Even with all the excitement around our transition to the New Year, many of the colleagues, executives and managers I speak with describe a feeling of mental fog and slowness, as well as hesitancy in gearing up for the coming year.
As one meme stated: "Before I commit to 2021 I am going to need to see a list of terms and conditions."
There are a plethora of reasons we could attribute those feelings to: uncertainty, fatigue from an exhausting 2020, "lockdown lunacy," legitimate health concerns and so much more.
All that notwithstanding, 2021 is here, and it is helpful to take a moment to stop and think about it and gear up using these four steps:
1. Let yourself dream about what you will be able to do this year.
A terrific recent article in the Financial Times, “Goodbye virus-ridden 2020, hello Roaring Twenties,” optimistically suggests that we could be entering a period of great renewal and energy like there was in the roaring 20’s, post-Spanish Flu recovery.
What pent-up expression or project might you engage in? What will you start doing or redoing again as the world opens back up?
Mind hack: Get creative in your thinking by having fun with it: daydream, sketch, take a nature walk, chat with friends-- it helps build your resilience muscle and can be fun!
2. Set some goals with the learning mindset of a scientist.
It is easy to be hesitant to set goals when there is so much uncertainty leading us to think “what’s the point?"
Scientists look at things in terms of experiments. They know that there is much they don't know. Take a stab at it and recognize you will adapt and change as the situation requires it. We certainly learned that last year!
Don’t be tempted to skip this step. As they say, if you don't have a direction, you will end up wherever you end up. Is that what you want?
Mind hack: Describe your goals in terms of 1) what skills you need (learning something new is a great way to deal with stress), 2) what motivation you need.
3. Fill up your relationship bank.
Friends and colleagues have told me they have select “pods” of people they are interacting with, while other key relationships have dropped off.
Our brains are social, and reconnecting with people can give you new energy and support mechanisms.
Mind hack: Start by asking how you can help them. Helping others has been shown to really boost our resilience in these trying times.
4. Commit to specific, realistic, doable actions for January and Q1 using the 4 C's.
There are things we do have some control over and it is useful to direct our time and energy there. For tactical items you know you can knock out, use the 4 C’s: realistically capture, commit, calendar and celebrate it when it’s done. Make it an ongoing process- if not things will stack up.
Mind hack: Pick the time of day when you have the most energy to tackle items you prefer the least. Also, capturing a mini checklist and then physically checking things off makes us feel better. We get a release of dopamine in our brains. I certainly feel better when I can cross something off my list-don’t you?
These 4 steps come from our research on cognitive diversity and represent a Whole Brain approach appealing to your imaginative self (dream), your analytical self (goal), your social self relationships), and your practical self (actions).
One final mind hack:
Perhaps you have already done one of these but not others. Because of our preferences, one of these 4 steps may feel easier than others to start with. Start there to get things going and for those out of your preference zone, it may be helpful to buddy up with someone who has a stronger preference for that type of thinking. Your brain will feel better and so will you.