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Forget productivity, let’s use social distance to find a new perspective on doing business

With more time to ourselves, leaders and CEOs can use this period of upended routines to ask, “Really how well was ‘business as usual’ working?”

Forget productivity, let’s use social distance to find a new perspective on doing business
[Photo: Marc-Olivier Jodoin/Unsplash]
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Once the initial shock of stay-at-home orders diminished, the “pandemic productivity” movement began in earnest. Suddenly, friends and colleagues were sharing photos of alphabetized spice cabinets, grueling workouts, and enough baking to fuel a weeklong sugar high. There was a growing sense that if you didn’t emerge from the crisis speaking Portuguese and sporting a six-pack, you would fail to make the most of your lockdown.

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Even major media outlets got in on the action. “What could you learn in a few short weeks?” Mark Rice-Oxley wrote in The Guardian. “That rather depends on your dedication, I suspect. Sewing, juggling, CPR, drawing, wood turning, the Cyrillic alphabet, solving cryptic crosswords, cooking, meditation, Temari, knitting, video editing, offspin, yoga, coding, diving (though this might be difficult in your front room), the accordion… the list is endless.”

Admittedly, I had to look up both “Temari” and “offspin,” but I was confident I wouldn’t be tackling anything on Rice-Oxley’s list. I have a young family and a business to run—and I knew our employees needed extra support, both personally and professionally. Like many others, I also understood that working safely from home, with our team and company intact, was a privilege.

As many entrepreneurs urged each other to hustle and log even longer hours in isolation, I considered my options. With no travel or social gatherings on the horizon, maybe I would have some quiet time on my hands. Would I feel bad if I didn’t start a yoga practice? No. However, I would regret a missed opportunity to recharge and reflect.

Revisit your values

Major life changes often make us introspective. COVID-19 represents a rare moment when we’re all in transition. Across the globe, our lives and routines have been disrupted and, in some cases, changed forever. If you can tune out the social pressure for self-improvement, now is an excellent time to explore your true values—and not in a strictly corporate sense.

Set aside the values on your website. Just ask yourself, “what do I find most meaningful?” You might find that you’re pulled in an unfamiliar direction, like starting a new product line or making a major pivot in your life or business. On the flip side, you might realize that you’re drawn to go deeper—to home in on a niche area or serve a special audience. This could translate to double-downing on a meaningful cause, or, alternately, you may want to strip away the excess that accumulated over time.

Audit your time and energy

Once you’ve clarified what matters, examine how you’re spending your time, and consider whether this allocation is effective. To be clear, this step isn’t intended to help you cram even more into the day. Instead, it’s a call to focus your energy and attention to create the biggest impact.

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Look for extraneous tasks, responsibilities, systems, and habits you might want to shed—and don’t be afraid to let things go. It’s easy to fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy, where we continue devoting resources to something that no longer serves us, simply because we’ve already spent time or money on it. Now is an excellent time to trim whatever is weighing you down.

Establish a meaningful strategy

A growing number of studies reveal that people with a strong sense of purpose score better on mental health and well-being assessments. Realigning your entrepreneurial journey with your values can make you healthier, happier, and possibly more successful. The key is to translate what you’ve uncovered into a clear roadmap.

For me, every year, I outline a new stra­tegy for my company. This annual reset guides our decisions and priorities for the next 365 days. Of course, the company stays true to our core principles, but the strategy reflects what’s captivated our team and will best help our customers. Not only has this process inspired some of our biggest innovations, it ensures the big picture never slips out of focus.

Explore what matters to your team

Whether you have two or 2,000 employees, consider what moves and motivates your team. “People have a fundamental need to feel competent,” says Susan David, founder of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching. “It’s your job to give them stimulating, meaningful work.”

Ensure your staff have adequate time to complete important assignments, and don’t let inefficient practices dominate their workdays, says David. “Help employees stay connected to the meaning in the work they do. Tie tasks to how they benefit the person, the team, the client, the organization.”

Find and share support

In this strange time, you might be an entrepreneur, teacher, cook, IT specialist, dog walker, and leader. But you still need to prioritize your mental and physical health. Devote any extra time to activities that renew your energy. With rapid news cycles and constant change, shutting off screens is essential. Give your mind the gift of silence—at least a few minutes a day without audio, video, or other inputs.

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Seeking support is equally critical. “We all still need social connection in times like this,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Joti Samra. “Entrepreneurs carrying their teams through the crisis need to be able to reach out to a network of peers who understand what they’re going through.”


Aytekin Tank is the founder of JotForm, a popular online form builder. Established in 2006, JotForm allows customizable data collection for enhanced lead generation, survey distribution, payment collections, and more.