A Pandemic is a Marathon Not a Sprint: Find the Things that re-energise you to Carry on Fighting the Good Fight

I’ve just come off a Sunday morning Zoom call for Rise of the Resistance, a digital festival I’m involved in that will be happening on the 4th and 5th June 2021 about Antimicrobial Resistance. It’s been a long week and this blog is late because I’m super tired, but what struck me when I came off the call is that whilst on it (and for a while after) I’ve actually felt energised and enthusiastic. That’s not to say I don’t love my work and I never feel like this about my job. I do. But I’ve noticed that, after a year plus of the pandemic, I don’t feel it as much as I used to. This made me reflect on why that is, and what feeds my energy and enthusiasm and where I feel drained.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Myers-Briggs but I do think that it can be a useful start in terms of reflecting what energises and what drains you. I flip between ENFP and ENFJ, depending on the test and how stressed out I am. Where I never vary is on the feeling dynamic: I need to feel connected to people in order to feel inspired, creative and like ‘me’.

One of the issues I’ve experienced during the pandemic is the ‘feeling connected’ part. I get this through being creative, working collaboratively with others and spending time with people who enable me to feel secure and support free thinking. I find routine to be draining. It seems weird to describe the pandemic as routine, but in many ways it’s been the worst combination for me. There’s been no time, thinking space, or resources for true creativity and innovation. Whilst at the same time everything has been constantly changing and so most of my available intellectual and physical resource has been focussed on administration and reacting to change, rather than driving it.

True change and innovation require time for self reflection and the establishing of partnerships. This has definitely been something that has been resource-limited.

If you use DISC profiling I’m about as strongly DI as it’s possible to be, with an additional focus on collaboration. A lot of my team are much more C (see below) and so react to the challenges faced by this change in working structure very differently to me. For them, they haven’t enjoyed the ever-changing guidance but for a different reason, as they prefer routine and structure. Interestingly, no matter who you are, this way of working has probably been draining for us all, rather than energising us.

It feels to me that all of us are therefore coming out of the last 12 months plus in a drained rather than energised state, both as individuals and as teams. If we are able to continue for the next 12 months, we probably need to take some time that we don’t have to reflect on what our working lives are like right now and how we can change them to build in some of the activities that energise rather than drain us. For me I’ve found things like Myers-Briggs and DISC a useful starting point. But they are just that: a starting point.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where my passion lies over the last 12 months. I have the best job in the world but there’s no getting away from the fact that it has been hard and frequently draining lately. Not just that, but it is likely to continue to be so for some time. I’m incredibly lucky to have projects like Nosocomial and to be involved in teaching, which enables me to visualise and see impact and change, as well as to build connections and networks that are super important to me. A lot of these projects have been on hold for some time, but – as the things that energise rather than drain – now is the time to dust these off and make the deliberate choice to re-engage.

My thoughts on what energises me:

  • One to one or small group chats in non-hierarchical settings (like tea and cake catch ups) where connections are developed/sustained.
  • Making plans for the future.
  • Having time to throw around ideas and discuss concepts.
  • Time spent with people where I don’t fear judgement.
  • Creation – whether a project or idea.
  • Passion projects about communicating science.
  • Teaching/educational activities where you can engage and see the impact on those involved.

Time and resources are no less limited now than last year.But, if we are going to survive to the end of this marathon,now is the time to invest in what makes us better at all we do. So for yourselves and your teams, find what it is that energises you and support each other in making the room to make it happen.

All opinions in this blog are my own

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