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How to optimize my time fighting COVID-19?

by Ian David Moss 1 min read19th Mar 20201 comment

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Hi all, I could use some advice. I care a lot about having a positive impact on the world through my work, and over the past few years, I've tried hard to put myself in a position to be of service in a moment when our institutions are struggling to make effective decisions that carry huge consequences in the face of great uncertainty. And yet now that such a moment has arrived, I find myself feeling incredibly frustrated at how little I am capable of helping, because this crisis seems almost surgically designed to immobilize parents of small children (of which I have two). We are all healthy and safe for the time being, but with no third-party caretakers to lean on I am lucky if I can manage even three hours of concentrated work time a day, and that is with my wife still on maternity leave from her job. In addition, while I have access to several meaningful assets (see below), I don't have a lot of relevant domain expertise or connections to public health decision-makers. So I am struggling both with very limited time and bandwidth to work on this and a lack of clarity around how best to prioritize the time I do have.

Here are some assets I am theoretically able to bring to the table:

  • General intelligence and strong strategic thinking capabilities
  • Direct or second-degree connections to a wide network of decision-makers at important institutions, especially among US foundations
  • Expertise in synthesizing research (with the caveat that my knowledge of biomedical research is limited)
  • Expertise in coaching or otherwise assisting teams to integrate evidence into their decision-making
  • Expertise in modeling risk and policy decisions
  • A prominent voice in a small community of do-gooding young adults with time and smarts on their hands

I would welcome any thoughts or suggestions relating to the following:

  • How to think about balancing my responsibility to the world (huge scope, but widely distributed burden of care) against my responsibility to my children (tiny scope, but burden of care almost entirely concentrated on me and my wife)
  • Strategies to create more time for work without harming my kids' health, mental wellbeing, or socio-emotional development, particularly my adult-attention-craving 5-year-old
  • Strategies to mobilize the communities where I have credibility in ways that are extremely time-efficient and likely to lead to good outcomes
  • Problems that are especially important right now that could benefit from my expertise or other assets I list above, even after taking time constraints into account
  • How to judge when I am in danger of overstretching my ability to give people smart advice or take effective action in the absence of deep knowledge of epidemiology and public health

Note that when it comes to the first two items above, I'm mostly (but not exclusively) interested in hearing perspectives from fellow parents. If you offer an opinion on these items, please say whether you are speaking from experience. Thanks!

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