Some time ago, I found that life is not about dividing work and life, but more about ensuring a surplus flow of energy throughout a period.
I stopped thinking about how I’m going to get this energy back from things I do after work (like pursuing my hobby or going for a walk in the woods) and concentrated on how to take care of myself at the office (virtual or physical).
I then compiled the following list to remind me where to concentrate my attention and how to regenerate at work. I’m sharing it as maybe some of you can also make use of it.
- Accept that you need to regenerate — it’s a sign of strength to take care of oneself in adverse conditions. If you can’t take care of yourself, you won’t take care of others and the business ahead. Block time-slots for breaks and regeneration (walk, meditation — anything that works for you) if your agenda is usually packed with meetings. An equally important element when blocking slots is to respect them.
- Re-organize your calendar (whether for a day or the whole week) — cancel meetings that can be an e-mail, record audio/video, and work asynchronously with others where possible. When invited to a forum, ask what contribution you are expected to make. If none or not defined, maybe you can skip the call. Perhaps you can take some of them outdoors.
- Sit down and do nothing (or go for a walk) — this is probably the most controversial point. Sometimes doing nothing is more productive than doing anything. When we do nothing, we can finally hear our thoughts and get new ideas. It’s the same effect as when you’re taking a long bath or a long shower and, often, great ideas appear.
- Do a brain dump — it can be combined with the previous step. Note down all the actions, thoughts, ideas that appear in your head. A brain dump will clear your head and you’ll be able to finally see and tidy up all the things flying around that vye for your attention. In effect, you probably will have more clarity for the next thing in line.
- Block time slots for deep work — “activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limits.” This can be translated to creative, non-recurring work where we create something new. This work is based on single-threading and a state of deep, uninterrupted focus. Uninterrupted means no Slack messages, e-mails, hovering over your phone or listening to a podcast.
- Be more assertive — say ‘no’ more often than you say ‘yes’ to things. Quality work is more rewarding than juggling ten different areas providing mediocre results at best. Saying ‘no’ to some things is saying ‘yes’ to others (like focus time, self-care, family time, accomplishing your own goals, etc.). It’s sometimes difficult to be assertive because ’we don’t want to miss an opportunity, whatever that is. We also forget we’re missing out on others, the ones that only we can advocate for.
- Keep regular time to self-reflect. Observe, iterate, work out action points whose results you will measure, conduct experiments… that will make you more satisfied with the time you spend working.
- Find and contribute to communities at work that provide you with the joy of growth. Make yourself at home there so that you can relax while developing, simply because you feel comfortable and unafraid of doing or saying something stupid. Build relationships there. These meetings or chats with people from that group can be a refuge among daily duties.
- Do not try to save the world after 5pm and maintain Slack hygiene. FOMO does not pay off.
- Change positions during work. I stand, I walk, but I sit in the comfy armchair when I have brainstorming project calls.
- Don’t search for balance — I don’t believe in the positive effects of searching for balance in life. I understand that one expects to keep all areas in life in check, but this approach does not work for me. I like to focus on one particular area to achieve extraordinary effects, sometimes neglecting other areas. It’s not a permanent state, yet it can last for days or weeks where I’m “out of balance”.
- Get to know your nervous system — each of us has a different nervous system in terms of how many stimuli we need or tolerate and how quickly we process information. This is also connected with intro- and extraversion. By getting to know your needs and reactions better you can know when to stop or when to keep going.
I’d love to hear from you if this resonates with you and learn what other practices you’d add to or remove from the list. Contact me via LinkedIn and share your thoughts!