As you navigate the ups-and-downs of the Covid-19 pandemic, your determination to meet your goals can detour you from what’s really important. Every once in a while, it pays to step back and consider a bird’s-eye view of your trajectory so you can stay on target. This allows you to take stock in where you were, where you are now and where you want to steer during the challenges in 2021. Here are 20 essential rules to guide you as you map a satisfying, productive career:

  1. Signup For A Package Deal. If you sign up for success, you sign up for roadblocks. It’s a package deal. You probably have felt defeated, and you will again. As long as you’re still trying and haven’t quit, you haven’t failed. Do your best, but give yourself slack to stumble and make mistakes. Be chancy, break a few rules and leave your job better than your found it. Join the human race and accept the fact that just because you make a mistake or get behind doesn’t make you the mistake. After you slip-up, forget or miss the mark, fix it, forgive yourself and move on because you signed up for a package deal.
  2. Stack “Cans” Instead Of “Cannot’s. Check the disgruntled attitude if you bring it to the frustrations of WFH. Complaining when things go south doesn’t fix anything and only makes matters worse. Learn to bounce back from setbacks and bad news by stacking your “cans.” Avoid blowing things out of proportion; look for gains in losses and the upside of a downside situation; focus on the solution, not the problem; pinpoint opportunity in challenge and step back from roadblocks and brainstorm how to turn them into steppingstones.
  3. Adopt The Perspective Less Taken. There’s always two sides to every story. Your ability to put yourself in a coworker’s shoes and see her or his perspective is a powerful tool. The eighteen inches from your head to your heart is the longest journey you’ll ever take. But empathy connects you to the feelings of others, makes you a more compassionate colleague and frees you from your own narrow thoughts and snap judgments. It neutralizes anger and frustration and helps you recognize that everybody you encounter at work is struggling with their own inner burdens—the same as you are.
  4. Put Down Your Gavel. You, like everybody you work with, have that kick-butt judge in your head that bludgeons you for slip-ups. It tells you how worthless, selfish or inadequate you are. Making judgments is how you make sense of the world, but it can sabotage your career especially in extraordinary times. Coming down hard on yourself after frustrations and defeat undermines your success. Put away your gavel. After a letdown, substitute your kinder, supportive voice and amp up your job satisfaction, performance and productivity.
  5. Learn To Say No Instead Of Yo. If you’re the kind who agrees to every opportunity that comes along, you could be undermining your productivity. Learning to say no is a form of self-care. When you always say yes to requests, you automatically say no to yourself. And you’re not working freely, possibly overloading yourself and headed for burnout, which truncates your career. Recognize that saying no instead of yo is a strength, not a weakness. And if a colleague says no, accept no instead of push for yo.
  6. Shy Away From Jumping To Conclusions. Sometimes you might think what your boss or team member thinks about you is what you think. That’s called mind-reading—jumping to negative conclusions with thoughts that pop into your head. When you do this, you sell yourself a bill of goods. You save yourself a lot of unnecessary misery by questioning your automatic thoughts that have little to do with truth and waiting until the hard evidence is in before drawing negative conclusions.
  7. Stick Your Neck Out . Instead of fleeing from the pandemic’s unknown, stretch into the unfamiliar and unexpected. The nature of the Coronavirus is uncertainty. It’s one of life’s paradoxes. Stepping outside your comfort zone, risking your neck and embracing uncertainty infuse more oxygen into your profession. Pinpoint that place in your career where you’ve been hiding and stick your neck out. What edge can you go to WFH today? What unpredictable bridge can you jump off to sprout your wings? What limb can you reach to get to the fruit of the tree?
  8. Be A Goodwill Hunter. Be as careful about what you say about coworkers as you are about what you say about yourself. Gossiping, badmouthing and back stabbing are the ingredients for career suicide. Goodwill while WFH is about being a good steward, committed to selfless service for the common good. Think about what you want colleagues to think and say about you and reciprocate the favor. Looking for and dispensing goodwill—respect, caring and positive regard—boosts morale, builds friendly and cooperative connections and increases job satisfaction and productivity especially in these extraordinary times.
  9. Be For Yourself. Are you on your own side? Do you look out for your best interests? Can you advocate for your special needs WFH? It’s important to be for yourself—not against others, but for yourself. If not, then who will be for you? When you fall short of a goal (and you will), refrain from scolding yourself or putting yourself down. Scale career obstacles by being true to yourself, learn what challenge you can rise from and never, ever abandon yourself to participate in someone else’s underestimation of your ability.
  10. Curb Your Perfection. In its clutches, perfection tightens you in a stranglehold, injects its rigidity into your bloodstream and chokes the flow of spontaneous and creative ideas. Un-curbed, it causes you to set unrealistic goals, try too hard and over focus on shortcomings. It blinds you to your strengths and from generating your best work. When you sidestep perfectionism and set realistic WFH standards for yourself, job performance and productivity skyrockets.
  11. Shun People Pleasing. We all want to be acknowledged and appreciated for our work. But if you trim yourself to suit everybody else, you whittle yourself down to dust. You’re the sculptor of your career. Imagine a huge lump of clay in front of you as you clutch a sculpting knife. Instead of handing the knife to someone else, you carve your career to your own true form. Relieve yourself of the chronic habit of proving yourself first and pleasing yourself last. Get in the mode of pleasing yourself first and proving yourself second.
  12. Get Cozy With Uncertainty. If you’re like most people, you count on certainty and predictability. During the pandemic, you want to know how things will happen in your career. When certainty is upended, it can be frightening. Your natural need for predictability doesn’t fit the nature of the unknown, which is full of ups-and-downs. The mindset of “maybe” loosens up the need to have your job tailored to your expectations. Getting comfortable with uncertainty prepares you for the inevitable curve balls that will surely be thrown your way.
  13. Extinguish Your Blame Thrower. How often do you blame the WFH challenges or coworkers for your shortcomings? How many times have you fired your blame thrower on innocent bystanders? When things don’t go your way, do you look inside and check the expiration date for the true reasons? The mark of the consummate professional is someone who can take ownership for their slip-ups (without self-judgment), admit their responsibility to colleagues then course correct and move on.
  14. Perform In Line With Your Values. Don’t do anything at work that you wouldn’t tell your loved ones. Even if it’s something no one will ever know, you will know. And you have to live with yourself in your own skin. Whatever your actions are at work, make sure they’re in line with your personal values in order to adapt to the new normal with confidence and peace of mind.
  15. Acknowledge Your Tallcomings. There’s a reason why tallcomings isn’t in Webster’s and shortcomings is. There’s no such word as tallcomings. I made it up because we tend to ignore our positive attributes and clobber ourselves with negatives. It’s important for you to recognize your limitations without dropping your head in your hands. But you can’t have an honest picture of yourself if you don’t affirm the positive aspects. And that means your list of tallcomings equals your list of shortcomings.
  16. Create Micro-Chillers. Always have a “to-be list” in the form of micro-chillers alongside your “to-do list.” A mere five minutes of solitude, reflection and meditative breathing offsets the frenzied workday, relieves stress, enhances mental clarity and loosens physical tensions. A quiet mind puts on the brakes of the comings-and-goings in your head so when you return to your desk, you’re filled with rich, innovative and productive ideas.
  17. Send Self-Doubt Packing. The new normal is a time when doubt can take up residence in your head and eat you alive. Doubt casts a large shadow over truth. Unless you recognize it, doubt darkens your capabilities. Watch it with a dispassionate eye, much like you would observe a blemish on your hand. Hold it at arm’s length, and you will step out of doubt’s shadow into a clearer vision of the self-truths about your WFH possibilities.
  18. Cultivate Resilience. You have the strength to withstand daily job challenges and obstacles—the kind journalist Judith Viorst wrote about: “Strength is the capacity to break a Hershey bar into four pieces with our bare hands and eat just one of the pieces.” In the same way an acorn contains within it a mighty oak, you contain deep within you roots of strength whether you recognize them or not. Get in touch with those roots of stamina so your acorn can sprout into a giant oak to withstand current challenges. And your deep roots can never be reached by a hard frost.
  19. Cop An Attitude Of Gratitude. Whatever you focus on expands. Always wanting more increases the feeling that your work life is lacking, and you want more and more to satisfy the hunger. The secret sauce to job satisfaction is to want and express gratitude for what you already have. Naming all the things you’re grateful for—the people, situations and accomplishments that make your work life meaningful and worthwhile—suddenly expands with deeper appreciation, abundance and fulfillment.
  20. Celebrate Ups And Downs Equally. Celebrate the accomplishments and accolades in your job. But don’t take the highs anymore seriously than the lows. And don’t take the lows anymore seriously than the highs. When you stay off the roller coaster which will surely come your way, and welcome the lows and highs equally, you don’t suffer the unpleasant effects of the lows. And you’re able to steer the course of your career in the direction you want to go and find the happiness and success you seek.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Founder and CAO of ComfortZones Digital and Author of 40 books.

    ComfortZones Digital

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is Founder and Chief Architect Officer (CAO) of ComfortZones Digital--the digital companion to mitigate workplace stress. He is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself."