Tag Archives: Productivity

How to fight job burn-out.

up in smoke

I have two friends who are struggling in their professional lives.  One loves his job.  One hates her job.  But both are feeling much the same: overwhelmed and burned-out.  They can’t seem to get on top of everything they need to do and they’re starting to feel that work is controlling their lives.  Perhaps you’re familiar with this feeling?

Here’s the advice I pulled together for both of my friends:

Keep work in its place.  Are you on your laptop right up until the time you go to bed?  Do you use your iPhone to check email before you get out of bed in the morning?  Stop that. Now.  I know, you need to do some work at home.  Most people do.  But give yourself some time to wind-down and turn off your work brain before climbing into bed.  It will help you sleep better and be more relaxed.  And yes, I know that occasionally you catch an issue before it escalates by checking email first thing in the morning.  But I’m willing to bet that most days everything can, and will, wait until you get to the office.  Buy an alarm clock so you can leave your phone outside your bedroom.  And buy a watch so you won’t be tempted to check-in every time you check the time.

Make lists.  Having a targeted task list is key to feeling in control of your work load.  Most productivity advice recommends keeping your list short- say 5 or 6 of the most important things you need to accomplish.  Adam Wik from Road to Epic lays out a brilliant strategy for beating apprehension and indecision (the twin demons of procrastination).  Read his post, then start taking time at the end of the day to prep your to-do list for the following day.  Then spend another 5 minutes listing the things you are grateful for.  Okay, I just heard you groan.  I know, I know.  But trust me, whether you love or hate your job, noting the many good things in your life will make work problems seem smaller and more manageable.  And, although it doesn’t always seem like it, time passes swiftly, my friends.  Keeping a gratitude journal will help you mark that passing and remember who you were at this point in time.

Practice mindfulness.  Being overwhelmed at work can make you feel out of control in all the other areas of your life as well.  Take time to center yourself and reclaim your sense of calm.  If a daily guided meditation isn’t your thing, maybe it’s a walk through the woods or listening to Coltrane in the dark.  But as Britt Reints beautifully points out, “the world spins no matter what we do”.  All we can truly control is how we respond to it.  And everything works better when we respond from a place of calm.

How about you?  What advice would you give to a friend struggling with job burn-out?

(Photo by Robert Bieber via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

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Be a better manager in 40 minutes a day.

Today

Last week, Sarah Von Bargen’s Every. Damn. Day list got me thinking about my daily benchmarks for productivity.  As a work-from-home mom, my personal list includes things like showering (a surprising luxury) and feeding the kid (yes, he wants to eat EVERY day).  But since you’re here to read about management and not my sporadic personal hygiene, here are four daily tasks to keep you on track, even on days when the rest of your to-do list has gone up in flames.

1.  Tidy up.  I think of organizing my desk as the business equivalent of making my bed every day.  It signals that I’m awake, upright and ready to tackle the day.  Whether you’re a neat freak or someone who thrives in organized chaos, spend 10 minutes every day on administrative tasks – filing, opening mail, approving receipts – to keep them from becoming messy and demoralizing eyesores on your desk.  Doing a little each day keeps recurring tasks from becoming huge projects that you need to fit into your schedule.

2.  Walk around.  Whether you call it “management by walking around” or just stretching your legs, you need to get out from behind your desk and see what the rest of your team and organization is doing.  You can learn a lot from seeing your team function in real-time, so take 10 minutes each day to engage with your team without a set agenda.

3.  Think long-term.  It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of daily tasks and forget to allow time for working on your long-term goals.  Networking, professional development, deliberate practice – you don’t need to schedule large blocks of time for these things.  Once you’ve mapped out tasks required to reach your long-term goal, you can work your plan in 10 minute increments. You’ll be surprised by how much you will accomplish over the course of a month.

4.  Do nothing.  Spend 10 minutes each day reading, writing or thinking about something non-work related.  And, no, I don’t mean browsing E! Online or Facebook, although sometimes those little brain-breaks are healthy.  Instead, pick a topic you want to learn more about – creativity, happiness, design – and allow yourself a daily 10 minutes to explore it.  Getting your brain out of its normal routine will give you fresh perspective and inspiration when you return to work.

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”

~ Anthony Trollope

 

(Photo credit: Microsoft)

Keep calm and make a list.

to do list

In less than a week, I will be braving a cross-country, red-eye flight with a two year old.

Holyfreakingcow.

This is our first plane trip as a family and our longest extended stay away from home.  To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.  My mind has been racing with what seems like a million things to plan:  Figuring out what to bring on the flight.  Getting the house and dog ready for the sitter.  Anticipating what gear we’ll need once we’re in New York.  My blood pressure rises with every new thought.  But today I finally sat down and made a list.  And, amazingly, I feel much better.

Why do I always forget how calming a list can be?  Until it’s on paper, it’s an infinite string of things.  But once it’s in a list, it’s a plan.  And plans I can handle.

Here are some of my favorite thoughts on to-do lists:

 

freak out

Even my hair was freaking out about this trip.

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