At Optimae LifeServices, we constantly strive to make ourselves available for our customers as well as our peers and loved ones. We are not invincible ourselves, however … and occasionally need to be reminded to be available to ourselves as well.
Recently, an internal newsletter penned by our president and CEO, Bill Dodds, was circulated out to Optimae LifeServices staff. Although it was written with our staff in mind, the message can be applied on a broad scale to everyone.
It is as follows:
It’s hard to believe, but it has been only six months that we have been doing battle with this pandemic and continuing to provide essential services to our customers while doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of our employees, our customers and their families, and our communities. And, I think by any measure — and primarily thanks to your diligent efforts and steadfast commitment — we have done a credible job of accomplishing these goals. We have procured and utilized a large array of personal protective equipment (PPE) and established supply chains that will see to it that we will continue to have the PPE we need. … We swiftly transitioned to provide most behavioral health and some other services via telehealth and, by significantly increasing our capacity for video-conferencing, we have developed the capacity to manage all this transition virtually from a distance. In short, we should all be very proud of the job we have done and I thank you all for contributing to this effort.
Unfortunately, we are in a situation where, in all likelihood, we will need to continue and sustain these efforts for at least another six months and possibly longer. And, to compound that, many families are now having to deal with a number of significant decisions around family members returning to school and all the decision-making that entails. All this can create what one author terms “decision fatigue.” The basic concept of this is that because our lives and routines have been so disrupted by the pandemic, we are constantly thinking and rethinking everyday decisions that now have huge consequences: such as whether or not to go shopping for essentials in person, whether or not to visit with family members and friends, whether or not to send or go back to school in person, etc. In normal times, we only have to focus on what we know are “big” decisions because the everyday ones have very slight consequences — so we make them almost automatically, thus saving our energy for the big ones. A Florida State researcher provides a very concise explanation for how this affects us: “It’s a state of low willpower that results from having invested effort into making choices. It leads to putting less effort into making further choices, so either choices are avoided or made in a very superficial way.”
There are some simple strategies for avoiding decision fatigue. Many center on general health and well-being such as maintaining a healthy diet, getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating a healthy breakfast. Others focus on timing your decisions; if you have important decisions to make, try to make them during times of the day you know you are most able to do so. For many, this means making these decisions in the morning after a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast. For others who are not naturally “early risers,” this may mean making them later in the day. The key is to understand your own rhythms and time your big decisions accordingly. Still others focus on reestablishing a daily routine so that you have fewer routine decisions to make, such as what to wear, what to eat for lunch, etc. One article references Steve Jobs establishing what was basically a “uniform” to wear to work so he didn’t have to make a decision about that every day. Interestingly enough, I have found myself doing that during the pandemic, but didn’t realize I was doing it until I read that article. So, you may want to try similar “decision-limiting” strategies. Also, if you find yourself struggling with a decision, try taking a short break, go for a walk around the block or practice some deep breathing exercises in place, anything that you know is refreshing for you. Finally, try to find someone who you can talk with about any feelings of fatigue you are experiencing; you will probably find out that they are experiencing something similar and you can be a mutual support for each other.
I believe that if we all try to stay aware of how this pandemic is affecting our decision-making abilities, that if we are honest with ourselves and others about how long we are going to have to maintain our current efforts, and that if we continue to focus on our mission, vision, values, and brand promise to be at and on the side of one another and our customers, we will build the resiliency we need to carry on successfully to the end of this pandemic and beyond. During the American Revolution, the great patriot Thomas Paine wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” The message that Paine was trying to convey was that those who were in that fight for liberty had to continue on, not just when the effort was in the sunshine, but also when it was in the shadow (so in good times and bad) and that they couldn’t just begin to support liberty and then quit because it was too hard (thus the reference to the “summer soldier” — someone who enlisted when it was easier in the summer and fall but then left the fight when winter came). Likewise, we cannot just support our effort during the first part of the pandemic which we have already experienced, but we also need to continue to support our efforts when “winter comes” which certainly may be a time of shadow for all of us.
However, I have great confidence in all of you — indeed in all of us — that we are not summer soldiers nor sunshine patriots. I want you to know that I and the Operations Team and the Core Leadership Team will continue to be at your side and on your side as you carry out our essential mission while adhering to our essential values. We want to thank you all so much for all you are doing for our customers, your fellow employees and our communities; together we will see this through to the end — to the light.