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Today I had the exact kind of morning that I don’t like, and I’m wondering if it’s familiar to any of you.

I’ve already written about moments of paralysis and anxiety, when you just kind of stop. I’ve written about the need to connect deeply with our own humanity and that of others despite our need to physically distance. I’ve written about the need to take advantage of this pause and actually take a deep breath alongside the planet.

All of these things still apply, and there’s another invitation. We need to acknowledge and accept our lost focus—at least, I do.

The brain fog descends

I was speaking with a friend of mine this morning, one of the most productive people I know. She is “retired” but has never actually retired. She still sits on more boards than I can count and I can’t think of something she hasn’t mastered. And today she told me that a report that usually would take her three days to write took her two weeks.

She’s still getting up at the same time every morning, still does her exercise, is still maintaining her enormous house and large property and then waits for her good ideas to come—and they’re just not. She can get through two or three small tasks a day and even those feel onerous.

I was so relieved to hear this from her, because that’s exactly how I’m feeling this morning and I’ve felt many other mornings. There’s a fog over my brain. It’s not the same as that paralysis of panic and anxiety; I’m not in my lizard brain. I’m just knocking around in my mind, trying in vain focus.

The procrastinateur emerges

Like my friend, I’m waking at my normal time, exercising, savouring my strong coffee, eating breakfast, then sitting down to work. I do all my “thinking work” before noon and save meetings and walks for the afternoon, and then make time for watching news, reading books, or doing a bit of creative writing in the evening. It’s a great schedule, right? Well, it would be, except those “thinking work” hours are the least productive they’ve ever been. I’ll sit down, shuffle things around, send some emails to my bookkeeper, look at my tax returns and think…Maybe tomorrow. Okay, I’ll write a blog instead…hm, maybe I’ll write some LinkedIn responses…All right. Time to write that complex proposal. Or, actually, I think it’s time for a snack. Or tea. Tea would be great. Okay, back to work. Complex proposal. How about a load of laundry? Yes, that will save me doing it later…  

I wouldn’t have a business if this were how I normally manage my life. For the past twenty-five years I’ve been consistently effective and productive, focused and scheduled, even prepared for the unplanned and unpredictable. I’ve been a successful entrepreneur.

But I have a new—hopefully temporary—term for myself: procrastinateur.

The invitation to just be okay with this

We’re invited to stop measuring ourselves against impossible standards that belong to the pre-pandemic era. Everything’s shaken, right? It’s not just the physical threat, which feels more distant now that I’m essentially isolated. Now, the financial threat is amplified for me and for many others. Our businesses, our livelihoods are threatened. We need to adapt quickly while also figuring out how to meet our basic needs.

I know a lot of people are thinking and writing about this. I’m realizing that after a month of quarantine and stopping almost everything related to business, something in my brain has stopped working too: focus! Rather than beating myself on the head and repeating focus, focus, focus, I need to accept that I might only have a couple of productive hours a day, if that, and some days are just writeoffs. And I need to plan my work output and deadlines accordingly. If I can get through the day with my mental health quasi-intact during this quasi-quarantine, then maybe I’ll be able to meet tomorrow with a little more focus.

And maybe not.

And that’s okay.

Readers, colleagues, friends, are you experiencing the same fog? If yes, how are you dealing with it? If not, how are you managing to focus?