Optimizing Resources in the Pandemic

It is no secret that we are living under many constraints these days and there seems to be a crunch in our resources, which we took for granted earlier. Yes, there is some ‘inversing’ taking place here, for example, the long hours of commute have reduced. But the pros and cons are in a tight balance.

However, this has also led us to sort of develop a third eye of sorts: we are now seeing everything with a different perspective. We are finding ideas and opportunities at the most unlikely of places. In other words, we have learned a remarkable thing: we have understood the value of our resources and we are using them optimally, to their maximum potential. This is something which might not have been achieved in a situation of abundance.

With this in mind, let us jump into the lessons we have learnt about making the best possible use of our resources!

Overturning the Lack of Abundance:

When we have limited resources, our attitude changes from what it is when we are working in abundance. We cease to take things for granted, and we strive to make the best use of what is available.

Take for example how all those people who don’t have a study or a proper work area in their homes have come up with ideas to create a makeshift workspace, making the best possible use of resources they have at hand.  People have been converting their dining tables into office desks, or making use of old unused spaces in their homes in innovative ways.

Or take for example the use of internet. Instead of procrastinating and endless scrolling, people are making sure they use their home internets at the best of times when the speed is optimal.

In an abundant situation, there was a high possibility that we often wasted resources, and took them for granted, resulting in reduced efficiency. This newfound attitude of making the best use of the available resources remains beneficial, whether someone is working from home or has returned to the office.

No Decision Fatigue:

‘Decision fatigue’, a term used in psychology, is when the quality of decisions is deteriorated because of spending too much time to reach a decision. Contrary to expectations, a long session spent on pondering over each and every minute detail can actually result in poor decision making.

Because of limited choices and options, whether of time or resources, we now have a limited number of strategies to choose from, leading to a relatively quick process of decision making. In other words, we aren’t spoilt by choices, leading to less over-thinking over the minutiae and more action-taking keeping the big picture in mind.

Expectations and Creativity:

In an abundant situation, our expectations would skyrocket; we wanted a project to only be a certain way- nothing less; we wanted to reach that target no matter what. Such an attitude often led to high levels of mental and physical stress.

Now that we have limited resources, we keep our expectations realistic. We work keeping the limitations in mind. There is a huge shift in our attitude, leading to lower levels of stress, and a much calmer strategizing: instead of focusing on being the best ever, we focus on making use of the best possibilities. Lack of resources has forced us to be creative.

And now that we know where to limit our expectations, our minds are suddenly free from the drive for perfectionism, and we are being able to harmonise work life and home life, something we didn’t think was possible!

As we can see, we have learned to value our resources, and we have started to work productively even with the various types of constraints, be it those of time, resources, and options. We are steering clear of sluggishness and getting a push. We are keeping our expectations realistic and not falling into harmful competitiveness. We are now seeing possibilities.

How Useful Is A Not-To-Do List?

To be or not to be that is the question but to do, or not to do, is also a question which needs our attention. We have all come across articles and blogs telling us about to-do lists, where we prioritise, plan and mark the task from urgent to not so urgent. If you have a habit of maintaining a to-do list, you probably know the wonderful feeling you get when you put a tick-mark on an accomplished task. To-do lists have their place. But did you know, not-to-do lists could be equally helpful?

Many experts on strategy and planning often talk of a ‘negative’ list’; a list that tells us what should be avoided. Think about it. Sometimes, we might not be sure what we want to do but we are pretty sure about the kind of situation we would like to avoid. For example, we often hear ourselves saying things like:

  • ‘Do not forget to call that client today.’
  • ‘Do not to bring up an issue that doesn’t add to the agenda of this meeting’
  • ‘Do not forget to double check the data.’

Sometimes, clear and specific not-to-do list can lead to a better understanding of the need of the moment, rather than a vague to-do list.

For the sake of examples though, let us take a look at some more general and universal tasks which could be added in the not-to-do list. Doing those tasks have known to make people regret some of their decisions in life.

Do Not be Worried What Others Might Think:

Sounds so simple, right? But have we all not worried at some point what others might say about our decisions and choices? Have we not been scared of what people might think of us?

Simply keeping in mind to not worry about other people’s (often unsolicited) opinions could potentially help us make decisions which are about us, and not others.

Do Not be Scared to Take Risks:

We all have thought of certain things we want to do, and have backed away at the last moment only to look back years later, and thought that maybe  we should have taken that risk because that was the time. It doesn’t matter whether you look back at your twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or even sixty year old self. There is no age when we haven’t looked back and regretted some of our decisions.

It is important we add this to our not-to-do list to be completely free from all the what ifs and buts.

Do Not Drag On a Bad Job For too Long:

It is important to not run away from a momentarily tough situation. We have talked of strategic quitting in the past. A temporary situation is not a good enough reason to quit.

But it is equally important to not drag on a job that is holding you back from achieving your long term plans and dreams. It is necessary we add this to our not-to-do list so we don’t end up feeling like we wasted our potential.

Do Not Save the Expression ‘For Later’:

Haven’t we all had to face a situation where we needed people to be there for us? Whether it is a difficult family crisis, or a professional crisis, expressing empathy, kindness, offering a few healing words, taking actions which we know will help the other person to cope should not be saved for later, for the ‘right time.’

Haven’t we had loved ones suddenly depart, and felt we should have mended that relation before it was too late? Why push mending something broken to ‘later’ when it can be mended ‘now’?

Keeping this in our not-to-do list will ensure we know there is no ‘wrong time’ to express kindness in actions and words.

Do Not Think It’s Too Late to Pursue Higher Studies:

Learning, knowledge, study have no age bar. If circumstances made you give up on studies, temporarily, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on them permanently.

It is necessary we don’t let socially constructed conventions about age hinder us from pursuing anything which could add to our skill- and knowledge- set, helping us grow as a professional, or simply something which could help us grow as a person.

It is important we add this to our not-to-do list, so we remember to never stop learning.

These are just a few examples of a not-to-do list. You could make your own specific ones, or just keep a general list to help you steer clear of some preconceived and outdated notions. Either way, it is not always wrong to think in terms of ‘negatives’. Sometimes, the negative is in fact a positive!

And finally, the most important item to add to any not-to-do list these days:-

Do not be casual while taking precautions in the ‘new normal’!

 Do not take the safety directives lightly. Do not venture out without wearing a mask, do not be lazy about washing your hands, do not take the social distancing rules lightly, do not forget to sanitise the goods you buy, and do not be afraid to put your health first. Adding all this to our not-do-list will ensure we realise our responsibilities.

We Are in a VUCA Situation And the Good News Is We Are Adapting Pretty Well!

VUCA situation, VUCA

Phrases like “uncertain times”, “unprecedented situation”, “unknown to everyone” have been making rounds all over the world due to the ongoing pandemic crisis. One can say that we are living in a VUCA situation.

Let us go straight into the details of what the acronym stands for. VUCA is:

Volatile: When a situation is volatile, it is susceptible to rapid change(s) and unpredictable events. Take for example the present situation where we were forced to start working with a different methodology, all within a matter of few days.

Uncertain: When a situation is uncertain, there is not only an uncertainty about the future but more often than not, we also don’t have as clear an idea about what is happening even at present. We go on as things happen. Long term planning seems next to impossible. Need we say more?

Complex: A complex situation brings in a whole lot of interconnected factors which lead to various results and implications.

Again, taking from the present situation, we will realise how financial, economic, administrative factors, coupled with the decisions taken by government bodies, health systems paint a very complex picture of what is going on.

Ambiguous: An ambiguous situation is not clear. It is replete with ‘maybe’, ‘whether’, ‘just in case’, ‘until further instructions’.

The very first usage can be traced back to the United States Army War College to describe the situation during the Cold War. According to MindTools, VUCA, and its usage in business and corporate culture can be traced back to when Bob Johansen used it in his book ‘Leaders Make Future‘, in 2009,  while talking about the unpredictable and turbulent forces which can affect businesses and organisations.

Who knew that decades after its first known usage, this acronym would perfectly describe a situation we are in?

But hang on.

It is very encouraging to note that although a VUCA situation is something we are facing right now, it is also something which we have managed to combat quite well.

Although, the very quality of being a VUCA situation means that it will come when we least expect it, so “preparing” for it might sound paradoxical. But aren’t we in such a situation already? So, how does one deal with a VUCA situation according to the book and what is so encouraging about our response to it?

Countering By the Book:

An article by MindTools provides a short and comprehensive guide about countering it:

How To Counter Volatility?

Vision. Long term plans might go for a toss, but there is always space for short term planning. “Vision” doesn’t always mean thinking five, ten, years ahead. It also means charting out a plan that might work well in the next two, three days, a plan which lays out a ‘vision’ about how teams and team members should interact to meet those short term goals, and what they should do if plan A doesn’t work out due to volatility. One can counter volatility with a flexible, short term vision. It involves having a vision of plan B, C, D and so on, no matter how short term.

How to Counter Uncertainty?

Understanding. Sometimes, dwelling on the very fact that the situation is uncertain stops us from trying to get a deeper understanding of the situation itself. By trying to understand the situation in depth, one can get some idea about the possible pros and cons, the possible results, the possible methods one would need to adopt. In short, understanding gives a sense of a wider perspective. Just because it is impossible to get a certain answer doesn’t mean we can’t gain clarity about the possibilities.

How to Counter Complexity?

Clarity. Similar to how understanding about uncertainty helps in trying to think of possibilities, being clear about the complexity of the situation can help to work calmly. Defining the complexity, and its implications to the team members can help see the situation as something which one has to figure out rather than a situation one has been thrust into. Communicating the complexity clearly helps us see the situation as a mathematics riddle to be solved with collaboration and adaptability, making it much less daunting. It involves communicating clearly (and hence bringing it within the grasp of everyone) how factor A might lead to factor B, which might lead to factor D through some strange workings of factor C.

How to Counter Ambiguity?

Agility. So what the situation is ambiguous? We can counter it with our own adaptability and flexibility. An attitude which is open to change, willing to learn new skills and willing to step beyond one’s role goes a long way in changing the way we perceive ambiguity.

Our Response:

When we think of it, many organisations have already in their own ways countered this VUCA situation, especially when some restrictions are being lifted.

It is Vision which has led many an organisation to think of ideas to work in shifts, it is Understanding that things are uncertain that has led people to adapt to the new habits, it is Clarity which has made us prepared about the fact that this is the “new normal”  and most importantly, it is Agility and flexibility which has kept us all working in spite of everything.

 Isn’t this a much needed dose of encouragement we all needed? That we are actually doing our best to combat these times?

“Instead of Back to Normal, Let’s Go Forward to Better”

It is a world of confusion we are living in! As things open up to some extent, we all are trying our best to have a balanced mindset. How about we provide some tips to acquire a positive mindset?

In today’s post, we are going to provide some quick pointers which may be used to reach a state of positivity or at least to a sense of calm. We are here to help you find the signal amidst all the noise. And the signal mostly lies within you.

So, here are some simple tips to stay positive amidst the chaos.


This obviously sounds contradictory. What is there to celebrate? And how does one celebrate when we aren’t supposed to be near each other, literally.

Celebrating little accomplishments is necessary to stay sane. Whether you are working remotely or in the office, focus on the day to day accomplishments. It could be anything from successfully learning a new digital skill, to having met a deadline successfully, to finally getting in touch with a client after a long time. Gather colleagues over a Zoom meeting maybe once or twice a week just to celebrate the tiny to major accomplishments of each individual, collectively. If you are in the office, spare a few minutes at the end of the workday and maybe have a session where everyone claps and provides a shout out to each individual’s accomplishments of the day.

Or just give yourself a pat on the back, maybe do a little jig, and have a mini-party by yourself!

Look After Yourself:

The WHO had listed out some guidelines to look after oneself a couple of months ago. Those guidelines apply even now, in fact more than ever. The pandemic is far from over, and just because many workplaces have opened up, doesn’t mean we should stop following guidelines about mental health and well-being.

In fact, things could be even more stressful now, owing to the worry about one’s health, plus the fact that some of us just follow the office-home, office-home routine, without being able to go to other places like malls and parks to unwind, making it a monotonous life, even more than it was before. It is indeed important to follow the mental health guidelines!

Some of the guidelines include:

  •  Maintaining a routine where you also make time to do something you like; all work and no play makes us all gloomy!
  • Minimizing news consumption; stay informed but keep the filter on.
  • Having regular (socially distanced) interactions with loved ones.
  • Reducing screen time; forwards will keep coming, people will keep posting, emails will flood but it is important to not drown in information.

These guidelines will indeed help one to distinguish the signal from all the noise, resulting in a calmer mindset.

Ask For Help:

 While we have everyone telling us to be empathetic towards our colleagues in these times, it is also necessary to not take the burden all on oneself.

If you feel overwhelmed by multitasking, or just in general due to the situation, do not hesitate to ask for help. That help could mean delegating certain tasks, or it could simply mean talking to a colleague about how burdened you feel and asking for their suggestions. Or simply just sharing individual struggles with each other, which can help us feel we are not alone in this; sharing is indeed caring, but sharing is also a form of self-care.

Conscious Attempt:

There are articles and blogs telling us to embrace the uncertainty. We are being told to embrace the new normal. Sure, but all of this not possible unless we change our mindset, consciously, deliberately.

Studies have shown it is possible to rewire your brain, to train your brain to see the positive in any situation.

Some quick ways to begin are:

  • Observe your thoughts, focus which ones are negative, which ones are positive. Focus on the positive, and for the negative ones, start thinking of possible ways to handle them instead of dwelling on them. Diverting to a solution oriented approach from a problem focussing approach is an important shift.  
  • Look for (at least) three positive things that happened during the day. It could be anything supposedly trivial, like being able to wake up strong and healthy; or successfully starting your work on time; or having a heard the funniest joke from a colleague. Do you see how little celebrations can be found anywhere?
  • Look after yourself. It is not surprising that most of the guidelines for the pandemic include taking care of one’s mind and body. Now, it is understandable that it is not easy to always find time, but it is the conscious effort to do so that makes the difference, which gives signals to your mind and body to do something, rather than being stuck on a negative state of sinking thoughts.

So, in our own conscious attempt to focus on the positive, we would like to give you, the reader a shout-out for handling a global pandemic the way you are doing so. The fact that you are reading this article shows that you are indeed trying your best to keep a balanced outlook amidst the chaos. Kudos to the human spirit!

Thinking Ahead At Present: Life After COVID-19

Everyone has talked a great deal about how to go about with present situation, which has forced us to change our lifestyles. But how about we try to think a little ahead, and try to see how to go about after it’s all over? How do we go about creating, or re-creating our life after COVID-19?

No one really knows when things will entirely “unlock”. Perhaps a wise thing to do right now thus is to utilise this new pace of living and think about some important things about our life and career. Instead of thinking about it when things do get back to normal and ending up getting overwhelmed, it might not be a bad idea to start on a path right now, so we might reach to an answer sooner or later.

A little mental health warning first, before we embark: we are not advocating over-thinking and driving oneself into a panic mode. It is ideal to take one day at a time in the present situation. What we are saying is this: now is a good time to think about all the things we have been sweeping under the carpet since ages, and sort one’s priorities.

The Museum Analogy:

In an article by FastCompany, author of the book “Curating Your Life: Ending The Struggle For a Work-Life Balance”  Gail Golden gives us a wonderful analogy to think in terms of when we are on our path to setting our priorities.

The expression “work-life” balance implies as if we are on a tight-rope, balancing things like an acrobat. Instead of that shaky and stressful analogy, Gail Golden suggests we look at our life the way a curator of a museum does. We think of three or more important “artworks” of our lives, which need care, attention, in other words, the main focus of our museum. The others, the side exhibits, and then those which can be put aside for now.

This a novel way to direct one’s time and energy in the right direction.

But it might get a little tricky…

Gail Golden talks of the difficulties of this approach,

“There are things that you may do because they’re meaningful and enriching for you, and things you do that you don’t like very much but your boss or your family needs you to do them. You cannot ignore the priorities of the people around you. The danger is we make everybody else’s priorities more important than your own all of the time. That’s part of work-life balance that doesn’t work.”

When such a situation arises, mixing approaches can help here. One can resort to making lists of things which go along the lines of being important and urgent, important but not so urgent. One needs to be open to the idea that the necessity and urgency of needs is going to change, and that one does not discard certain “exhibits” out of impulse or unnecessary panic.

When it comes to museums, the past plays an important role.

Think about your own past decisions and why you chose something in the first place to steer clear of impulsive “de-prioritising” of things.

These are the thoughts one now has the time to consider.

A final note: although thinking like a curator of a museum is a good strategy, we cannot stress enough on being flexible and open to new ideas during and after this time. No one knows how the world is going to cope with the normal or even the “new” normal. Having a plan is good, but it is also important that we keep ourselves open to the idea of that plan getting changed.