Unless you live on Mars in radio silence, you know how the COVID-19 virus has deeply affected us all. Regardless of whether you are currently working from home or not, there is still a lot you can do with the time you have at your disposal. Being proactive in your mindset will greatly improve your performance and help you grow as a person and as a professional.
For many, the situation is scary, if not outright terrifying. And it is understandable why so many people try to just get through it day by day. However, simply suppressing the fear and waiting for it to be over can be damaging to your mentality.
Personally, I reached stress levels close to burnout that affected my motivation, my performance, my happiness, my health, and nearly every other aspect of my life. Snapping out of a stressed-out state is significantly more difficult than guarding your health to begin with. And the only way I was able to get back on my feet is by being proactive and pushing toward the few things that are important to me.
Keeping our distance until we have a more efficient way of healing from COVID-19 is necessary for all of our safety. No way around that. That is not to say that once it gets better you have to be a wary and stressed version of yourself. You can instead make a proactive effort to work on yourself and be better for it once you head back to your office.
You can read more and become more knowledgeable, and you can pick up life skills that will make your lifestyle healthier and sustainable. For instance, you could learn quick and easy recipes that are office friendly, or you could exercise to build stamina and mobility, reducing back pain.
Another option is to develop hobbies or your artistic side—which can help you in your problem-solving at work. All of those things build onto your overall personality and skill set and will help you one way or another later on. And the best part is you can choose what to do with your spare time!
Why You Should Be Proactive
You can think of this time as a massive pause on your life and impatiently wait for it to be over. Or you can think of it as a time for self-reflection and a challenge to become a better person. To make the most of the time working from home, you need to be proactive. As a part of a company that develops health care technology, I aim to do just that.
But what does it mean to be proactive? According to this definition, it means “creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened.”
In a time when we do not really have much control over what happens around us, there are still things that we do control. Such as how we spend our time and energy. We can choose to direct both of them toward improving ourselves.
Being proactive and taking charge demands a higher level of self-involvement and discipline. It is definitely more demanding than simply staying on hold until the situation passes. But it is worth the effort if you are able to take all the negative impact of the virus and make something good come of it.
How You Can Be Proactive
Great, now we know we need to have a proactive mindset. But what does that really mean? How do I take the value of proactiveness and apply it in my day-to-day life? Depending on your current situation, being proactive will differ.
For some, simply waking up 30 minutes earlier would be a proactive step toward a less-rushed morning routine. For others, signing up for a course and committing to earning a certificate is a huge step toward better working prospects.
You should find a way to define what proactivity means for you. You need to be proactive in the areas of life that are important to you and help you grow as an individual as well as a professional.
I would personally advise everyone to apply and set proactive goals individually, as well as career-wise. For me that means putting in daily exercise of at least 15 minutes. I proactively make the choice to stretch even if I do not feel like it—and it is good for me. Whatever goals you choose to set for yourself, here are some steps you can use as a guide to do better in whichever area you choose.
Define Your Priorities
As I already mentioned, being proactive brings in the most value if you focus your efforts toward the most important aspects of your life. It takes a while to build a solid foundation of healthy practices. But once you do, you can add on top of them with additional tweaks and improvements as you go—or change your focus to another area and improve in different ways.
The very first step is to define your priorities. What are the areas in which you want to perform better? Do you want to achieve more at work? Is your knowledge and experience in the industry growing or stagnant? Are your soft skills prohibiting you from pursuing more managerial positions? Are you looking to raise your earning potential? Do you want to improve your health and physical strength, as well as appearance?
Think of what you want to do in your day and compare it to what you actually end up doing. Do they align? If not, then adjust your day to come a little bit closer to how you view yourself.
You should also evaluate your priorities in life. If it is family, do you spend enough time with them? If it is health, do you do what you need to be healthier? If it is a desire to be more skillful, do you consciously advance your knowledge? If the answer is no, then you have defined your priority and can start taking steps toward a life that aligns with your values.
Take It One Goal at a Time
Do you have your priorities defined? Do you know which values you believe in but do not implement enough?
And what about your goals? Now that you know what your priority is, you can start setting a specific, measurable goal to work toward. For example, you can approach family members to set up a time to talk.
Let's say you have your priorities and your specific goals. My priority is to be healthy. And my goal is to get sufficient sleep to assist that.
You likely have many different goals that branch out in different areas of your life. But you need to focus on one of them and put the rest on hold. You cannot work on everything all at once. You will either overwhelm yourself or receive subpar results for each, as you will not be able to give your goals the needed attention, and you will likely end up disappointed and discouraged.
So start with one aspect of your life. Write down all of your priorities and then rank them. What is the most important to you right now? Build a solid enough foundation with your habits to improve it that you can maintain it almost on autopilot. Then pick up the next priority on the list in your life and start introducing small productive changes in your approach toward it.
Evaluate the Habits That Serve Your Priorities
Once you have chosen your focus, you need to have a real idea of what will serve your attempts at becoming better. Let’s say you want to learn a new programming language to broaden your professional scope. What is a habit that will benefit your goal? What is something you can do on a regular basis that will allow you to one day add this skill to your resume?
You can take a programming course, or pick up any of the millions of resources, books, videos, guides, and tutorials available online and start learning a little bit at a time. Make it a habit to practice this programming language on a weekly basis.
It is better to only put aside one hour every week to build this skill as opposed to pumping out eight hours one day and then forgetting all about it for two months—because, chances are, when you go back and try to continue you will have forgotten everything you learned and will have to start over.
Research, Research, Research!
Whatever skill you choose to work on to better your quality of life, you need to have a good idea of what you are doing. Once you have chosen what you want to focus on for the foreseeable future it is time to do your research.
Find any relevant information you can on the topic. What are the different ways people have achieved the results you are aiming for? What are reliable resources you can use to apply healthy practices in your life?
The more informed you are from the get-go, the better the results and the quicker you will reach your goals. The internet is your best friend. You can find just about anything you want to know, so use it.
Learn how to use search operators. For example, if you put a phrase in quotation marks, you will only get results that contain the exact phrase. You can learn more about different operators in this article.
Look for Different Ways to Advance Professionally
While most of what I have covered is about personal growth, nowadays individual improvements and career growth are deeply intertwined. As a developer, you likely have the desire to improve professionally in the niche you have chosen. Or maybe you want to branch out to different technologies or jump over to a managerial role. You might be surprised at what you can achieve if you simply approach your manager openly. Ask for a meeting with them.
You can discuss where you want to go, professionally speaking. You can share your goals, but be prepared with a specific plan for how you can get there within your company (this is where your research comes in handy). Ask the company to support you as you wish to apply this personal growth for the sake of the organization’s success in the future.
Tell them what you plan to do so you can get to the point where you can do it. Ask them if they are willing to back you up and give them the chance to offer alternatives or let you know what they are willing to do for you.
A simple, straightforward meeting may lead to a better professional future for you, as well as earning your manager’s respect for being open and proactive in your efforts to play your role in the company. Depending on how you present yourself, it can be a win-win situation.
A Little Bit at a Time
Applying proactivity can result in big leaps in your daily life or career. Or the change can be as little as a new mindset when you go about your day. Every step counts, as tiny as it may seem. The effect of accumulation over time is significant, if not shocking.
Constantly trying to improve yourself can be tiring. The more invested you are in practicing proactiveness, the more it takes a certain emotional toll on you. However, having the growth mindset doesn’t necessarily mean you need to make big changes all the time—it is more important to be consistent and sustainable in your pursuit of greatness. Think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint.
Let’s say you want to be proactive with physical exercise. You set your goals, whatever they are. Then you enthusiastically decide you will train for two hours before work every day. That will mean a total of ten hours of training.
What if you hardly ever exercised before making this decision? How long do you think you will be able to keep it up? What about other factors, such as how much earlier you would have to get up to get to the gym and to work on time? A keystone habit change like shifting your routine will also change how early you need to be home in order to get a sufficient amount of sleep. And it will, in turn, affect your social life.
Is this a sustainable option for you? Can you imagine doing this for six months? A year? Two years?
Making changes should not be a temporary solution but rather a lifestyle change. So you should approach it in a way that sticks. Try to introduce exercise a little bit at a time. Think about how much you can do sustainably for a long period of time. Start with twice a week for an hour. Do that until you feel it is doable and easy to maintain.
Then choose if you want to add more either in terms of duration or frequency. At the end of the day, a quick 30-minute workout at home done regularly four times a week, over the course of a year, will guarantee better, longer-lasting results than going all out at the gym for two hours every day for a few months just to burn out and quit. Then you would have to start all over again.
Aside from going out, there really is no limit to what you can do at home. Challenge yourself, learn a craft, become more physically active, read more, expand your knowledge, dabble in hobbies you were curious about but never actually tried.
Only you know what you can improve on in your life. Only you know what resources you have at your disposal and what is important enough to you to warrant your attention and dedication. Regardless of whether it is a personal goal or a professional one you have discussed with your manager, now is when to take time for yourself and commit to leaving your home as a better person in a few months.
What is one way you want to be better when the pandemic is over? Whatever it is, set your goals, make a plan and show up for yourself day after day, even if it is just a little bit at a time!