5 things you can do to make your work life better this year
I know what it's like to feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day to get work done. It can be tempting to keep going at work, even when it is detrimental to other areas of our lives. If you're looking to reduce work-induced stress, be more productive, as well as maintain a better work-life balance, here are five things you should do.
1. Leave work on time (and at work!). I remember starting out in a new job a few years ago and at the end of my probation period I asked for feedback from some other members of the team. Whilst they praised my work ethic and the quality of the work I produced, one person said that the only thing she felt was an issue was that I left work on time instead of staying later to finish off tasks like the rest of the team. I remember being genuinely confused at the time, but because I was new, and didn’t want people to have a bad impression of me, I started staying late too. I took this habit into other jobs I went to and found myself sometimes staying late, not particularly because there was a lot of work to be done, but because other people were doing it and it was the norm! Unfortunately there has been an erroneous belief in our workplaces that staying late means you’re working harder than everyone else. But we all know that being in the office for ten hours doesn’t mean that you have worked for even five of those hours! I strongly believe that in order to maintain a better work-life balance it is crucial that people leave work on time. I encourage my team to do this and I try to lead by example. Now, I’m not saying that if you have a deadline, a task that needs to be done urgently, or if there is an issue at work, you should abandon ship and head home. Of course not. I remember one of my previous jobs where we had an IT situation which meant that multiple patients’ medication were delayed until the problem could be fixed. We all stayed late to get the job done and I didn’t get home till about 1am! That was team work and it was required for that specific situation. But, please don’t make a habit of staying late at work just to please your boss or colleagues. Go home and get some sleep. The work will still be there to complete the next day. And you'll be in a better frame of mind to complete it!
2. Have a ‘to do’ list for your day / week. As I’ve gotten older and learnt more about my personality, I’ve realised that I love lists. This is because I like to be organised and know what I have to complete in a particular day or week. When I go shopping, I take my list and even when I am at home I make lists so I know what needs to be done around the house. Every day, when I get to my desk, I write down a ‘to do’ list for the day. This helps me to plan my day and there is a sense of accomplishment as I tick off those items on my list!
A 'to do' list also helps to keep your focus on what is important and you can break your list down in order of priority (urgency and importance).
I find the Eisenhower Matrix useful:
a. Do first. First focus on important tasks to be done the same day.
b. Schedule. Important, but not so urgent stuff should be scheduled.
c. Delegate. What’s urgent, but less important, delegate to others.
d. Don’t do. What’s neither urgent nor important, don’t do at all.
You can find more information on the Eisenhower Matrix here.
3. Have lunch (away from your desk) and drink water. I was listening to a podcast recently and the guest, a very busy entrepreneur, said that she has several alarms on her phone to remind her to eat throughout the day. I initially thought this was weird but then I remembered the different times I’ve been so engrossed in a particular task that I didn’t realise the time and I’d forgotten to have lunch! Set an alarm if you have to, as your brain needs food to keep going. Drinking water and keeping hydrated is even more important. These days you can even get motivational water bottles that prompt you to keep drinking throughout the day, using slogans such as ‘You’ve got it!’, ‘Keep going!’ and ‘A little bit more!’ Sounds funny, but it actually works. Check out an example product here.
4. Talk to people. At my workplace we recommend an ‘email-free Friday’, to encourage people to talk to one another instead of sending emails. It doesn’t always work, but I think it’s a great idea. Very few people have really important emails that must be sent at 3pm on a Friday afternoon. So, why not leave it for Monday? Talking to people also aids communication. It is easy to hide behind a computer screen and send an email when you don’t want to face someone. But think about how often we get the wrong end of the stick because we have misunderstood, or misinterpreted the message from an email? The good thing about speaking to people face to face is that you can gauge their body language, and you can hear their tone. I believe if people spoke more to each other the 'tennis match' emails that we sometimes see would decrease drastically.
5. Commit your day to God. This is by no means the least important but I’ve left it till last, as I hope that if you don’t remember anything else on this list, this one will stick in your mind. We must never underestimate the importance of prayer in our workplaces. I know what it feels like to wake up on a Monday morning and dread the day / week ahead. But I’ve learnt to commit my day and my entire week to God. Think about it- He already knows the challenges that you will face, and is the only One able to give you the strength and the grace to face them. So, why not ask Him? Over the years I’ve learnt to ask the Holy Spirit to come alongside me and help me in my work. I ask Him for divine wisdom when I need it, and for grace to deal with challenging people or situations at work. I have seen and continue to see changes that I believe are a result of this.
Do you have any other tips for making one’s work life better this year? Please share them in the comments below!