2013 is the start of the third year that I’ve been employed, and I’ve learned an incredible amount from the challenges that being 100% accountable for how I use my time. Because of my tendencies to immerse myself in what I love, and because I bought into the idea that you have to work incredibly hard at all hours of the day for a long time to earn your stripes as a small business owner… doing what I love hasn’t meant living very well.
It’s been an ongoing struggle for me, and in our culture where saying “I’m busy!!” can be either a status symbol or the way we’ve learned how to work, breaking the habit has been tough stuff.
But this year I’m changing how I approach work so I can have a more sane life, and the changes that I’ve made so far have absolutely changed my life!
On Tuesdays for the past five weeks I’ve been sharing to share the first steps I’ve taken to get from overwhelmed and stressed to seeing a new way of working that’s positive, productive and doesn’t rule my life. They can work for you whether you’re self employed or love working at your a nine to five- and if you’re stressed out or burned out, I hope they turn things around for you too.
Step Five – Let Rituals Get You In The Zone
I’ve been seeing coverage of “Small Wins” pop up lately (Through Social Triggers & HBR posts in my internet wandering). The idea is that by building small successes into your daily experience you can be more ready to run a race, write an exam, or build customer loyalty. Small wins can be anything from the tingling feeling you get when you’re brushing your teeth (immediate “proof” that it’s working- win!) to small, intentional rituals that add up to a feeling that things going in your favour.
That feeling of small successes adding up to momentum makes us more motivated to stick with what we’re doing, and to feel good about it.
As soon as I heard about this, I wanted to build some small wins into my work days to see if they could make my work day more fun, focused- and finish earlier.
I’ve found that creating an intentional ritual at the start of my work day gets me “in the zone” faster. The more that I complete my ritual and get working hard, the more I associate that action with being in my ideal head space. After a few days I found that it was reducing my time in getting down to business. (Win!)
Boost the effect by making it sensory: The scent of a hand lotion you only use at work, adding lemon to your water when you’re working, adding pictures or clippings in the area around your monitor that are all in one power colour are all ways you can tap into your senses to create a different atmosphere while you work.
The part that I overlooked for a long time was that I could shortcut my way into relaxation and “at home” mode too.
Since I started working from home in December (Surprise! More on this coming soon, I promise) this has been a huge help. I finally have a reliable way to get from “In The Zone, Working At Home Kyla” to “Imma Make Some Dinner And Catch Up on Walking Dead While Knitting Kyla”.
By adding a small ritual to the end of your work day, even something as simple as closing your eyes and taking ten deep breaths, before going into your evening, your body will learn quickly that you can officially switch gears. After a week of remembering to pause and add it in, you might find that you need less time to decompress and recharge, and can get on to the fun stuff faster. This is a powerful way to make a clear separation between your work and home that’s great for freelancers or for anyone who’s a little edgy by 5:00 pm. (Thank you to Molly for the great suggestion!)
This is the fifth & final step the Tuesday series, but I’d love to workshop these ideas with you in the comments. Do you have a ritual you use to start or end your work day? Want to try adding these into your day this week? If you accept my challenge, let me know in the comments below & tell me how it worked out!