Help in a time of lockdown

Image of a man hand holding speech balloon with the text make things happen, white shirt. Concept for motivation and goal achievement.
Graeme Butchart, life coach and Developer of Great People, shared a handful of his thoughts with us … and we were so impressed we thought we’d share them with you, too.

First up … If ever there was a time and need for self-discipline!


Since lockdown, I have been checking in and out with a broad range of folks. All ages, all genders, all work types, all over the world. Some are full on at work, many busier than they ever were, when at work. Some have less to do, and sadly, many now have no work at all.

Working or not, there does seem to be a rise in the challenges of working from home and of working without the aid and support of colleagues – on hand or on call.

Of course, there are some huge physical limitations to being expected to suddenly and seamlessly convert your dining room table (if you have one) into a collaborative connected hot desk. After all, finding a place for aunt Kagiso’s glorious table decorations is no small test in itself. And those three beautiful children of yours, all demanding on-tap-parenting (which from their perspective is now in abundance) and despite your repetitive appeals for – “please give me time to do my work” they are still standing in front of you with placards of demand. There is, after all, only so much cartoon network or Netflix a six-year-old can cope with. So, it’s off to the one room that you do have some ownership over, the bedroom, only to discover this is communal territory as well. And you now remember that you surrendered that a long time ago. You don’t have a garage. Or if you do, then its full of the stuff you never unpacked or ever needed to use. So, it’s back to the limited dining room table, only to discover the dog has just eaten all your project sheets. But who’s going to believe that – at tomorrows stand-up.

Oh gosh, what drama!

I know it’s a wee bit exaggerated, but for a great many this is their absolute reality, or some of it.

Another reality, is that there is absolutely no changing that physicality any time soon. That reality, whatever it looks like, is the physical truth. It can’t be bent or shaped in anyway.

So, how do we cope with this truth?

Enter, emotional intelligence – the only available option that does facilitate change. You may recall that investing in things that you have no control over – only creates anxiety and stress. And that the management of anxiety and stress calls on our PFC’s – well then – the part that can be changed in your ‘work from home environment’ is your approach to how you show up there.

And, as remarkable human beings, we have at our disposal a great ability – self-discipline, part of our self-regulating tool box, accessed through emotional intelligence.

Oh, you suddenly realise, discipline is that stuff that I really don’t like. Besides, you scream, I don’t need discipline, the six-year-old does, as does his father and that pesky dog.     

Then the fog clears and you come to acceptance. Maybe, just maybe, my discipline hasn’t been as good as it should be. And that’s ok, because you were thrown into this chaos at a moment’s notice, there really wasn’t time to prepare, or a budget to build an addition to your lounge.

So, it’s going to be all down to your self-discipline and how committed you are to executing that. And the absolute truth here – self-discipline is the only thing that is going to bring back some sanity and calm to your work at home situation.

So, let me suggest some of the keys to self-discipline. Although a vast and deeply personal journey, there are some fundamentals that well disciplined individuals follow with great rigor. If by the way, you are that great self-disciplinarian – then hats off to you. You’ve got this.

For everyone else:

The basics:

  • Act in accordance with your thoughts – not your feelings
  • Set and communicate defined boundaries in all things – give up people pleasing, no one benefits from that – learn to say NO – it creates great clarity and accountability.
  • Set big goals – daily, weekly, monthly – and have sight of them all the time.
  • Build little habits – consistently – little steps get you up the mountain.
  • Celebrate the wins – acknowledging strengthens self-worth, self-value.
  • Recognise the power of your word – what you affirm – you will create.
  • Remove all temptations, all obstacles – it’s obvious if you leave a box of chocolates across the room from you – there is going to be damage. If you can’t see them – well, they ain’t there.
  • Scoping and setting your day in advance of your day – ten minutes to see the day in front of you. Visualise each section of the day and see yourself succeeding in those moments – intention is an awesome intuitive power.
  • Schedule breaks into your day – work in blocks of time – avoid drifting form little item to item. And create breaks in-between – to disengage – to let go.
  • When you feel overwhelmed reach out for help – colleagues will empathise and will respond. Smart people call out for help – fools think they can do it all by themselves.
  • Communicate – communicate – communicate. And then communicate better.

This is by no means the definitive list, just a few thought starters.

There are so many great tutorials online (actually a bit overwhelming) so find the stuff that you believe you can adopt with success and just give it a try, and try and keep trying. Any improvement, is an improvement.

If you cannot control the physical reality of your working space, and even if you have the luxury of a home office – tapping into your self-discipline is likely to be the only guaranteed way to changing your current outcomes and improving performance. There really is no other option.

Another trusted technique that emanates from neuroscience – is to call on past successes. To look back to a time when you called on your self-discipline with wonderful results. Tap into that past narrative and bring that into the present, using your word to support that.

“Today I am going to finish… ‘XYZ’… because I completed that master’s degree in 2006.”  That marathon in, those savings, that previous project, that help in my community. Use past success to drive your present.

And this is the kind of dialogue that links you right back to motivation – which is born in purpose – its emotional intelligence all the way, all the time – use it.