“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” – Henry David Thoreau
As a young man, I spent countless hours commuting to and from NYC. During the winter, you were lucky if there was heat in the train car you were in or sometimes a seat for that matter. Cold and dark on my way in as well as my way home, I used to have this beautiful daydream. I was in the tropics, motoring in a vintage British roadster, always an MG, top-down, wind in my hair, shifting gears as I wind through the mountains, banana trees line the road, listening to some reggae. Sometimes it was Bob Marley, sometimes it was Toots and the Maytals, but it was always just right. I would arrive at a very secluded and a desolate beach. There, in the distance, was a brightly painted hut with a thatched roof, a small table, bleached by the sun and some weathered chairs out front, The smell of fresh conch fritters, fish grilling, and the ocean got louder as I walked up. Feet warmed by the sand; I would order my favorite, a grouper sandwich, conch fritters, and a cold tropical concoction(which I could never recreate at home). Perhaps, the setting just made everything a little more delicious. I’d savor it. I’d wander down the beach, with the warm sun shining upon my face, the gentle trade winds, then out of nowhere; the train would stop.
Cold, dark, and dismal as I emerged onto the street. As I walked to the office, I stop by my favorite street cart, and I am welcomed by a big, warm smile, a “How ya like this weather?” I would quote Zig Ziglar and say, “You can’t judge a day by the weather,” and being a regular didn’t even have to order I was handed my usual, paid and left my customary tip. We’d nod and see each other later. It was a mystery in my office why that coffee tasted so good. The building folklore was that the old coffee was added to the water, then brewed with the fresh. To me, it was his connections to the regulars that made it taste so good. Going into the building, I get the scoop from our building security man as I always brought him a cup. A couple of chuckles, some NY sports team banter, and up to the office.
I had a routine and touched base with people face to face. Today, now more than ever, it essential to touch base, pick up the phone or send that message. Remember that just as seasons pass, so will this new reality of social distancing and isolation.
An old and dear friend recently asked me If I had any tips about working remotely. His line of work is creative and required him to be on-site with clients. His new reality is video conferencing and due to “insourcing,” he finds himself working 12 hour days.
The best tip I may offer is to start each day with a clear intention on what you must absolutely complete and then get it done as early as you can. Don’t come up with things that keep you from getting started. Resist the temptation to get sidetracked. What once was checking email and putting out small fires now includes social media, family, Amazon deliveries, or the dryer. Mark Twain famously said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Set the first two hours aside first thing and then focus on the most important or challenging tasks to be completed. No more than the top one, two, or three items on your list. I know what some of you are thinking, this sounds like the old 80/20 rule, and you are right.
As my winter commutes, turned to spring and summer, these times will pass, and a greater sense of normalcy will emerge. Like Henry David Thoreau said, “One must maintain a little bit of summer.” My little bit of summer is my family, friends, clients, colleagues, and my pets. As well as the little things, like half and a half in my coffee, finding paper goods, fresh produce, and especially expressing more gratitude. Hope to see you on that beach, lunch is on me.