COVID-19 has probably thrown wrenches—or, at best, curveballs—into your company’s plans. No matter if you’re a senior executive, a manager, or an individual contributor, you’re probably grappling with how to adjust your goals for the upcoming months and years. For the first time, you might be figuring out how to adjust your goals outside of your company’s pre-established annual or quarterly review periods.
Adjusting your goals doesn’t just require a shift in strategy—it also requires a shift in mindset. You can’t expect to set realistic, relevant, and meaningful goals if you’re not in the right headspace. We recently chatted with Arianna Huffington—founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and the author of fifteen books, many of which are focused on mental health—about coping with difficult times. Arianna shared some of her research-backed tips for mindset shift that can help you adjust your goals during challenging times.
1. Acknowledge that it’s not business as usual
Before you can set meaningful goals for the future, you need to acknowledge the present. We’re living in unprecedented times—we need to remind ourselves that it’s not “business as usual.”
In order to plan for the future, we need to decide what “business as unusual” will look like for the foreseeable future. This might involve establishing new working hours—perhaps working half days if you are also homeschooling children. We also need to redefine what it means to be productive—now, more than ever, productivity involves care, towards others and towards oneself.
It’s impossible to adjust your goals and plans for the future if you don’t establish realistic baselines in terms of where you’re at, both from a productivity standpoint and from a wellbeing perspective.
2. Embrace microsteps
In their bestselling book, “Built to Last,” Jim Collins and Jerry Porras discuss “BHAG”s—Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. These are long-term 10-25 year goals that are informed by your company’s purpose and values.
BHAGs have a lot of value. But, especially in today’s volatile business environment, your primary focus shouldn’t be exclusively on BHAGs. Instead, it should be on what Arianna calls “microsteps.”
Arianna explained to us that microsteps are small, actionable, and science-backed steps that will empower you to make immediate changes in your daily life and work. Microsteps are grounded in the notion that if you make your goals small enough, they’ll become “too small to fail.” Arianna reminded us that when you start small, your new habits are more likely to stick.
One of Arianna’s favorite microsteps is meant to be performed at the start of each day. When you wake up in the morning, take 60 seconds before you pick up your phone to set your intentions for the upcoming day. Who do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish?
Research has shown that we’re often flooded with cortisol—a powerful stress hormone—even before our feet leave our bed in the mornings. Especially amid today’s challenging times, it’s difficult to predict what you’re going to see when you turn on your phone—whether it’s a message from your boss or a Tweet that irks you. Whatever it is, it will be a lot less potent if you’ve taken the time to set your intentions for the upcoming day.
3. Strive for minimalist meetings
In our new distributed work environments, it’s easier than ever before to multitask. But multitasking causes us to lose sight of what our top priorities are—or ought to be. As Arianna explained to us, if you find yourself in a Zoom meeting and you’re sending emails on your computer, sending texts on your smartphone, glancing at updates and messages on your smartwatch—or all of the above—you aren’t fully present. Arianna emphasized the importance of making meetings as device minimalistic as possible. She explained, “Not only does it make those in attendance feel more present and connected with each other, it also makes the meetings more focused, productive, and shorter.”
When you bring your full self to meetings—or as much as you can given your current situation—you’ll be in a much better mental state to decide where you need to focus your efforts and, in turn, develop a more realistic plan for the future.
4. Put your priorities in perspective
During times of crisis, it can be difficult to differentiate between true urgency and false urgency. More than ever before, prioritization is essential. Whether it is in Asana or on paper, it’s crucial to set your top priorities and re-evaluate them at least on a weekly basis. Constant check-ins are essential. Make sure your priorities align with your company’s core values, as well as your own personal ones. If your priorities look the same as they did before the pandemic, this is a sign that you may need to put more thought into re-evaluating your priorities.
Burnout was on the rise far before the COVID-19 outbreak. Now more than ever, we need to put mental health first. As you revise your goals and plans for the future, do so with your mental health top-of-mind—pun intended and emphasized. When you constantly re-evaluate your goals for the future based on your current situation and from a healthy headspace, it’s easier to move from point A to point B with clarity of focus and mental conviction.