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Adaptability. Flexibility. Resilience.

At the best of times, these are important traits. In times of uncertainty, they become survival necessities. Our ability to ‘roll with’ changes and move in a new direction when necessary is critical to our success, personally and professionally. That ability is probably going to be tested in the coming weeks and months in ways that few of us have ever experienced before. Work, home, school, relationships, routines – everything familiar could be thrown into chaos.

In my house, my husband has traveled Monday thru Thursday for the past three years, and my older daughter has been away at college for two years. Now, my husband is working from home full-time at least thru the end of May, and my older daughter is finishing her sophomore year online from home. Meanwhile, my younger daughter is starting her final term of high school junior year via computer with no extracurricular activities while I am working to adapt my business to help clients virtually. Yesterday, our county issued a stay at home order. That’s a LOT of change in less than two weeks. And it has certainly tested our flexibility.

Flexibility and Order

When life throws us big curveballs, even the most ordered life can be turned a little upside down. And if your life wasn’t that ordered to begin with, you’ll feel it more acutely. Given the big curveballs headed our way – or already here for some – how can you minimize the chaos in your home? 

Be Prepared

If you have time before big changes take effect, do what you can now to get ready for them.

  • If you’re going to be working from home, figure out where your ‘office’ will be. Make sure that you have a comfortable chair and a desk or table with access to power outlets.
  • Likewise, if you will have children learning from home, make sure that they have a place to work. Consider their age and technology needs. Do they need outlets? Do they need to be within your line of sight, or can they work independently?
  • Check your internet connection and determine if it is sufficient to support multiple devices all day long. Google offers a free speed test, or you can do a quick search and find dozens of other options.
  • Stock up on a couple of weeks’ worth of food and necessary household supplies. Around me, chicken breasts, toilet paper, and disinfectant wipes are incredibly difficult to find right now.
  • Refill any essential prescriptions. You can do without a lot of things but not necessary medications.

Set (Reasonable) Expectations

If your family is all going to be at home, establish some ground rules. Start by determining what everyone’s situation is going to be. Who will be working or going to school? Who will suddenly have more free time on their hands, and who will have less? How long is each person’s situation expected to last?

Then, decide what are the essential things that need to get done to keep your household running. And here is where the ‘reasonable’ part really needs to come in. Now is not the time to raise your standards. In extraordinary and stressful circumstances, your children are not going to suddenly become neater than they have been, or better about doing chores. Your spouse probably won’t stop putting their coffee cup next to the sink instead of in the dishwasher.

When I work with clients in their homes, we talk a lot about the other people who live in the house and what the client expects them to do. And, we talk a LOT about ‘sphere of influence’. You can only do so much to influence others’ behavior at the best of times, so pick your battles wisely. For now, talk together and decide what the bare minimum is that everyone can live with. Then, assign responsibilities based on availability and ability.

Communicate and Adapt

Check in with everyone in the household regularly. See how things are going, what challenges they’re facing, and if they’re struggling. My family had a 30-minute meeting on Sunday afternoon. We talked about:

  • my younger daughter starting online school the next day and what her concerns were;
  • where in the house everybody was going to work and what they needed;
  • what snacks we wanted from the grocery store; and
  • movies we wanted to watch together during our downtime.

We’ll probably make these regular weekly meetings. Things are probably going to change frequently for the near future, and we will need to adapt and practice our flexibility regularly. Communication is always key to an ordered home life. That is especially true now.

Wherever you, and your family, are on this roller coaster I wish you good luck!