5. Stop checking your messages
“The reason you are stressed is because you don’t keep your awareness on one thing at a time.” – Dandapani
Does your day start with every great intention to focus on the tasks at hand but by 10am you felt like you haven’t achieved much even though you haven’t left the chair? Then it’s 3pm and not much has changed, you are working hard and haven’t done what you set out to do?
One of the main culprits is our phones, specifically a few enticing apps.
Social media, Messenger and WhatsApp are the sneaky ones. It’s not that your intention isn’t pure to get stuff done, it’s when you start something and within 30 minutes, you have checked your phone more than 10 times – and that’s being polite.
\When you constantly respond to pings and alerts, you are putting yourself into a reactive mode. And you are reacting to other people’s urgencies, not your own.
There are endless WhatsApp groups – work ones, family ones, friends, school classes, etc. In order to minimise distraction and unnecessary interruptions, I suggest that you mute your chats that are not related to work or in fact, mute them all. Once you have finished your task and made progress on the work that’s going to move you forward to your goals – then check in.
I know you are thinking but ‘What if it’s urgent?’?? Then they will call you if they can see you haven’t responded within your usual 5 minute window. Nothing can be that urgent that it can’t wait an hour.
In an excerpt from ‘Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World’ by Cal Newport, he shares a fascinating study on how our phones can hamper our work.
‘Sophie Leroy, a business professor at the University of Minnesota wrote a paper called “Why Is It So Hard to Do My Work?” She speaks about a concept called ‘attention residue’. The common habit of working in a state of semi-distraction is potentially devastating to your performance.
Every time a message comes in, it is a new target for your attention. Leroy says ‘that even worse, by seeing messages that you cannot deal with at the moment (which is almost always the case), you’ll be forced to turn back to the primary task with a secondary task left unfinished. The attention residue left by such unresolved switches dampens your performance’.
Also responding to useless mails and messages are a false sense of progress. It makes you feel like you have ticked something off the to-do list but you solved other people’s urgencies and not your own.
Another reason to mute the chats is because you need to set boundaries on when you officially log off for the day and set a quitting time. If you are still checking messages past 8pm, then no wonder you feel like you are working around the clock. I also like to get to sleep early and most people don’t mind messaging past 10pm if not later.
Every morning I wake up to sometimes 25 and above messages on a particular chat and mostly its spectator messages. You know when everyone has to chime in with ‘Thanks, Well done, Great, Ha-ha, etc.”. I have made peace with the fact I may miss out on a joke or a rant but I choose sleep and peace of mind any day. And that’s the best thing to stop working around the clock.
6. Protect your weekends and downtime
“Success in a competitive world requires hitting Monday refreshed and ready to go. The only way to do that is to create weekends that rejuvenate you rather than exhaust or disappoint you” – Laura Vanderkam
How are you framing your weekends?
Is it an opportunity for rest and rejuvenation or do you view it as two more days to get work done with less interruptions?
Make your weekends a distinction from the work week and plan things so you actually look forward to them. We make Saturday a movie day for the family and my kids love the fact they get turns choosing the movie for us. We also have games such as Monopoly only on weekends so we can look forward to it.
If you are in quarantine on your own, then think about how you can plan special courses, classes, games nights with your friends so you have something to look forward to. Ditch any guilt of ‘I should be working’ and take the time to recover.
Laura Vanderkam, TED speaker and author, says “you should give at least a passing thought to your weekend by Wednesday.
Ask yourself what 3 things you could do between Friday and Sunday that would add to your energy levels. They need not be elaborate. In lockdown, things like setting up a catch up call with your friends, going for a longish bike ride, and attending worship services (remotely) would work just fine as a plan. People with more moving parts in their lives (e.g. 3 kids in 6 sports — that sort of thing) will need a more finely drawn map for their days “off.”
Ask yourself – Does it expand or contract you?
“Your job is to figure out which behaviours feed your soul and which you leave you running on empty” – Chase Jarvis
The anticipation of an activity can be a huge booster to your energy levels so make sure you do something that you actually enjoy.
When it comes to down time, you need to ensure the activities you select are energising you and not contracting you. This is my benchmark of where and with who I want to spend my precious resting hours. Another great question you can ask yourself is ‘Am I saying yes out of guilt or fear?’ If so, then you know the answer.