Autumn was a busy time for me and my girlfriend.
We’ve moved from a single room micro-appartment to one more conducive to two people working from home all the time. We’ve also adopted a cat. Both of those things contributed to our sense of calmness and satisfaction.
On the other hand we’ve both been swamped with work. I don’t think I’ve ever done as much in the same amount of time as I did in the last 3 months. And my gf is not on vacation either.
All that has led us to come up with the following three things to take care of in order not to go crazy in this special time:
There is always more to do.
Backlogs are usually infinite.
TODO lists have hydra-like tendencies: check off one item and two more pop up in it’s place.
There is always just one more thing to read, one more task to get done, one more event to attend, etc.
Without healthy limits this leads straight to burnout.
Here are three ideas to try:
Every day select up to three most important tasks and schedule them first. If you attack your tasks in order of importance you will a) feel more satisfied when you inevitably have to cut off your todo list b) you will generate more actual value and everyone will be happier even if you drop some of the lower-value items. See here or here for more about this.
Do not let work spread it’s tentacles throughout your whole life. Have a defined end time. Have a separate work-space. Consider a transition routine to underline when you’re working and when you’re NOT working. For example my friend Lisette has a husband-negotiated window of hours she is allowed to work in. SoftwareMillers has a habit of “signing off” on Slack to indicate the end of their work day.
This works in the other direction too. If you’re working, work. Negotiate with your family that despite being physically at home you’re not available for non-emergencies during work hours.
Make time for breaks during the day – schedule meetings to end a few minutes earlier, use the pomodoro technique, listen to your smartwatch and stand up at least every hour or so, schedule your lunch break. Don’t wake up with a wall of back-to-back meetings all day, every day.
If this is a pain point for you might want to check out the Meeting Overload Rescue Kit. Let me know if you want to chat about how to apply it with your team.
Make sure you’re getting enough high-quality sleep, you’re eating well and drinking enough water. Forgive the graphic example, but your pee should be light yellow – if it’s dark in color you are dehydrated.
Exercise regularly – it’s not just about building muscle – exercise has a strong influence on health, mood and cognitive ability. Personally when I don’t work out for a week I get visibly depressed.
An hour-long brisk walk every day is a good base.
If you want more online training is a thing – not even counting the massive number of pre-recorded, follow-along workouts on youtube there are many live group classes to motivate you and even online personal training.
Naps also help :)
During breaks take care to unwind a bit and to activate your para-sympathetic nervous system:
- Breathe deeply – I like box breathing which goes like this – breathe in for 4 seconds, hold full for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold empty for 4 seconds, repeat.
- Relax and ground yourself – stand or sit with feet firmly fixed on the ground, turn hands palms up, relax your jaw and your whole face.
- Look at something far away and something green – ever since high school I loved looking at trees swaying softly in the wind, just outside the upper floor window. I also like to listen to sounds of nature from an app called Noisly. Walks in a real park are great, if possible.
This ia a powerful, yet much less obvious one.
This can be hard if you’re not used to it, but for me it made a massive difference when I managed to reframe things form I-have-to to I-want-to.
There is no such thing as “must”.
Even with a gun to my head I have a choice. It might be an obvious choice but it’s still a choice. And usually the consequences for non-compliance are not as dire as that.
Even if you end up doing the exact same things the element of personal choice can make it much easier.
It might not be appropriate with other people, but internally, when I hear or think “must”, I like to ask myself “orrrr what?”
This forces me to have a clear sense of the purpose and, when found, this purpose gives me basically unlimited amounts of energy. And when I lose this sense even simple obstacles can seem insurmountable.
And that’s it for today. If you’re under a lot of pressure try introducing limits, adding regeneration and finding some meaning.
It helped us a lot and I believe it can help you too.