work smart, not hard

I have a plan. Yes, there are times when I just don’t want to work. This may be because a task is difficult and I want to avoid it. Or sometimes the creative flow has become frozen in the cold weather and it’s best to just walk away and warm up! Maybe I have personal things on my mind and it is difficult to focus on the task at hand. Regardless of the reason, I don’t get down about it. Being flexible to cope with these variables develops resiliency. I remind myself of the benefits of getting the hard stuff over with so I can feel a sense of accomplishment. If I am not in the groove, then I take a moment to do some exercise. Sometimes life’s problems can occasionally take over so a little forgiveness goes a long way! In all cases, my experience informs me about what strategy to take so I can get back on track. But get back on track with what? Am I doing the right thing? Sometimes it is painful working on too many things and running out of time on them all. It requires some discipline to maintain a light on what is important so I employ a layered approach by asking:

  1. ‘Why’ (take a thousand foot perspective to discover the meaning of this work),
  2. ‘How’ (find the best way to do things) and then,
  3. ‘What’ (design the tasks that are to be completed).

1. choose wisely I have a lot on the go and I enjoy the variety. Since I am a coach and an organizer, I have the skills to juggle work with clarity and ease. Yet I am not immune to the habit of creating clutter that gets in my way! As a person with great ideas it is easy to fall in love with creating a vision but what purpose does it serve? What does furthering my education (and spending the money on it) provide for me in the long run? Are my pursuits honouring my values and strengths as well as delivering an income? Creating and tweaking a map of my goals for the long term keeps the path clear. My instincts also guide me to determine what route feels the most meaningful. I let go of new ideas by writing them down and this clears my brain and heart to pursue what I have decided is currently on the table. 2. get organized As a solo business person with a multifaceted career focus, I must be persistent with the organization of my tasks and schedule. True, the beauty of being self employed is that you can do the work whenever you want. The drawback is – you can do the work whenever you want! Haha! With some analysis, I have discovered the criteria required for me to get things done. It is helpful to ask what is the best time of day to work and for how long? What environment is conducive to creating flow? What is the priority for today, tomorrow and next week? From past experience, what do I anticipate will get in my way and how will I manage it? Knowing the answers to these questions provides a structure that supports my work. 3. reduce interruptions Sometimes there just isn’t a valid reason for my procrastination. Answering non essential emails, downloading digital photos from the weekend and contributing to the Facebook discourse are available to me so I’ll just ‘click click’ for a minute or two… Two hours later I have cleaned up my inbox, distributed edited photos to family and friends and I have caught up on the activities of my contacts! Arguably, these tasks serve a purpose but I don’t feel good when this time has not been focused on the work I set out to do. Creating new habits requires identifying current ones! Here are a few strategies I utilize to engage positively with my work:

  • I don’t look at my blackberry when I wake up. I can’t think of anything urgent that would require my immediate attention (and my ringer is on so if urgent, I can be reached). Even pleasant texts and emails can fill up my brain so I resist the urge to reply until I am ready;
  • Without technology waving at me, I can enjoy breakfast with My Love before he goes to work. I find doing some stretching and simple exercises contributes to my well being. After a brief clean up of the space, I meditate briefly on the goal(s) of the day. Taking the time to do these things is a form of self compassion – by taking care of myself and my surroundings, I am ready to give my full attention to my work and to those who make contact;
  • I have removed social media shortcuts from my desktop (bothering to type a URL in a browser is enough to make me stop). When I am in communications mode I make use of Twitter or for my development I learn a new skill via YouTube but tapping into the internet world for non work reasons can wait for a break or can entertain me while travelling on transit.
  • Throughout the day and evening I reduce attention theft by turning off audible alerts on my smartphone. To identify those most important to me, I have specific tones or flash colours so I will respond quickly but otherwise all texts and emails are on silent.
  •  I have turned off most notifications from LinkedIn, etc. I have set times in my work schedule to participate in those realms so I reduce mental clutter by not having them fill my email and phone inbox.

Although I attempt to follow these guidelines daily, I certainly am tempted to do very little sometimes! However, I just have to remind myself about how good I feel when I have done a significant amount of quality work in four to 5 hours (that quite possibly could take me ten if I’m not careful). This self regulation helps me feel less pressure and working systematically on goals allows me to be patient with myself and my success. Keeping contact with the various layers of perspective gets me out of nose-to-keyboard tasking and connects me with my journey overall. I suddenly notice that my stomach is growling! This flow of writing has been enjoyable but it’s time to fuel the body and mind. I have done good work this morning so I will permit an hour long break to prepare and enjoy a meal. I will sit by the window and bathe in the sunshine for a bit. The timer is set for 60 minutes – GO!