How to regenerate at work (not after)?
Some time ago, I found that life is not about dividing work and life but more about ensuring a surplus flow of energy throughout a period. I stopped thinking about how I’m going to get this energy back from things I do after work (like pursuing my hobby or going for a walk in the woods) and concentrated on how to take care of myself at the office (virtual or physical).
I then compiled the below list of things for myself to remind me where to put attention and how to regenerate at work. I’m sharing it as maybe some of you can also make use of it.
Accept that you need to regenerate — it’s a sign of strength to take care of oneself in adverse conditions. If you can’t take care of yourself, you won’t take care of others and the business ahead. Block time-slots for breaks and regeneration (walk, meditation — anything that works for you) if you usually pack yourself with meetings. An equally important element when blocking slots is to respect them.
Re-organize your calendar (whether for a day or whole week) — cancel meetings that can be an e-mail, record an audio/video and work asynchronously with others where possible. When invited to a forum — ask what contribution are you expected to make. If none or not defined, maybe you can skip. Perhaps you can take some of them outdoors. 1
Sit down and do nothing (or go for a walk) — this is probably the most controversial point. Sometimes doing nothing is more productive than doing anything. When we do nothing, we can finally hear our thoughts and embark on new ideas. It’s the same effect when you’re taking a long bath or a long shower and, often, great ideas appear.
Do a brain dump — it can be combined with the previous step. Note down all the actions, thoughts, ideas that appear. Brain dump will clear your head, and you’ll be able to finally see and tidy up all the things flying around that request your attention. In effect, you probably will have more clarity for the next thing in line.
Block time slots for deep work — deep work by definition is “activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limits.” This can be translated to creative, non-recurring work where we create something new. This work is based on single-threading and a state of deep, uninterrupted focus. Uninterrupted means time without slack messages, e-mails, hoovering over your phone or listening to a podcast simultaneously.
Be more assertive — say ‘no’ more often than you say ‘yes’ to things. Quality work is more rewarding than juggling ten different areas providing mediocre results at best.
Don’t search for balance — I don’t believe in the positive effects of searching for balance in life. I understand that one expects to keep all areas in life in check, well-balanced altogether. This approach does not work for me. I like to focus on one particular area to achieve extraordinary effects, sometimes neglecting other areas. It’s not a permanent state, yet it can last for days or weeks where I’m “out of balance”. 2
Get to know your nervous system — each of us has a different nervous system in terms of how much stimulants we need or tolerate and how quickly do we process information. This is also connected with intro- and extraversion. Getting to know your needs and reactions better you can know when to stop or when to keep going. 3
I’d love to hear from you in the comments if this resonates with you and what other practices you’d add or remove for yourself.
I’ve moved my meetings with my superior outside the office, and we called them “walk & talk” (shoutout to Piotr!). We took a stroll through the nearby park and talked about the same things yet in a less formal and more relaxed manner. We both got refreshed and returned to the office with new ideas that we could probably not create inside. Changing the surroundings gave us a new spark.
I’m not advocating here for working hard without any rest. I’m just saying you sometimes might be in debt in terms of what you need in your life, but that’s ok provided you’ll take care of yourself and recharge after this period. Trust your gut.
I know that after 2–3 days of intensive workshops I need to take one day off or have a day where I don’t meet much with other people.