As we're heading into weeks 3, or 4 or even longer of the COVID pandemic, I've noticed my friends and clients show the strain of social and business isolation.
For the introverts amongst us, social isolation is less of a burden than it is for the extroverts. I'm happily ensconced behind my computer, working on the next version of one of my self-study courses. I sometimes feel I can go on like this indefinitely. But even as an introvert I'm feeling the need to connect and converse with humanity around me.
If you're an extrovert, you feel that need even more. I see the symptoms of isolation in my extrovert friends, family and clients when I do connect with them. Depression is kicking in, you're feeling lonely and unproductive - and there isn't any light at the end of the tunnel - at least not yet.
So what can we do? How do we survive this? And is there opportunity to even learn and grow from the isolation?
The answer is yes. We can not only survive this, we can also learn, get better at some things and prepare our businesses for growth.
This is the COVID opportunity, and here are three things you can do to turn adversity into opportunity.
Opportunity 1: Learn more self-care
Back in the good old days (remember those - three, four weeks ago?) we were out there, hustling, working and keeping busy.
But when I think about it honestly, that busy-ness was very often driven by external demands on my time. I was not as in control of what I was doing as I would have liked to be. I was reacting rather than working on things I knew were important.
Now we have more time. And the fact is that we can only use this time effectively if we take care of ourselves.
When I originally designed the Tornado Method there was one thing I knew without a doubt:
In a small business (including solopreneurs like myself), your business can only be as good as you are - mentally and physically.
In the Tornado Method the single element at the bottom of the tornado is Team, Culture and Personal Effectiveness. As a business owner, everything rests on your shoulders - and if you're not in good shape, your business won't be either.
So here's the opportunity.
Learn more self-care - mentally and physically. Find the things that make you happy and perform better and do more of those. Whether you're into yoga or exercise or long walks - do more of that. But don't just do more of it - observe how you feel when you're rested and calm, and make these things part of your regular routine.
I know this is not easy for everyone. If you're a single parent you have a lot more on your shoulders. But even so you can carve out small parts of the day for yourself to care for yourself - because if you aren't in good shape, everyone around you will feel the effects.
So practice more self-care. Be kind to yourself - the people around you will see it and feel it. And make it part of your routine so it sticks not just for now, but for the future as well.
Opportunity 2: Help where you can
It's amazing to see the extremes the COVID virus has woken up in people. There are people hoarding masks and taking advantage of others. But there are also beautiful stories of people reaching out and helping others.
Which camp are you in?
We all have the opportunity to help, even if it's just in a small way. Start close to home - checking in with elderly parents or neighbors to see if they need groceries. There are quite a few of our neighbors who are part of nextdoor.com- a neighborhood news and info website - and there are both calls for and offers of help.
But you can also help on the business side.
I've started a weekly Open Office session where any small business owner can join for free, connect with other business owners and talk about topics close to heart. I'm glad to see others do similar free or low-cost sessions, and the number of apps that have gone free or low-cost is just brilliant.
There's nothing more rewarding than helping someone else, and sometimes it's the small things that make a big difference. Even just some free articles or blog posts can help someone else in need. Sometimes a few words of inspiration - or even a thank you - can make someone's day.
So reach out and give in whatever way you can. It doesn't have to be big - whatever you can afford will make a difference in someone else's life.
Opportunity 3: Position yourself for growth
So I have this theory:
It's what you do now - in the time of isolation and struggle - that will determine how well and how fast you recover when things eventually return to normal.
Of course there's no knowing how long this will go on, and the post-virus normal may not look quite like the pre-virus normal. But I do believe there is a post-virus normal and it will happen. If you believe this as well, the following will be true for you:
If you hide now, you're going to compete with everyone else as we get back to normal. On the other hand, if you stand out now you'll be ahead of the crowd.
If this makes sense to you, there are two big areas where you can focus:
- Get your house in order, and
- stand out now so you're top of mind when business picks up again.
Getting your house in order can mean anything from decluttering your office to building processes to getting your admin up to date. For me, it means converting my existing self-study courses (delivered as PDF files) to an online learning platform.
Standing out does not necessarily mean flooding your channels to market with content. For me, it means:
- contacting just about every client I've worked with over the last three to five years to hear how they're doing and offer my help if I can,
- hosting the free weekly sessions to help business owners, and
- getting back to publishing regular articles.
It may not sound like much, but for a small business like mine where I don't like hard selling this works for me - and the feedback and thanks that I'm getting is ample proof I'm standing out.
And this positions you for growth when things get back to normal. So do what you can to stand out now so you're ahead of the crowd.
The CoronaVirus pandemic is affecting all of us. But we can use this as an opportunity to learn and grow. I see at least three areas for growth:
- Learn more self-care. Your business is only going to perform as well as you do - mentally and physically.
- Help where you can. Even the smallest bit of help can make a huge difference in someone else's world.
- Position yourself for growth. Get your house in order and make sure you stand out now so you're top of mind when business starts picking up again.
I hope this helps you get through these trying times. And yes, if there's something I can do to help - reach out. I will help if I can.