We need to look after ourselves

So I have not been able to write recently – life has gotten very busy. A combination of family and work related challenges has meant that I needed to focus elsewhere and to unwind I have been trying to spend more time outside enjoying the natural world. Particularly as the evenings have become lighter I have found that break is much needed – whether at home or on my travels. This has got me to think about how to maintain performance. Through podcasts and reading there is a lot of material to consider and consume but I think there is a greater need to go back to basics. 

You can reflect what I have found over the last few weeks onto a much wider audience. Hybrid working is here to stay, with working from home an option now for many that it wasn’t previously. This represents however a big change in ways of working and with change comes a need to get used to. In a world of working from home we found a few things:

  • People were working longer hours at home, with research showing on average up to 9 hours a day (seems I was working a little above the average!)
  • Working at home removes that boundary between work and home life. This has created a challenge for human health and productivity
  • Back to back meetings, meetings over lunch, distractions and conflicts – when do you switch off? 

The above contributes to a loss of sleep and feeling tired. And with tiredness comes mistakes, we communicate less effectively and ultimately are less productive. To combat all this there is a need to reset the basics. Think about what makes us perform and what hinders and make positive steps to how we work. 

The last two years I have found myself becoming more prepared. Thinking about what is required and making a plan. There is something about building intention and preparing to focus that makes matters work. Each night I plan through my following day. What are the key actions and urgent matters – these become priorities. Is there enough time to work through these? You can argue I rehearse my day the night before. 

There however needs to be focus on the day. The ability to concentrate and deliver work is easier said than done in a world with many distractions. The most common way I focus is by having protected time in my calendar. Time for me to focus on a matter and hand and not be distracted. I have to be strict with myself. Distractions happen but turning notifications off and avoiding that “FOMO” with your phone helps. Think about treating yourself – a mini reward for focusing on something. 

A big point I always thought was good but wasn’t is switching between tasks. Constant switching from one thing to another. Although it felt like progress was being made it wasn’t – being busy was not being productive. Our mind gets confused and spread across multiple jobs – being focused is about completing a task. 

Once you have delivered the work – it’s time to cool down a little, a bit like an athlete but less glamorous and certainly minimal stretching. We need to enter some recovery stage. There are two angles to this – during the day I seek to have time to recover, usually a walk but could be some gardening or even sitting listening to music.It could range from 5 minutes to much longer. It could be lunch or brunch. 

Above all through your routine you need to have variety. My days are never the same and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I try to focus my time in the week to allow for more me and family time at the weekend. When I do have to work on the weekend, I challenge myself and whether I need to and if I do then I limit myself to just the essentials. 

Above all – performance is not about the hours that I put in but what I put into the hours. Realising this made a big impact on me.

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