The coronavirus crisis has been challenging for people, companies, and countries. It has caused many changes as people adapt to what may be months of disruption. A lot of travel has been canceled, and many conferences are expected to be rescheduled to later in the year. If you're starting to work from home, your commute has been shortened to your living room. And you may be rethinking your evening activities, preferring to stay home rather than be out in crowds.
All of this is disconcerting. But if you look at your schedule now, you may see the gift of unstructured time. If you were planning to go to conferences or travel, you have space blocked off on your calendar that is now open. Before you fill it with regular activities, think about other ways you can proactively and strategically use that block of time to emerge from this period stronger at the core.
All of my startup and small-business clients have had cancellations on travel or events. My solopreneur friends and colleagues are seeing cancellations in their own businesses. Here's how I'm thinking about using these blocks of time for my clients and for myself.
1. Work on long-term strategic projects
You know those things you always think you'll get to when you have more time? Decide that now is when you have more time. What are some projects you've thought about that require you take some space to think? One of my startup clients plans to finally sit down and restructure her team and a key part of the sales process. Another wants to look at the possibility of acquiring another company. And I'm going to use the space I had planned to be at SXSW to rethink my website and the email sequence I use to welcome newsletter subscribers.
Make a list of your strategic or long-term projects you've had rolling around in your mind. Find one that you can take on right now and schedule it into your calendar in the pocket of time that is now open.
2. Start scenario planning
Use the time you have already carved out to pull together a group of people and think about the right questions to ask and come up with some creative answers. If you are an entrepreneur, you can pull your core team together. If you are a solopreneur, find a group of like-minded people and brainstorm together.
Here are some questions to get started:
1) If you knew this crisis and the disruption around it would last a year, what would you do and why?
2) What other elements of uncertainty should you take into account to do some robust scenario planning for your business and your team?
3) What opportunities exist that you can leverage during this time?
4) Are there business practices you can rethink that will help you be more efficient over the long haul?
5) How can you use this time to invest in your personal capabilities and those of your employees?
Generate some other questions as well, and then strategize. Once you have some new directions and core ideas, use the same group (or even a different group) to explore execution. If you do that, when this crisis passes you will be in a much stronger position than you were before it happened.
3. Future-proof your business.
The coronavirus crisis highlights what we already know: Our world is uncertain. Your best personal strategy is to have an excellent reputation, network, and skill set to help you adapt to changes in external circumstances.
There are several steps you can personally take to build your profile during the blocks of time that are now available. Instead of going to that conference, write some articles on your LinkedIn blog or on Medium. That way when people search for you online, they will have a sense of your points of view that make you unique. That published content can also be shared, which helps you develop credibility.
You may also want to use this period to strategically build your network. Make a list of some people you are not connected to but they are on your "wish list." Do some research into who might know them in your existing network or how they engage online. Then find ways to reach out to them. If they are in your area, they may be more willing to meet--after all, their travel has likely been curtailed too. This is a long-term project and requires some planning, which makes it a perfect use of your time right now.
This crisis will end, and we will eventually be back to some semblance of normalcy. And you will be happy that you used this time to take a big step forward on the things that are important to you and your business.