It is February. Valentine’s Day is just a week away. The shops have been gearing up for it since the start of the new year, filling our high streets with cards and confetti and confectionary. Love is most definitely, as they say, in the air.
It is no different here at Jobseekers; we are big fans of “happily ever after”, and want to help you find a job that you will love.
But we know, somewhere in the stress of the 9-5, buried under all that filing that you just haven’t got to yet, it is so easy to lose the love for what you are doing. And even sometimes for yourself.
So, for the first full feature on our blog this February, I have complied a list of four things that we could all try to do to minimise stress and anxiety and keep that love alive;
1. Make a To-Do List. Every day.
As will quickly become apparent, I am a great believer in lists. I love them. Writing everything out, by hand, is a great way to declutter the mind ahead of a busy day at work; and breaking the day up, breaking all outstanding tasks down into manageable steps, is a great way to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Please see below my Do’s and Don’ts for Creating a Successful To-Do List:
- DO: GIVE IT TIME AND THOUGHT
It doesn’t have to take long, just fifteen minutes first thing in the morning. Have a cup of tea. Have a biscuit. Breathe. Just fifteen minutes of peace at the beginning of your day might make all the difference when things start to get busy. You’ll be calmer and much more organised for it.
If you want to be really organised, you could even try starting your list the afternoon before, just before you leave. That way, when you get to your desk the next morning, your day already has some structure to it, which you might find helps you.
- DON’T: MAKE YOUR LIST TOO LONG
We all have days, don’t we, when there is just SO MUCH to do? Too much, really, to fit into the time that we have. Too much to remember. So, we scribble it all down and then just sit staring at this gargantuan list of things that we have to get done.
Lists that are too long can be daunting, demoralising, and – for me, at least – particularly anxiety-inducing. The sense that I am never going to get to the end of it all, the sight of so many boxes left unchecked, is so counterproductive that I might as well have not made a list at all.
So, instead of trying to get through everything every day …
- DO: PRIORITIZE
I break my week down, day-by-day, and so I know that there is one important task that I must complete each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. It is the same task on the same day each week, so each day has a particular focus.
Fridays I leave free for the tying up of loose ends, ready for the weekend.
This system works really well for me, as it means I can go home each day feeling like I have achieved something (this is especially important on bad days!) and come back to my desk every morning with a sense of purpose. I can relax and rest over the weekends, too, knowing that I don’t have a whole heap of things lying in wait for me on Monday.
A To-Do List will help you to declutter your mind, but remembering to declutter the physical and virtual spaces that you inhabit at work is just as important.
Disclaimer: I am a VMP. A Very Messy Person. Unfortunately, however, I also very find it very difficult to function in the mess that I create.
Keeping my desk (and my desktop) tidy, therefore, is very important. It’s just also rather difficult!
Often, we do not have time to spend sifting and sorting and putting away. We are busy, busy people, after all. My solution is this: keep two or three folders, one for your desk and one for your desktop (I have one in my email inbox, too, as I can’t stand not seeing the bottom of that), and label them all as “SORT ME LATER”.
Write in capital letters, stick it somewhere visible. Because the aim is not to forget that it is there, but to acknowledge that it doesn’t have to be dealt with right away. Anything that is not urgent or too important, shove it in one of these folders and go back to it later.
3. Take a Break
There is a lot of debate about how long the human brain can actually focus for. The lowest estimate is for about 8 seconds (and that sounds about right for me some days, I have to say!), but, generally, the consensus seems to be that we can put our minds to something for between 20 – 45 minutes before we need a break.
When you are working a 7- or 8-hour day, then, short breaks are a must.
Stand up, stretch, give your eyes a rest from your computer screen. Go and make a cup of tea. Not only will this give you a reason to be away from your desk for five minutes, but staying hydrated will give your brain a much-needed boost, allowing you to focus better when you return. Plus, it is always comforting to hold onto a mug of something warm, especially when it is as cold as it is at the moment!
The other thing to do is to make good use of your lunch break. Don’t just use it to refuel, use it to relax. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Clear out the cobwebs. You’ll thank yourself for it later on, I promise!
And, last of all, though by no means least of all, as I believe this to be the most important thing you can do –
4. Be Kind to Yourself
You are going to make mistakes.
We all make mistakes, we all get things wrong. It is an unpleasant truth but, the fact of it is, “To err is human” (Alexander Pope). Unfortunately, there is very little we can do about this. No one person can know it all, it’s just not possible.
But, just because we are fallible, it does not mean that we should be unable to forgive ourselves. To quote Pope in full, “To err is human; to forgive, divine”. But forgiveness does not really require superhuman strength or supernatural powers (even if it can feel that way sometimes), all it truly takes is acceptance.
Yes, I made a mistake. But that is okay.
It is okay to make mistakes.
What is not okay, what is not going to help you, is berating yourself about it afterwards.
We have to ask: would I say this to my friend, to someone I care about? Would I talk to someone I love the way that I am talking to myself now?
If the answer is “no”, then we must stop.
Because, this February, we need to look after ourselves and others around us. The more care we take and the more that we are aware, the easier it will be to flourish, both on a personal and a professional level.