by Deanna Parkton and Ed Hunter
Many modern workplaces glorify the hustle; doing more with less (less time, with less people and fewer resources). Hustle is results-oriented, but the process of how we work, and how we live our lives, still matters. A lot. In a work culture focused relentlessly on results, and less on process, the day-to-day can feel like running a neverending sprint. And us humans were not designed to sprint all the time. Racing all the time leads to burnout.
Managing burnout is important for everyone – not only is it crucial for your own mental and physical health, but employees who take care of their mental wellness are more flexible, adaptable and resilient. And successful! By focusing on how and when we work, we can work intentionally and with purpose. We’re more effective. And we’re healthier.
Here are some hacks to be intentional about your day and ultimately, find more peace and wellness throughout your work week.
[ lahyf-hak ]
noun: life hack
a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.
Take Command of Your Calendar
Be deliberate and protective of your calendar. While you may not have control of many things in the workplace, you typically have control of when and how you get your work done. An open calendar is an open invitation to your time. By using calendar blocks to schedule out your day, you can set yourself up for a more productive and mindful day.
Bookend your calendar management time
Consider blocking off “Admin Time” for the first and last hour (or half hour) of the day. This way, you can avoid meetings during these crucial parts of your day.
At the start of the day:
Review your day’s agenda, prepare for that day’s meetings as well as identify the top priorities for the day. This may also be a time to review your inbox and assess what needs immediate response or what can wait.
Also consider setting an intention for the day – if you know that you have a more difficult meeting or project approaching, think about how you want to approach that event. Maybe you even take time to do a brief meditation to get yourself in the right headspace.
At the end of the day:
Assess anything that needs your attention before you close out the day and tag items for the following day. Review the next day’s agenda and access any relevant materials so that you will be ready to dive in the next morning.
You might be saying “But I don’t have time to do these things!”. It can feel that way when you are felling pressed for time. But time spent intentionally planning and managing your priorities is like an investment that pays for itself many times over. And the cost of NOT doing may be even higher to your well-being, and effectiveness.
Throughout the Day:
Schedule in Project-Based Work and Focus Time
- Block off time for independent work such as working on projects or general focus time. Focus time may include assessing the day or week’s priorities and identifying how you are going to tackle your tasks. Focus time may also be time that you devote to strategy or research.
Set Your Availability for Meetings
- The time that is left outside of your Admin Time, Project-Based Work and Focus Time is time that you are available for meetings. While you may have to be flexible to accommodate others from time to time, you can encourage others to schedule time in the appropriate openings. Leave these openings at the most desirable times of day for meetings. If you know that you have a mental crash around 3:00pm, make sure to schedule in a quick break or focus time to tackle the rest of your day.
Take Control of Your Breaks
Schedule in 10 minute breaks every few hours. You can use these breaks for things like meditation, responding to texts, checking your personal email or if you work from home, a quick tidying up or some quick food prep. What you need at that moment may vary from hour-to-hour and day-to-day, so be sure to do a quick mental and physical check-in before you decide what to spend your time on. Think about doing something that contributes to the rest of your life, ultimately contributing to your wellness and efficiency as an employee.
Communicate Mindfully – “Don’t React, Respond…”
We have all been there. An especially frustrating or stress-inducing email or request can ruin your day or even your week. A frustrating request may spike your adrenaline and cause you to take immediate action to alleviate the situation – sort of flight or flight. This instinct might be appropriate, but in the modern workplace, there is a high risk that you’ll regret a triggered response.
When your amygdala gets spiked, try to avoid responding right away. Sit on it before you decide how you want to respond. You may even decide to wait until the following day. Think of someone you respect (I like to think of Buddha), and ask “What would Buddha do in this situation?” When in doubt, you can even just stall.
When in doubt, try this technique. It’s called “Show High Interest, Then Stall”. It makes a great acronym, but I’ll leave that to you to spell out! First, respond to the request with a non-committal but genuine-sounding reply: “Thank you for your email. I will get back to you tomorrow once I have time to review this in more depth.” Then, take the time and do whatever works for you to bring your pulse down, slow your thoughts, and allow you to be at your best as you problem-solve and decide what you will do next. When you are at your best, there’s nothing you can’t handle.
For more ideas on how you can strategize your work, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to face challenges head on. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here.
Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.com and she can be reached at email@example.com.
Ed Hunter is a Professional Career and Executive Coach and principal of Life in Progress Coaching. He is certified by the international Coaching Federation as a Professional Certified Coach.. He is also a Certified Executive and Leadership Development Coach. Ed has coached over a thousand professionals to create authentic careers and balanced work lives, and has a special interest in career development for adults with Autism. To connect with Ed, schedule a free consultation here.