10 Tips to Keep Your ‘Mind in the Best Place’ During Coronavirus Chaos

This article was featured in the online version of the Philadelphia Business Journal on March 23, 2020.

Owning any business is never easy. Even in flush times, there are always new challenges and speed bumps along the way. But if I’ve learned anything since founding my company 19 years ago, you don’t pull the figurative car over. You find ways to create new momentum. You adapt immediately. Or as a friend of mine who is one of the most effective operators I know says, “you get it right, right now.”

So as we watch the Orwellian real-life drama that is COVID-19, it could be easy to consume the news 24/7, none of it reassuring. And unless you work for an essential business — those countless heroes at hospitals, police and fire departments, and more doing the heavy lifting right now — you are not at your place of work while the news unfolds around you. And if you’re like me, you need the feel of your office and the energy of your colleagues and business contacts like a 2-year-old needs a blanket.

So some thoughts for anyone in business to put their mind in the best place to keep both momentum and spirits up and get through what I hope is in our rear view mirror ASAP. And above all, please keep all of the many people who are suffering right now in your thoughts. Do your best to keep fighting the good fight in their name.

1. Zoom. This is infinitely more effective than conference calls. Something about seeing someone’s face, expressions, and being able to connect in a more meaningful way goes a long way. Whether it’s with your team, or someone you were supposed to meet in person with, whether formally or informally, leverage technology to get a slice of normalcy. Set up as many “zooms” with contacts as you can. Whether you were supposed to have a coffee or a cocktail, by all means pour away to keep it as real-life as possible.

2. Exercise. If you already have a routine, consider switching it up. Something new will do more than help you physically; it will force your mind to pivot as it takes in a new routine. I found myself doing a group boot camp with my wife and kids the other morning, pretty atypical for the morning of St. Patrick’s Day. Besides being good for you, the whole activity found us laughing at each other. A nice change of pace. There are tons of classes available on YouTube so pick what motivates you.

3. Be Mindful. It is very easy to let your mind wander you down a path of pure negativity. Do your best to take even a few minutes and shut off the chatter inside that has nothing positive to share. This isn’t about ignoring reality, it’s that your perspective on how to manage this new reality makes all the difference in how you act. The more present you can be, the more effective you will be.

4. Feed Your Brain. Pick up a book, whether it’s fiction or a book on leadership, and ease into it when you can. Even reading for 15 minutes a day would give your mind a rest or in the case of business-related books, give you new perspectives and new tools to help your business.

5. TED Talks Rule. You can choose from infinite categories on TED, from technology and science to personal growth and inspiration. They’re typically no longer than 15-20 minutes and every one I watch, I learn from. Some of the most inspiring talks are given by people who have come from the most dire circumstances, and sure to give anyone perspective on this current situation.

6. Be Grateful. Even as the news turns dismal, look around you. If you reflected on what you have in your life, I’m sure you would lose count of all that you have to be thankful for.

7. Help. In my “other job” as vice president of the Philadelphia Police Foundation, rest assured that these brave men and women are showing up every day to work to protect us. Same with first responders, doctors, and nurses. Think of what you can do to help them through donations or otherwise.

8. Food for Thought. As another example, I have plenty of friends in the restaurant business who are really hurting. Think of what you can do to support the people who have supported you through the years. Many are serving take-out meal options and raising money to provide gift cards to their currently jobless staff. Support them as much as you can.

9. Be Real. The world is a scary place right now. It’s on everyone’s mind. I wouldn’t foresee getting into the business at hand on any call without first checking in with those participating. When people are able to acknowledge and feel that we are indeed in this together, and that we all have varying worries and concerns, they’re best able to re-focus and tackle the task at hand, in the moment.

10. Keep it Philly. Remind yourself that Philadelphia is a tough town with a big heart. Let’s put both to work, look out for each other, help who you can, and do all we can to keep pushing forward.

— Peter Madden, President and CEO of AgileCat