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It's time to face uncertainty

March 31, 2020

"The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately."
— Seneca

I've been seeing so many people mentioning how they've been feeling unproductive these past few weeks due to the given COVID-19 situation. Interestingly, what I've noticed is that it comes with some sort of self-judgment, almost feeling bad for justifying their lack of focus or output.

I think we all can relate to that feeling. You try to act as if it's a regular Monday, and you know you have a ton of things to do, just like always. But it is not really a regular Monday: you might be quarantined at home, or have kids around the full day, or have loved ones at risk. You might be worried about the economy and the impact on society that this collapse could have.

These are not regular days or weeks for us, because we have to deal with uncertainty. As humans, we are bad at dealing with uncertainty. Any given moment, on any given day, we are thinking about our plans for the evening, or who are we going to see this weekend, or where we're going on holiday.

This is all on pause right now. You are staying home, and you don't know for how long it will be, nor what the outside will look like when you can go there.

So, what can you do about this situation? Is there a way to make it bearable? I think there are a few things that can help:

Breathing exercises

Practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, then let it out for 8 seconds. Repeat it up to four times.

Journal

Many great thinkers and leaders have been famous journalers. I think it's no coincidence, as it is a great way to free your mind from your recurrent thoughts.

Once they are in a piece of paper, you can feel how they are something external and not a load to bear on your mind.

As Tim Ferriss said, journaling is one of the most cost-effective therapy there is!

Start an information diet

It's so easy to get pulled into social media or the news outlets to check regularly for the latest information during a crisis. But it just fuels our need for more and more, every time we check.

Instead, remove your phone from your sight (and pockets) when working, and block distracting sites (I use heyfocus.com on mac to do so).

Time blocking

I think the Pomodoro technique is great for moments like this. It feels so attainable to work for 25 minutes without feeling distracted. Do it. Then take a break and come back to it. Repeat this for a sustainable, productive morning 🍅.

Remember it's okay if you're not super productive

You weren't productive today? Don't be hard on yourself. You are not a machine, and no one should expect you to behave like one.

And if you are leading a team, share this with them, be there for them in moments like these. Be an example: not by being the ultra-productive-thought-leader-9000, but by being transparent with them and talking about your mental health and struggles.

Lead with vulnerability.

Everything is uncertain

And finally, we must acknowledge that, as Seneca said, everything is uncertain. While making plans is necessary, attaching ourselves too much to anything in particular leads to anxiety over the fear of losing them.

Thank you for reading and stay safe 🌱

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The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Book

I guess that by now, you must know how big of an influence the stoic philosophy is for me. I think it's a way of thinking of the world and oneself that can be of help on times of uncertainty: especially when thinking of the world and separating things between what we can control and what we can't.

I think this book by Ryan Holiday summarizes pretty well the stoic thinking as well as providing a ton of biographical examples of famous figures influenced by this mindset when faced by obstacles thorough their life.

Code Time

Product

Time tracking for developers: this is a plugin that analyzes your IDE usage and provides a breakdown on the best time for you to focus on coding taking into account the calendar events you might have in your meetings too. I'm excited to give this a try and see how it works. 👀

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