All charity people, staff and volunteers, can find it tough. Use this checklist to set a monthly reminder on your device, with a link to this blog. Try a new one each month, keep doing the ones that work for you and, if any don't, you'll get a new one next month. You'll become more resilient and effective at work, and healthier and happier too.
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January - accept that working longer and longer hours isn’t a solution – long hours are sometimes necessary, but beyond 50 hours a week, productivity decreases and massively reduces after 55. Too many organisations have a ‘long hours’ culture and celebrate those who overwork. We need to change this and a good place to start is with ourselves.
February - never use the phrase 'I have to...' - because that means you have no choice. You may choose not to exercise it, but don't deny yourself the right to make that choice.
March - learn to say ‘no’ – rolling your sleeves up and helping out is commendable. However, you can’t do everything and, if you try, your own work will suffer, when someone else may well have been able to carry out the task instead. They might even have done it better than you. There’s some good advice on when and how to say no here.
April - neutralise toxic martyrs and time bandits – who create stress and steal your time. For some good ideas on managing toxic people read this or this. And for the time bandits, get them to send you any supporting information ahead of your meeting, create an agenda and hold them to it, set a time limit and consider arranging meetings for just before lunch or similar to give a clear end point and reason to end the meeting. For the stress remaining, here are some tools.
May - don't be a complainer yourself - it's actually bad for you and everyone around you. Instead, practise gratitude, by looking for the good in everything and everyone. It's there, it's just sometimes really hard to find.
July - focus on the what’s important – when you come into work, do the important stuff first. Block your diary out first thing, if you need to. If you have a big piece of work, home work for the day; less interruptions and missing out on the commute won’t hurt. Deal with e mails in batches; it’s more time efficient. Shut down notifications on your phone to minimise distractions and, whilst you’re doing that, activate the ‘blue light filter’ on your devices; it’ll help you sleep better. Or watch this TED talk on why your screen is making you miserable, or this article on why sleep really matters and how to get more.
August - balance the urgent and the important – inevitably, there will be urgent matters that come up and must be dealt with. However, near-term issues can creep up on you and take over, so make sure you strike a balance between the 2. The image above is a simple template I created that might be helpful.
September - resilience isn’t about enduring, but recharging – fatigue is cumulative and being healthy, fit and happy will also make you far more effective at work too. Recognising this will help you to make the time. Take a short break every hour or so, eat lunch away from your desk, get enough sleep, eat well and hit the gym. If nothing else, use the stairs, not the escalator, or get off the tube/bus/tram a stop early and walk, or even consider walking meetings. And use 'emergency reserves' to set yourself tasks in a way that will help you manage any set backs better.
October - learn to ‘switch off’ – lying in bed worrying about something, no matter how important it is, won’t fix it, but will deny you the sleep and rest you need to do so. Recognise this and give yourself permission to ignore it, perhaps by deciding to deal with it first thing when you get in the office. Easier said than done – here are some tips on managing ‘self talk’. Or....
November - practise mindfulness - if you haven't yet tried mindfulness, you should. It only takes a few minutes each day and actually works. I use the Headspace app, which has a free introductory pack, but there are numerous others.
December - try thinking like a Stoic - Epictetus coined the phrase ‘hupexhairesis’ - you have control over process, not the outcome. Work to make that piece of work the best it can be, but the final decision isn’t yours. Learn from what doesn’t work, but don’t beat yourself up over things you can't control. For more, ancient, but still very relevant advice from the Stoic philosophers on how to become mentally strong, read this.
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