Every spring, many of us start to feel a sudden rush of activities driving us towards summer. It’s almost as if the period between spring break and Memorial Day is jam packed full of all the things we hope to get accomplished in the first half of the year.
As a result, having listened recently to so many people describe their lives with words like…
“I can’t get caught up.”
“I’m just. so. busy.”
I thought it might be time for all of us to get a grip.
These days, it seems like many of us could use some tips for getting a grip on work and life, in hopes that this season can be a bit more “spring-y” and a bit less stressful.
So, let's start with the source of much of the crazy in our lives: work.
Here are our first 5 tips for creating white space, gaining control, and getting a grip on your work day.
1. Schedule in breaks.
Actually put them on your calendar for each day. Give yourself space between meetings. Don’t schedule a 10 o'clock meeting, immediately followed by an 11 o'clock and a 12 o’clock meeting. Schedule yourself a 30-minute break in-between at least one of those meetings. Not only does this allow time for bio breaks or a quick bite to eat, but it allows you to re-focus and re-group before your next meeting. On the days when you don’t have many meetings, be sure to schedule breaks during your desk time too. Spending four or five-hours heads-down on one task likely won’t help you produce your best work. You might find you are more productive if you give yourself a scheduled five or ten-minute break between tasks as well.
2. Make time for lunch.
When you make time for lunch you actually make time to stop what you are doing, change your focus, and think about something different for a bit. A lunch break is the perfect time to knock off some of those personal tasks you have floating around in your head that end up frustrating you at the end of each day when they don’t get done. Give yourself a 15-minute (or 30-minute if you are feeling generous) lunch break to step away from your desk and focus on something else. Then when you return, you can get back to work, feeling refreshed and not distracted by the things you haven’t done for your family.
3. Go for a walk alone.
The joy of this one is to have some quite time with your own thoughts. There is so much coming at us throughout the day. Periodically, try to find a way to go for a walk by yourself, right there at your office. It might not happen every day, maybe only a couple times a week, and it might not last very long, maybe only 5-10 minutes, but the benefits will be great. You could do laps around the building or walk up to the 5th floor. While you are walking, instead of making a mental to do list or think of all the stressful things back at your desk, just pause and reflect. Whisper a prayer of gratitude for all the many blessings that you have in your life instead of wallowing in the stress of work.
4. Don’t do it.
Before your next meeting, or as you wrap up at the end of the day, don’t do that one more thing. How many of us have tried it before? We took on that one final task and wound up working late or running late to our next meeting because that one little task led down a bunny trail, or it took longer than we thought, or it triggered another action that needed to happen. So just don’t do it. Allow yourself that white space in your day to get to your next activity on time, wrap up your work day in peace, enjoy a casual conversation with a colleague, or say goodbye to a teammate.
5. Plan ahead.
How many days do you sit down at your desk, ready to get to work, but unsure about where to start? Taking a few minutes at the end of your day to plan for where you will start tomorrow will help. Schedule time at the end of your work day, to plan out what the next work day will look like. Maybe you only need five or six minutes or maybe you will need a full 10-15. Make a list of the top 2-3 things that must get done tomorrow so that when you arrive in the morning you aren’t already behind the 8 ball. P.S.: In a nod to a few of the other tips on this list, it’s important to note that this final tip will be very difficult to pull off if you haven’t taken tips 1 and 4 to heart first.
Cy Wakeman has been known to say work life balance is not a noun. It’s a verb. And in the words of the great Dolly Parton, "Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life"
Easier said than done, we know. But a good work live balance is vital to our well being.
So, here are 5 more tips designed to help us with the balancing act that is work and life.
1. Take a breather.
Schedule a few moments of down time between work and evening, so you have a chance to get a grip, before moving on. Maybe you’ve got the luxury of a commute, and you are already thinking “my commute time is my down time.” And for many of us that’s just the time we need. But sometimes the traffic and the stress of the day haven’t quite left us when we arrive home. If that’s the case, schedule in 8-10 minutes of quiet time for yourself. This short amount of time likely won’t disrupt your evening plans, but it can make the world of difference in your attitude as you walk in the door. Maybe it’s driving one last lap around the block, with the windows down and your favorite song playing in the background. Maybe it’s a quick walk to the end of the driveway or the end of the street. No matter what it looks like for you, try to find a few moments at the end of your day to take a breather.
2. Stay in.
So many of us lead such busy lives ourselves, by the time we factor in the kids and all of their activities, we could easily spend every night during the week outside the home. As you build out your family schedule at the beginning of each season, try to protect at least one evening each week from all other events and commitments, so you can just stay home. Of course, occasionally our one night in will fill up with other obligations, as there will always be an extra concert or an extra isolated commitment that comes up. But that’s okay, because we know next week, it’s back to regularly scheduled programming, and we’ve got our one night at home back on the calendar.
3. Make a habit of worship.
Studies have shown those with a faith structure, who believe in a greater good and a higher power, and who regularly attend religious services live longer and healthier lives. So, we suggest making a habit of worship. Find a connection with your creator God and make a daily or weekly habit of connecting with something bigger than yourself. Sometimes this should be done in quiet, with a daily devotional or prayer. But most of the time, to really reap all the benefits, we should find ways to worship in fellowship with others.
I am deeply committed to our local chapters of our International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) and Project Management Institute (PMI). I am deeply committed to a church mission ministry team. I am deeply committed to some volunteer efforts in the Indianola Community. However, as both of my daughters have started high school, I have decided to intentionally prioritize my time with them. So, for the next four years, I have decided I will not hold leadership roles in any volunteer opportunities that come my way, even though I am deeply committed to them. Being deeply committed to something does not require the same level of active involvement all the time, every year, in every season. I’ll come back to volunteer roles and active service once they’ve graduated, but for the moment my priority is my kids.
5. Find a hobby.
Life is busy, and work is stressful. So, what do you do for fun? Find a hobby in something that brings you joy and allows you to escape the day-to-day. From reading, to cooking, to traveling, to gardening, to collecting old Hondas, find something you love and fill your free time with it. Spending time ignoring the stresses of the world around you and doing something you truly enjoy will help you recapture that balance and get a grip.
So, there you have it. A whole bunch of tips for getting a grip. We hope you now have all the tools you need to create calm at work and at home. Let us know how it goes!