When we bury ourselves in daily work schedules, self-care and self-management activities are often neglected. To help put those back on your agenda, Carrier Management has compiled tips to take control of your schedule and lower your stress level, referencing recently published articles and blogs that deliver useful advice.
- Bring back your commute.
In the last year and a half, many of us went from having long commutes to simply walking down the hall to our new home office. We’ve saving gas, money and hours in “wasted” time—but what are we losing?
Our commutes were part of our daily ritual, note James R. Bailey, a professor of leadership at George Washington University and Andy Cohen, a managing partner of August Max Leadership Partners in a June Harvard Business Review article. Commutes provided structure and gave us a pattern of daily behaviors to follow. We knew what to expect and how to prepare. We got up at the same time every day and did our morning routine: showered and got dressed for work; ate breakfast and drank coffee or tea; maybe helped the kids get ready for school or took the dog for a walk around the block. During the commute, we listened to podcasts or audiobooks, checked social media, read a few chapters of a book, took a nap, etc. Whatever helped us get into the mindset for our workday. And then we’d go through a similar ritual as we made our way home.
Our commutes helped us set boundaries between our work and home lives. They helped us leave our work behind and focus on family, friends and even ourselves. The morning commute gave us time to prepare for meetings, collect our thoughts, review documents, think about our to-do lists. The evening commute allowed us to reflect on the day, destress and sometimes recharge.
Let’s try bringing the commute back. Put 15 to 30 minutes on your calendar at the start and end of your workday to make a mental and emotional journey from home to work and back again. Your “commute” could be as simple as meditating in an unoccupied room or taking a short walk around the block before your first meeting. But it should be something you can do on a daily basis—make it a ritual.
Source: “That ‘Dreaded’ Commute Is Actually Good for Your Health,” Harvard Business Review, May 20, 2021
- Don’t do it all yourself.
As a leader you’re supposed to inspire, support, mentor and manage your team—not do everybody else’s job for them. An important part of leadership is helping your people grow and develop, and the best leaders allow others to showcase their abilities and expertise without getting in the way.
Delegation is key. Too many leaders want to control everything around them, but the best understand the power of delegation. They know how to set boundaries and clearly define roles.
They also know how to listen and empower others to come up with their own solutions instead of trying to take over and fix everything for them.
Source: “How the Best Leaders Avoid Doing Everyone Else’s Job,” Lolly Daskal blog
- Build margin into your life to avoid burnout.
Overscheduling your day can make you less productive at work and may even lead to burnout and a sense of emptiness. However, building margin into your life can give you room to breathe, reflect and renew so you can keep things in perspective and make necessary changes.
But it’s hard when we’ve been programmed to always say yes at work, which can lead to overcommitment and the subsequent anxiety of having too many tasks and not enough time or energy for focused work.
To build margin into your life, start by acknowledging the problem. Then examine how you spend your time and determine where it might be wasted. Most importantly, figure out what’s really important to you—what are your values, purpose and aspirations for life/work? This will help you establish clear criteria for what to say yes to going forward.
Source: “Do You Have Margin in Your Life?” Gregg Vanourek blog, July 16, 2021
- Animals can help lessen stress, anxiety.
Feeling particularly stressed or anxious lately? You should try spending some time around pets or other animals. Interacting with animals for just 10 minutes can help calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety.
In times of isolation, social interactions with animals can replace interactions with humans in many ways. Petting an animal or even talking to your pet can foster a sense of emotional connection and companionship.
The responsibility of a pet can also help. Taking a break from work to walk the dog, feed the cat or refill the water bowl can add necessary routine to your schedule and provide a sense of fulfillment in taking care of someone else.
But you don’t need to actually own a pet to reap the stress-reducing benefits. You can visit a friend’s pet, go to the dog park on your lunch break or even take a trip to a petting zoo over the weekend.
Source: “How Spending Time With Pets Can Help Us Cope With Stress,” Thrive Global, April 19, 2021
- Find your personal leadership brand.
Build trust with your team by being predictable and reliable as a leader. Be clear about your leadership style—your personal leadership brand—so your team knows what behaviors they can expect from you in a given situation.
To define your leadership brand, ask yourself:
- What are the three values that are most important to you as a leader and a colleague—that is, the consistent behaviors that everyone can rely on from you?
- How have you lived those values in your career?
- Why are they important to you for driving success?
- If you were recruiting someone to join your team, what would you say to them about your leadership approach and philosophy?
As you answer these questions, give yourself plenty of time for introspection.
Source: “What is your personal leadership brand?” strategy+business, July 14, 2021
- Practice mindful communication.
Today, many of our conversations take place in written form, via email or an instant message. But the pressure to respond instantly means we often have a tendency to skim and search instead of reading slowly and carefully, which can lead to miscommunication and confusion.
Read mindfully. Show that you’ve read the message carefully by addressing all relevant points and answering any and all questions. If it’s not possible to give a thoughtful answer quickly, let your colleague know you’ll get back to them with more answers—and then follow through in a timely manner.
Write clearly—and always proofread. Read your emails and messages carefully before hitting Send. Check your tone and think about how your words may be perceived, especially based on your rank. Take advantage of spell check and other proofreading programs. And make sure your expectations are clearly defined—you may want to put deadlines in bold type or use bullet points to highlight important information.
Don’t be hasty. Unless it’s a true emergency, try to get out of the habit of answering emails and messages immediately. You don’t always need to respond in 30 seconds. Instead, consider blocking off time on your calendar each day to diligently and patiently respond to your emails. And pay attention to who’s copied on the message—you don’t want to CC the wrong person.
Source: “Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance,” Next Big Idea Club, July 5, 2021
- Manage your schedule, not your time.
Time management is meant to help you become more efficient and boost your productivity. However, it may also end up increasing the stress you face instead of reducing it if you simply turn around and fill the space you’ve made in your schedule with even more tasks and even more pressure.
Productivity is important. But to avoid burnout, you need to focus on eliminating volume instead of accommodating it.
Reduce the volume of tasks. When you agree to perform a task, it begins to create the pressure to deliver. If you have to break or renegotiate the agreement, you add the additional stress of a challenging conversation and the guilt of letting someone down. Avoid some of that stress by reducing the volume of tasks.
For tasks that are assigned to you, think in terms of priorities rather than time. Consider asking: “Where would you like me to prioritize this against x, y and z?”
For tasks you are considering adding on yourself, calendar-block first—blocking time on your calendar for everything on your to-do list so you can get a complete view of the commitments you’ve already made and your real capacity.
Replace decisions with principles. Continually facing decisions with important consequences and imperfect information can lead to cognitive overload. Reduce the load by replacing decisions with absolute principles—for example, not checking emails during lunch or after a set time, say 6 p.m.
Use structure, not willpower, to minimize distractions. Some examples: Have a set period during the day when you go offline to focus. Leave 10-minute gaps between meetings for reflection and transition.
Source: “Time Management Won’t Save You,” Harvard Business Review, June 23, 2021
- Set work-life boundaries.
Work from home has left many of us working longer hours as we struggle to maintain work-life boundaries. These extended work hours can actually reduce productivity and quality of decision-making while decreasing overall job satisfaction.
Here are some steps to help you get back on track.
- Set a clear time to start and end your day. Let others know that you will be offline during your non-working hours and to only call for a true emergency.
- At the end of your day, leave your work behind. If your work phone or laptop is also your personal phone or laptop, turn off email alerts for your work account after hours so you notice see the emails or pings coming in.
- Be mindful of other people’s boundaries. If you need to set a call before or after their working hours, include a note explaining why it’s necessary. If you send an off-hours email, either delay the delivery until the next morning or note in the subject line that no response is expected until the next day. If you need a response back that evening because it is a true emergency, call the person to let them know.
Source: “6 Ways to Set Healthy Work-life Boundaries,” Thrive Global, May 27, 2021