Do the right thing

The CEO of one of the voluntary sector organisations we work with was in touch this week, saying that her biggest problem is hours in the day – so much stuff coming in, and everything moving so fast. Tips on how to filter and prioritise will be useful for us …

We have all been on Zoom calls with clients this week with young children, and caught a glimpse of what it is like to try to change a nappy, encourage a 6 year old to do some homework at the same time as focus on designing interventions to support health and social care integration, or complete end of year accounts.

It is different. For some of our clients, particularly those working in health and social care, addressing the immediate is their way of prioritising. They are not ready or able to sit back and reflect on what is most important and all we can do is be grateful for their dedication.

Others have found the boundary between home and work has come crashing down and they are juggling regular work, which now feels completely unfamiliar, with childcare. At the opposite end of the spectrum, team members who live on their own are feeling quite isolated.

Everything is moving really fast and at the same time, it seems to us that the days don’t flash by like they normally do. Animate team members are used to being out and about and active, working with large groups, over long days.  Some of us feel an almost equal sense of tiredness, though we haven’t left our homes.

Most of us are afraid – for ourselves, our families, for our businesses/organisations and for our world. It is no wonder that it is hard to focus. And yet many of us seem to be acting as if we should be as productive as we are during ‘normal’ times. That ‘productivity’ makes us feel useful and offers at least a fleeting sense of being in control.

One of our clients, who manages a team of around 10 staff, has told them to expect to work half time (even though they are being paid full time).  We thought that was realistic. We will all remain more resilient for the duration of this crisis if we don’t overdo it on any front, but rather blend meaningful work and other activities.

Instead of asking how much we can accomplish every day, we (should) try to get the right things done each day. It’s the overload of options that paralyze us or lead to decisions that go against our best interests,” (Amy Jen Su published in HBR)

So to prioritise, and give ourselves a chance of feeling like we are achieving something and focusing on the right things, we are using a simple tool devised by Stephen Covey, that is probably already familiar to many of you:

Urgent Non-Urgent
Important Crisis

Pressing Problems



These tasks need tackling right away, in order to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination and the pressure of last-minute deadlines, and the spiralling of family life out of control

Relationship building

Preventative activities




Activities that enable us to reach our goals, but that rarely represent an immediate need We feel most satisfied when we spend the majority of our time here.


Not Important Interruptions

Emails, calls, endless Zoom meetings

Activities that others believe are important, but don’t actually matter to us. Setting boundaries can help here.



Trivia on social media, watching Netflix

These are not necessarily productive but they might be essential for keeping our spirits up.


What do I want to do: for me, for work, for friends/family?

These help us make some distinctions about what we want to do for ourselves, like taking a really long walk, what we need to do for ourselves, like getting some fresh air, and what we need to do for our children, like helping with homework assignments and what we want to do with them like playing games.

The important thing for all of us will be to prioritise getting some balance, with some ways to replenish our energy and maintain our resilience, over time.