This time of year Michelle Robbins is typically putting the finishing touches on her family’s summer plans — namely figuring out the rotation of camps for her three kids.
Not this year.
As for so many others, Covid-19 has put their lives on hold, casting carefully crafted plans and choreographed schedules into chaos. Gone are conferences, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, baby showers, birthday parties, family reunions, weddings, and funerals.
Once beholden to our calendars, we’re tearing them up and wary of filling them back up not knowing what the future looks like.
Will school still be out? Will summer camps go on? Will it be safe to travel again?
Robbins prefers to describe the state of work and family as “life on slow.”
The Boxford mother is adjusting to a new normal with all three children — 7, 12, and 15 — at home for the foreseeable future. Her husband’s working from home full time, and so is she, as an executive at ReacHire, a Boston company that helps women resume their careers.
“We have to adjust to a new way of living,” Robbins said. “We have to let go of the things we miss. We will do those things again.”
Perhaps no one is more obsessed with planning than brides to be ready to say I do. But with travel bans, hotels closing, and gatherings restricted to 10 people, many weddings in March, April, and May have been postponed to late summer and fall.
“I tend to work with people who are big planners, Type A people. One of the things I try to prepare them for: It’s going to look different from what you think,” said Boston wedding photographer Lisa Rigby, who has had to reschedule five nuptials due to Covid-19 concerns.
Even with new dates, Rigby anticipates weddings will be smaller with so much uncertainty about how long strict social-distancing measures will remain in place. That means the reception for 180 guests might need to become a party for 40. Meanwhile, some of Rigby’s clients with late-May and June weddings are contemplating keeping their original dates and just going to City Hall instead. The big party can wait.
The advice Rigby always gives to brides and grooms on their wedding days seems to apply to the rest of us living in the age of coronavirus: “You need to go with the flow. You’re managing in the moment.”
Jack Derby, a Boston consultant to small and medium-size businesses, is a self-described “calendar junkie.” Normally, he would be telling his clients it’s crunch time, meeting sales goals for the first quarter, which ends March 31, and to start planning for the second quarter.
Instead, his message is more basic: “Don’t pay attention to a plan right now. Your first job is to really survive.”
Derby’s new priorities for his clients revolve around staying healthy: “You have to take care of yourself, your family, and your employees.”
And if you do that, “then the business will work itself out.”
Derby understands some planning must take place, but given how quickly the virus has disrupted lives, he doesn’t recommend looking out more than a couple of weeks.
“Just plan for wicked short periods of time,” he said.
But Lee Senderov finds old habits hard to break.
“We’re known as the people you have to call three months out to get a play date,” said Senderov, president of Richline Digital, which is part of Berkshire Hathaway.
Senderov and her husband use a spreadsheet to coordinate who has important work-related calls when, and who can keep an eye on the children. Their sons, 4 and 6, take online classes in their Chestnut Hill home and still eat lunch from blue and green bento boxes she and her husband prepare the night before.
Senderov continues to book summer camps, conduct research on a family vacation to Iceland in August, and scope out how the family might spend Thanksgiving in Los Angeles. Perhaps it’s all a coping strategy, trying to hold onto something familiar when nothing is anymore.
As much as she revels in her life in spreadsheets, the reality of it all, Senderov acknowledged, is that she can truly plan only one week at a time, “because we just don’t know what’s around the corner.”
Imagine the predicament of Dusty Rhodes, who makes plans for a living — specifically, for events for hundreds if not thousands of people. But these days, she’s in the rescheduling business. Of the 22 events her company was hired to organize from March to June, 20 have been postponed.
“We are right in the epicenter of what you can’t do,” said Rhodes, president of Conventures, which puts on events like the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, Boston Marathon Expo, and Boston Harborfest.
Now, her team is scrambling to find new dates and venues in the fall, which can be difficult, competing with business meetings and conferences that fill up the calendar at that time of year. She is also telling clients the rescheduled events are likely to be smaller as sponsors reassess their financial commitments heading into an economic downturn.
“The beauty of the event business is that it is 50 percent planning," said Rhodes, “and 50 percent of reacting to everything else around you.”
Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.