while sheltering from the Plague, but chances are, now is not the time you will produce award-winning work. At Design In Mind, we started the shelter-in-place order at full throttle, launching a redesign of our company website, redefining project strategies, and cranking out new content. It was a lot. Now, we’re rethinking our fast and furious approach and awarding more time to simply cope with the onslaught of change. It’s difficult to slow down when your business is to create, but driving ourselves to exhaustion to meet pre-COVID expectations is definitely not the answer.

Share your struggles. 

If you’re struggling with burnout and need support, speak up. Though it’s difficult to ask for help, it’s actually the ultimate win-win, as helping others is shown to lessen depression and increase well-being. Our working relationships are demanding more intimacy as we Zoom into each other’s personal lives—crying babies and all—and we’re demonstrating compassion to those who choose to open up about their struggles. Communicating with each other through the bad times limits overwhelm and presents the vulnerability to grow closer as a team.

Our working relationships are demanding more intimacy as we Zoom into each other’s personal lives…

Prioritize family.

If wearing many hats were a competition, we’d all be winners at this point. Not only are we employees right now, but we’re also caretakers, teachers, and therapists for isolated family members. As our priorities shift, we’re advocating for each other to take responsibility for personal matters, which means relaxing tight deadlines and scheduling time to breathe. We all need our families now more than ever, and creating space for us to show up for our loved ones also lets us show up better at work.

Dig deeper in conversations.

Remember spending hours talking on the phone as a teenager? Now’s the time to bring that back and probe deeper in both your personal and professional relationships. Return to the art of leisurely conversation, the kind that can meander for hours because there’s nowhere else to go. Having more time to chat about the serious and the silly is a rare silver lining in this time of hardship, and it’s where we’ll find the strength, joy, and resilience that we need to persevere at home and in our work lives.

Embrace the calm.

The internet is loud right now. Hard as it might seem, challenge yourself to tune out the noise and turn inward: close your browser tabs, shut off the news, and step back from social media. The creative process benefits from quiet and solitude, when you give yourself the time to feel, process, think, and react. This fact is all too easy to forget when you’re working in a fast-paced agency. Making deposits into your creative bank will allow for better work once you’re running at full steam again.

The creative process benefits from quiet and solitude, when you give yourself the time to feel, process, think, and react.

It’s okay to slow down.

Most of us are fortunate enough to be living through a global crisis for the first time in our lives. As we continue to adjust to the slew of change, we will experience good days and bad days, big challenges and little victories. Unrealistic expectations about how we spend our time can actually be hurtful at this moment. Instead, this is our chance to yield to a reality that we can’t control and empower ourselves to respond compassionately to our families, friends, and colleagues—even if it means putting constant productivity on the back burner.  When the world begins to open up again, we can reemerge resilient and ready to return to our work with a fresh perspective.