2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for most people around the world, with the COVID-19 global pandemic throwing a major curveball at everyone’s definition of “normal” life. In many places around the globe, including British Columbia, the economy halted indefinitely in the spring, forcing workplaces to temporarily or permanently close, the workforce to begin working solely from the safety of their homes, and businesses to quickly adapt to an online and remote business model in order to stay afloat. 

Members of the workforce, and most especially working women, who have school-aged children suddenly found themselves trying to balance full-time work from home, full-time parenting from home, full-time teaching from home, along with all of the other regular tasks needed to run a home and raise a family, all at the same time. Many of these multi-tasking efforts have fallen to the women of the households, placing undue stress and amplifying a need for carefully crafted balance and skilled time management. 

COVID-19’s impacts have many people struggling financially due to reduced or lost wages, causing the depletion of savings accounts, and racked up credit cards, all while devastating the dreams that had been tied to those money sources. 

This is a highly stressful period for many people, particularly women, with keeping themselves and their families safe from the coronavirus, managing financial buoyancy, and finding a way to balance all of the added responsibilities of working while teaching and raising children full-time at home. 

Many women may be feeling that they can’t drop or fumble a single ball they are juggling amid the pandemic, or the entire thing will come crashing down around them. This can be incredibly stressful, and difficult to find successful management strategies while in the thick of it. Fortunately we have some tips for how to cope, and even thrive, during prolonged health and financial crises that can help businesswomen and their families find the balance needed to succeed:

  • Prioritize. Review your “To Do” list for all areas of your life, and identify the tasks that need to get done in order of importance or urgency. Then, stick to that ordered list to ensure you are meeting the deadlines and tasks you have set for yourself.
  • Focus. When you are beginning a task, keep your mind on the task at hand and ignore the distractions or interruptions (as much as you can — we all know that this isn’t always possible, especially with children in the home pulling on your coat sleeve), and complete the tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible. One thing at a time is the key to successful focus.
  • Don’t burn yourself out. Maintain as much balance as you can between home and work requirements. It is particularly easy to let work continue to seep into other areas of your life when your home has become your office too. To avoid this, set yourself a specific schedule and allocated work space, and don’t work when you don’t need to. It is important to fill your cup during your off time, in order to perform in all areas of your life. 

This can all sound great in theory, but in reality many women’s great intentions fall short due to distractions or relaxed time management. For example, when you first wake up in the morning and look at your emails, you may intend to only take five minutes to look, but before you know it, it has been 25 minutes and somehow you have wound up scrolling social media too. Being unaware of where time is spent, even if it is only five minutes here or there, can quickly add up and cause you to constantly play catch-up for the rest of the day.  

It’s a habit that many people have to scroll through social media, or lose themselves in other online tasks, and ultimately causes a feeling of failure in many women because the objectives they set out for themselves during the day were not met to their level of satisfaction (or not met at all). This can be a wicked cycle that affects all areas of a woman’s life. Focusing is easier said than done in many cases, but here are some tools designed to help keep busy women on track and on task.

The first step to breaking any habit is getting yourself in a positive frame of mind. Believe that you can not only succeed at meeting your deadlines and completing tasks, but that you will not fail once you have implemented these tools into your routine. This will allow you to be open to new ideas and implement changes more successfully, plus it just shakes off the “blah” feeling that can linger for many women after frustration subsides. 

  • Create a morning routine
    1. Review today’s goals. Set out your task list for the day the night before, so you can wake up knowing your plan for how to allocate your time that day. By taking the guesswork out of it, you will be able to focus more clearly on actually completing your goals and objectives for the day.
    2. Prioritize. A great place to start is with your Greatest Impact Activity: identify which task is most important for the day and start there.
    3. Check your mindset. If it’s not in a good place, focus here first (tip: this could be your Greatest Impact Activity to get yourself started). As you begin to develop your routine, take note of the elemental factors that help you get in your focus zone. Keeping these in the back of your mind can be helpful to implement during times that you are struggling to get started. 
    4. Be realistic. For critical tasks ask yourself, “Will I complete this?” Research has shown that if you ask yourself questions for critical tasks and clearly answer them, you are significantly more likely to do them. 
  • TIME Sprint

TIME Sprinting is a timeboxing technique designed to help you focus on one objective at a time, by setting clear “boxes” of time allocated to a specific task. Once the preset time limit has been reached, that task must either be completed or set aside until its next designated “box” of time. There are three simple guidelines to successfully implement TIME Sprinting into your time management toolbox: 

  1. Concentrate solely on a planned task for 20 to 90 minutes with a visual stopwatch on, counting up. If you reach 90 minutes without completing your task, take a break.
  2. Relay: Perform four TIME Sprints in a row (like a relay race) with up to six-minute breaks in between each sprint. Each sequence of four sprints is considered a relay.
  3. Dissuade distractions by keeping a list available nearby. If you feel a distraction, simply write it down and continue on your sprint. Once your sprint or relay is complete, review your list of distractions and take action at that point. 
  • Say No. 

This can be a difficult thing for many women to do. Although it sounds simple, many women take on not only their own over-full plates of things to accomplish, but also those of others close to them (both professionally and personally) because they want to help. Sometimes this is offered, but often it is requested of us instead. 

When someone knows that they are at capacity (however they define that for themselves), they must be self-aware enough to say no when something additional is asked of them. Having the confidence to politely decline a request can help reduce the risk of burn-out, which ultimately means they have nothing left to give to any area of their life or any task, so they flounder in all of them. 

This topic is incredibly relevant for many women during the COVID-19 pandemic. So much has been added to their already-full plates, that the risk of burn-out is significantly increased, and therefore the risk of crash is increased alongside it. 

Discovering and actively using tools to help you find balance and ultimately be more productive has never been more vital for women than it is today, thanks in large part to the added stressors that COVID-19 has placed on many households and businesses. Establishing respectful boundaries and a clear routine will not only help you survive this crisis, but will help you to thrive as well.