What are your Lessons Learned from Quarantine?

I lead seminars at companies and conferences. When not quarantined, that is. I love public speaking and miss it greatly right now.


One of my most popular seminars is Project Management for Regular Folks. I’ve been teaching that course since 2016 because I believe that, while not all of us are project managers by trade or title, we all have projects to manage.


On last week’s blog post (the one where I bared my soul on how NOT OKAY I felt), I received this comment…


Additionally, there is a popular article on Medium.com by Julio Vincent Gambuto entitled, Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting. Gambuto’s article (not incorrectly) assumes that we will all be so happy to re-enter our “normal” lives that we are going to be more-than-usually susceptible to manipulation from brands and media messaging.


Couple Janet’s comment with Gambuto’s dire warnings, and I started thinking…


Project Management!!


Makes sense, right?


In the late 1990s, I was managing lots of projects in my career. I was not managing people yet and many of my projects had a project team of one: me.


In my first real job, the project for which I was hired was to develop, deploy, analyze, and report the annual employee feedback survey. Through this recurring project, I learned about documentation, organization, task management, and…Lessons Learned reports.


Throughout the entire project, I kept a word doc entitled “Lessons Learned from Employee Feedback Survey 199_” and updated it with bullet points throughout the entire three-month project.


The following year, when it was survey time again, the first document I pulled off the network drive was the Lessons Learned report from the prior year.


What is a Lessons Learned report?


According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a Lessons Learned repository captures the following:


  • The learning that occurs on every project
  • Our own project-based learning experiences
  • Lessons we observed others learn


Additionally, both the PMI and my experience dictate that Lessons Learned must be captured while the project is underway. If you wait until the end of the project, your memory will notoriously filter out some important details that you learned.


Lessons Learned repositories help us remember the good things we would like to repeat and the bad things we’d like to avoid in the future.


One of the biggest cognitive traps that brings my coaching clients to me for help is the thought that “I’ll surely remember that. I don’t need to write it down.”


In my book, Corral Your To-Dos…and don’t rely on your brain – at all, it’s clear from the title that my opinion on that subject is that our memories are lousy.


So, don’t rely on your brain in this instance either.


Once the stay-at-home orders are lifted, our (understandable) euphoria may erase the lessons we learned about ourselves, our families, and the world during this difficult time.


Whether through gaslighting or normal cognitive heuristics, we are going to forget or numb our memories to make this experience more palatable in hindsight.


If you have changed, or your perspective on the world has changed during this time of isolation, take time to make note of that before quarantine ends.


Because, I promise, your brain is going to want to let those memories go as soon as possible.


Make your own “Lessons Learned from Coronavirus Quarantine 2020” document. Fill it with bullet points. What made you happy? What made you sad? What, if anything, would you have done differently? What did you see happening in the world? What positive lessons do you think we should carry forward?


Janet Schiesl’s Lessons Learned report may help her construct her retirement plans.


My Lessons Learned report will include how important writing is to me.


What will yours be?


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Seana Turner

    I think your point about capturing thoughts “in the moment” is so true! If I don’t write it down when I think of it, I forget it. Fun idea to keep a running list of lightbulb moments during all of this. I bet it will be very interesting to look back on when this is (fingers crossed!) all over.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Absolutely. I started my list today and was surprised at how long it got in such a short session of brainstorming. I would never have remembered all that stuff. Some of it is really important, too.

  2. Janet Schiesl

    Thank you for including me thoughts on your last post. I love the project management part of my work, although I’ve had no formal training in it.

  3. Linda Samuels

    I like the nudge you’re giving to capture your experiences (or lessons learned) as you go. Without a way to record them, we will forget them. Writing is a regular part of my routine whether it is journaling, blogging, or corresponding. During this time of quarantine, I’ve had many conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and clients. So many ideas and feelings are surfacing within and around me. I’ve been capturing them. Some of these are seed ideas for things to come. Others have morphed directly into the current week’s blog post. For instance, the post I wrote this week is about letting go of the ‘shoulds,’ which developed from an exchange I had with a friend recently.

    At the beginning of the quarantine, I created a Word doc that I regularly update. It’s called “Coronavirus Info & Insights.” The doc contains subheads with practical categories like “Important Numbers” and “Business Resources.” The list also includes other categories, including “Happy Surprises,” “Ways People Are Spending Time,” “Challenges,” and “Things/Changes I’m Noticing.” There are many other categories too.

    The reality is that so much is changing, and my ideas and thoughts are overflowing. That’s not a bad thing. The best I can do is capture them and know that they’ll be available to me when and if I need them.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Wow, Linda. Thank you for your contribution. Your list sounds like a treasure chest of information. The “Parking Lot” is another project management tool I like to use. It is similar to the GTD Someday/Maybe list. I have put a few projects/thoughts in my parking lot for later consideration. I don’t have the mental bandwidth now, but, as you mentioned, pulling the overflow of ideas and thoughts out of my head is freeing.

  4. Julie Bestry

    You are SO right, Melissa. My biggest lesson, which I have to keep learning over and over, is that “busy does not mean productive.” I’m trying to keep busy to keep the stress at bay, but I’m often finding myself rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s important to keep your goals front and center. I love tracking the lessons learned, and Linda’s thoughts in her post above are really apt.

    Sarah Kendzior and similar authors have talked about how it’s important to keep a running list of how things in regimes that become authoritarian change, bit by bit, over time to prevent forgetting the way things used to be. I think we need to remember what the “before-times” were like so we can figure out where we want to get (or get back to). And yes, I like the parking lot concept for things — “let’s just put a pin in that” — and hope we’ll get back to.


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