This year has put organizations, communities, governments, and individuals to the test. We’ve been pushed out of our comfort zones and forced to adapt to uncomfortable changes. Most of us have learned a lot, and many have begun to find their footing in the new normal. As we look ahead to next year and prepare to deal with similar challenges, it's necessary to take stock of what we’re doing well and what we need to improve.
While many of us needed to cultivate new hard skills this year (like learning how to use Zoom to meet the immediate survival needs of the moment), there are other, softer skills that may help us thrive in the long-term.
Developing a systematic approach
If you’re a fast-paced individual who skims through emails and replies on the go, now would be a good time to check yourself. With emailing and messaging being a primary form of communication, your coworkers need you to slow down long enough to read the whole email and respond to each question. If you find yourself rushing through written documents, emails, and comments, it’s time to change up that behavior.
On that same note, make sure you’re intentional about how you reach out to your colleagues:
- Are you the type to swing by someone’s desk and ask people small questions more than once a day? Stop and think before you send an email or a message.
- Do you need to ask them right now? Do you think you might have follow-up questions? Consolidate your communication and be as thorough as you can the first time around.
That way, you’re not interrupting your coworkers more often than needed, and you’re allowing them to be as efficient as possible in their response.
On that same note, being helpless when it comes to answering your own questions isn’t a good strategy. We need to become more self-sufficient and teach ourselves how to do things effectively. If you’re an “I don’t learn that way” type of person, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Just because you’ve done something one way for years doesn’t mean you can’t learn a new approach. And that is what this changing world demands of us.
Don’t know how to use that program? Look up classes online. Ask Google. Watch how-to YouTube videos.
There is a world of information at your fingertips; “not knowing how to do something” isn’t a viable excuse anymore. To stay ahead of the game and function effectively in your role, it’s time to stop being stubborn and get yourself in a learner’s mindset. New solutions, new programs, new approaches all take effort to learn.
So be prepared to make an effort and choose to do it before you absolutely must.
Working from home can soften your routines and blur the lines between work life and home life. This can make it difficult to set boundaries around your time, take breaks, or even stay on task. Most people haven’t had practice working from home since they were in school and had homework.
Even if you’re not struggling to get work done, your coworkers might be juggling children at home or other challenges that make it difficult for them to manage their time. Make extra sure you’re getting things to people when they need them. Also, know how and where they rely on you. Be conscious and intentional about your approach to your time. Make adjustments and advocate for your (or your team’s) needs when necessary.
Strong written communication
With more communication taking place over email and channels like Slack, it’s incredibly important to write in an exact, concise, and grammatically correct way. Don’t make it difficult for people to understand your emails. Don’t leave them guessing what you mean.
Make an effort to learn etiquette for email, Slack, and other communication channels. It can be difficult to convey tone through writing, so be intentional.
Don’t send an email with a question in the subject line and six question marks in the body. At the very least, say hello and wish them a good day. Without some personal engagement, you risk upsetting someone, coming off as rude, or looking unprofessional. Everyone deserves this: your coworkers, your boss, your clients, your employees—everyone.
You wouldn’t scream at your coworkers, so leave out all caps words unless that’s what you want them to think. Writing is your new voice. Treat it with respect and consideration, or you’ll end up with bad results.
It’s on you
In the end, it’s on us to figure out what works best. It’s on us to adapt and learn new tools. It’s on us to show up every day and give 100%. Sitting around in frustration about all the things you have to learn isn’t going to help you. Take responsibility for your success. Ask for help when you need it, and rely on yourself when you can. In times of change comes growth, it’s up to us to decide whether we grow or get left behind.