There are times when I have a plan, but I feel like I don’t have energy to do everything I set myself up to do and there are times when work feels like a drag and I just want to leave regardless of how exciting might be. I, myself am a blocker from doing my own work.
I am continuing to work on this, but here are some practical tips that have been helping me regain my energy and be more aware of how to take care of myself better.
Breaks allow me to recharge myself because it takes my mind off of work. When I get stuck on something, it might feel counterintuitive to stop, but when I take some time off, I can reflect on it and think about different approaches.
Taking a break allows me to approach my work with motivation, a sense of purpose, and creative energy.
Huffington Post has an insightful article about the benefits of taking a break: Recent studies show that those who give in to some kind of diversion or distraction once an hour perform better than those who just keep at it without a break. Our brains numb out a bit to the constant stimulation, and we become unable to continuously treat the task as important.
Tip: Going or your phone or other stuff on your computer doesn’t count. Give your eyes a break and seek out other tasks to relax, such as taking a walk, decluttering your workspace, or planning out your day; anything to take your mind off work.
Talk to people
When I talk to people, I always learn something new from them, even if it is something that isn’t directly related to work.
Even when I feel like I don’t need advice or feedback on something, I probably do.
I find that talking and working with people gives me energy. One of the things I look forward to most at work is putting myself in situations that allow me to communicate my ideas and collaborate with others. Even if most of my day is heads down work, it never hurts to get additional feedback or chat with someone as a way to get out of that afternoon slump. Some of the most meaningful conversations come from approaching co-workers and learning about what they are working on or how they are doing outside of work.
Tip: You don’t want to be remembered as the co-worker who is always busy. That discourages people from approaching you, work or non-work.
Regular physical activity has many benefits: it reduces disease, lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and so on. One of the benefits we often overlook is the feeling of simply feeling “better”. When we feel tired, we often don’t want to do anything or sleep, not exercise. But on the contrary, exercising gives you more energy, makes you feel better, feel more relaxed and improves sleep.
How we feel influences the quality of work we produce.
Exercise makes me less tired and allows me to be more focused at work. Throughout my summer job doing design consulting work with Haakon Faste, we have been incorporating yoga into our stand up time, and that has given me more energy and reduced the amount of tension I put on my muscles sitting at my desk.
Tip: Don’t just sit at your desk all the day. You’ll eventually run out of energy. Create a culture of activity that encourages breaks and taking care of your body.
Do what works best for you (make a routine)
It might seem obvious that we have a routine as we navigate through our everyday life, but how often are we intentional with managing a routine that sets us up for success? That make us feel good and not distracted by the overwhelming of things that happen around us?
Everyone has a different routine that works for them. The most successful people are successful because they understand themselves enough (and took the time) to know how they can optimize their time and energy to achieve their goals.
My ideal work routine would look something along the lines of this:
6:50am- 7:30/8am: Commute time. Create weekly goals, map out daily goals, schedule meetings with people → create agenda of meeting and what the goal is, check e-mails, write, read
8am-9am: Arrive to work. Confirm what I need to do for the day, eat breakfast
9am-1pm: Meetings, sync ups, work (varies day by day), meet with people during typical lunch break at 12pm
1pm-2pm: Lunch (ideally). I know that eating a heavy lunch makes me sluggish during the afternoon, so I either eat later throughout the day or snack to make sure I don’t eat too much in one sitting.
2pm-4pm: Heads down work, stretch, take a walk if I feel tired
4pm-5pm: Debrief with myself or teammates
5pm: Leave work
Tip: Create a schedule or routine that is centered around how you work the best, whether it’s from previous experiences or discovering that by tracking your existing routine.
Do the hardest tasks first
Hardest tasks tend to require the most energy so it is best to get those out of the way. Tasks that are “hard” or require different facets of knowledge to do (the “thinking”) than something more heads down (the “doing”). This could be brainstorming ideas, scheduling a meeting with someone who is hard to book, facilitating a workshop, mapping out project goals, etc.
Getting those high energy tasks out of the way will allow you to focus your time on the more detail orientated tasks that might not require as much brain power because it is something you already did to make the more tactical tasks easier to do.
Tip: Do tasks that you wouldn’t want to do first thing, then focus on the more mundane tasks, such as checking your email, later.
To do my best work, I set boundaries. Boundaries help me prioritize what I need to do when I have a lot of work or when I feel like I do too much work and need to delegate tasks for myself or with the people I work with.
If we have boundaries that allow us to priortize the work we need to do, setting boundaries that prioritize breaks is just as important.
The best work incorporates care to well being and play. Make your own opportunities that set you up for success. Without the optimal energy or self care, you can hinder yourself from taking on new opportunities because you can burnout and feel unmotivated to take them on.
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To help you get started on owning your design career, here are some amazing tools from Rookieup, a site I used to get mentorship from senior designers.
- Build a portfolio with help from an experienced designer
- Essential tools to strengthen and build your portfolio
Links to some other cool reads:
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