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How To Find Some Certainty In Very Uncertain Times

I haven't blogged much lately. Why? Well, I've been feeling, in a word, uncertain. Uncertain about the future, and wondering what is going to happen.


Our president-elect wants to keep us in suspense, when that's the last thing we need right now. Speaking only for myself, I don't need more suspense; 2016 has already provided all the suspense I can handle! This year has left me mentally exhausted. What I'm looking for now is certainty, and the feeling that all will be well.

Doing Business in Uncertain Times
I raised the topic with someone I know, who mentioned the uncertainty they're feeling at work lately. A lot of questions hang in the air, and projects are on the back burner until they can get a better sense of what might happen in the coming weeks, or months. The mood seems to be: let's wait and see what happens.

For example, will the new overtime regulations that just went into effect be repealed weeks from now with the stroke of a pen? Will regulations change significantly, and swiftly? Will we suddenly be paying $50 for a pair of cotton underwear if a 35% tariff is placed on imports? What could the unemployment rate look like in October 2017? Anyone, anyone?

The uncertainty we're living through is on everyone's mind, but we're not talking about are the unintended workplace consequences of the uncertainty itself. How are we supposed to deal with so much uncertainty?

Think about some of life's most minor uncertainties -- e.g., will our pizza arrive in 45 minutes, or 15 minutes? -- and how we react to them. Do we assume the pizza will arrive in 45 minutes and step out of the house for a few minutes, or do we assume it will be delivered monetarily and stay close to home? Hmm. Most likely, we stop in our own tracks and wait for the delivery.

Now put uncertainty into a current workplace context. Will our client re-sign the contract in January? Should be green light that company location in another country? Which suppliers should we sign with in 2017? Anyone, anyone?

The Gilded Age...of Analysis Paralysis?
Hmm. Uncertainty can quickly push us into a holding pattern until we can get a better idea of what's happening. As we circle a decision, our stress level rises and analysis paralysis begins to rule the day. Hey, let's set another meeting for next week since we couldn't seem to make a decision this week! Maybe we'll have more information then. Too much uncertainty takes a toll on our ability to work, to plan, and to feel confident in our business decisions. Nobody wants to look stupid in hindsight.

I'm woman enough to admit that I've certainly felt this way as I've scanned workplace headlines over the last few weeks. At first, I thought I was suffering an extremely annoying case of writer's block (funny how working on my fiction novel is going just fine...) and I told myself to stop overthinking things and pick a blog topic. Still, no luck. What was going on? Why was I feeling so stuck? It's never been this bad.

Then it dawned on me: I've been feeling blindsided by all the uncertainty! I've been feeling frozen in my tracks, and unable to make simple blogging decisions as a result. Sure, I could blog about this or that, but this or that could change significantly, and soon. And forget about a 2017 workplace predictions post. I'm not that brave this year.

So what can you do if all the broader uncertainty has worked its way into your every-day workplace decisions? What if you're suddenly feeling overwhelmed with analysis paralysis?

Tips For Dealing With Uncertainty
The single most important step you can take right now is to acknowledge the broader disruption that we're all in the process of experiencing. Try to accept the feeling of uncertainty as much as you can, and know that you're in good company.

Then try to understand how all the uncertainty could be impacting your day-to-day business decisions. Are you putting off decisions that once were easy to make? What are you waiting for, exactly? Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You have to start somewhere! Here, watch this video that offers great tips for dealing with uncertainty at work. It's awesome, and I say that with a high level of certainty.


Most of all, know that we're all living together through uncertain times. It's a shared, communal experience. Nobody has a crystal ball, nobody has all the facts, and nobody is immune from making mistakes. All you can do is to plan ahead for 2017 based on the best information you have right now. Just do the best that you can, and keep moving forward a little bit every day.

Above all, stay flexible and don't sweat the small stuff. You're already carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and that's enough for now.

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