This morning, I received a newsletter that I subscribe to and the subject was, “Is Video Conferencing Draining Our Productivity?” My immediate response was, “ARE YOU SERIOUS? NO NO NO. IT’S NOT THE VIDEO CONFERENCING THAT IS THE PROBLEM. IT’S THE SCARY PANDEMIC THAT MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT.” But then I opened it just to see their advice and quickly realized that it was sponsored content by a company that helps streamline remote work. So I scroll down to see how I can use their product to work better remotely: 9 templates to get ready in MINUTES. The stories under the sponsored one had titles like, “ Science-Backed Tips for Settling Into Your New Work-From-Home Routine” and “The Buy-Nothing Home Office” and “9 Tips to Perfect Your ‘Working From Home’ Morning Routine.” Gah. Blech. Eye Roll.

Then I started to ponder, “Why does this make me so mad?” and realized that all of my indignation and judgement for this newsletter was me needing to confront what was truthfully draining my productivity. Here are a few things I came up with and oddly enough NONE of them were video conferencing (shocking, I know).

Deciphering what is real and what isn’t on a daily basis.
The newsletter I referenced earlier is a perfect example of what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, this newsletter is usually a great resource that links to cool articles, but in this instance every other article linked was sponsored by a remote work from home company. I didn’t even catch the “sponsored” trick at first. Why? Because I’m tired. I don’t have the bandwidth to scour through the stupid newsletter to make sure it isn’t trying to trick me. We do this on a daily basis already thanks to the MANY outlets from which we are inundated by information and what’s best for us and who to believe. I would like — even if only ONCE—for the good, bad, and ugly to be delivered to me on a silver platter. Here it is, Amanda, and you don’t even have to wade through any of it. These are all facts. Enjoy. So, no, video conferencing isn’t really my issue right now — it’s the lack of leadership and the desire for truthful content so that I can protect my family that drains my productivity on a daily basis.

I’m worried. I mean, aren’t you? Doesn’t that drain your productivity? I spend a lot of time worrying about my kids and trying not to be aggravated as I juggle a full-time job (which I’m lucky to have) and their productivity and happiness. They have been ripped from a schedule because of some mystery virus that even adults (I use this term loosely) and leaders (also loosely) and medical professionals don’t even understand, so how in the world can little people understand? They don’t get to see their friends. They are surrounded by aggravated parents. They are aggravated with their siblings. They are confused by online learning (but probably I’m more confused than they are). And I worry that me worrying about all of this is just a moot point at the end of the day because it’s just a SMALL speck of what other families have to worry about. There are folks stuck in houses they don’t want to be in and that are dangerous for them to be in. There are children with no place to go. There are homes with no food. There are parents risking their lives on the front line every day to help and/or keep their jobs who then have to come home and potentially risk their families’ health. So yeah, I’m guessing that our productivity is drained because of all of THOSE things — not video conferencing.

But see? That’s how it worked before and that’s how we got here now. I fell for all of that. I was downloading apps to make my life easier and my life was being prescribed on a daily basis by what others thought I should do — not what I created for myself. We all were. And then the world paused and sent us to our rooms. And here we are. That’s what brings me to my next point.

What’s Next?
I’m scared that once the orders are lifted, doors start opening back up, and the hamster wheel begins slowly turning that we are going to be right back where we started. Pre-COVID-19, productivity was defined as “being busy.” At least for me it was. Jumping out of bed each morning to pack lunches, hurry through breakfast, hurrying the kids, and that once hot cup of coffee finally making it to my mouth at just the exact second it turned cold. Then it was getting dressed and feeling guilty that I didn’t get in a walk of some sort, carefully planning lunches to maintain correct calories, and checking email and phone calls while doing all of that. Then in the car where I’d spend hour after hour in meetings or traveling to and from meetings (averaging around at least 4 a day), furiously writing grants in between and checking in with staff, always always in a rush, and then finally jumping in the car to do pick up  (2 kids = 2 locations). Then we’d all rush in the door, eat a frozen pizza but not all of us together, check in on homework, everyone gets baths, and then bedtime. Then we would do it all over again.

So am I really going to go back to that? I’m scared that all of this introspection will melt away, my boundaries will begin crumbling down, and my one-click response to life’s problems will reappear. Thinking about what’s next, who is in charge of my well-being and health, who is making decisions for my family and are they the right decisions to be making, and forgetting what so many families have experienced and suffered through— this is draining my productivity.  I’m also furious that most people do not even have a choice in setting their own pace to live their lives in healthier ways.

Perhaps if we spent more time being truthful — even when the truth is scary — we would focus less on productivity and more on each other’s well-being.