My smartwatch keeps telling me what a disappointment I am. Pace, distance, move, stand goals — all my stats all down. And I’m discouraged.

But, hey, I’m at the tail end of a global pandemic! I sit all day at my computer, in front of a Zoom screen with my team members and clients staring back at me from their home offices in front of their Zoom screens. It’s exhausting.

Meanwhile, my smartwatch shouts at me, “Get up! Move! Reach your workout goal!”

I feel like an insolent teenager trying to dodge my mother’s nagging. Somedays, when I’m tired of being harassed, I take it off and let it stew on the charger just to make a point. You are not the boss of me.

But here’s the thing. I’ve been more tired than usual this past year, and I’m typically full of energy and enthusiasm.  The pandemic and its implications have changed our world. Some of us have lost family members and friends. Most of us are working in entirely new ways, either working way too much or we’ve lost our jobs and we are anxious about the future. Our children are still being home-schooled, something I’m sure millions of families didn’t see coming. We have been socially disconnected from loved ones. We are cooking every meal from home or have become weary of ordering endless take-out. In short, it’s been a gauntlet.

According to Dr. Jennifer Payne, director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins, nearly all of us are grieving the loss of life as we knew it. “We’re just in a completely different world right now,” she says. “A lot of things are not going to go back to the way they were. And so that causes grief and is a normal reaction to a big change.”

Acceptance and self-compassion will help, notes Dr. Jessica Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis. “We have to be able to give ourselves a little bit of grace,” she says. “In other words, accept that you might not work as efficiently or get as much done right now.”

So, here’s what my smartwatch should be doing right now. It should be offering grace and encouragement, not reminders that all of my stats are down. How about pinging me with a banner that says, “Hey, you stood up once today — that’s a total victory!” Or maybe: “It looks like you got out of bed. Hooray!” Or, “You’ve had a couple of birthdays since you started wearing this, slowing down is okay. I’m on your side.”  Or, “Chin up, buttercup. Tomorrow is another day.”

Or here’s a novel idea. What if I relied less on my smartwatch for kudos?  What if I found some self-compassion and gave myself a break, given what I’ve (we’ve) been through?  Maybe it’s time to leave my smartwatch at home until it becomes smart enough to take into the account the larger picture, which I’m sure they will be able to do one day soon. 


  • Dede Henley


    Henley Leadership Group

    I founded Henley Leadership Group 22 years ago to help leaders and organizations create more equitable and productive workplaces and ignite the nascent leadership potential of employees at all levels. Through individual coaching and programs designed to generate positive business results, Henley Leadership Group has served thousands of corporate leaders in a variety of industries, including healthcare, technology, energy and finance. Away from work, I live with my husband, and try not to meddle too much in the lives of my half-dozen kids.