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12 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees

12 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees

If you manage a team, you know hard it can be to keep everyone engaged, happy, and productive.

Some days, simply getting your employees to show up and get the job done feels challenging enough. But as a manager, you have a unique opportunity to help your team members learn and practice life skills that will help them become happier, healthier, and more productive, both at work and at home. They’ll love you for pushing them in new directions, and you’ll love seeing the increased collaboration and energy in the workplace.

One way to engage your team is to issue a new challenge each week that’s fun and simple to do — and if adopted as a habit, can become a powerful new life skill.

Here are 3 months’ worth of weekly challenge ideas. Announce a new challenge every Monday and check in with everyone during the week. A weekly team meeting is a great time to ask each team member to report on their progress, experience, and learnings.

These challenges were borrowed from the free e-book: 26 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees.

Week 1: Tiny Steps

Procrastination is a huge time waster, but overcoming the inertia can be as easy as taking one tiny step. After that the Zeigarnik effect kicks in — the voice in your head that prompts you to finish what you start. For this challenge, organize your team into pairs. Ask each person to choose one task they’ve been avoiding at home or work and break that task into 5 tiny steps. Starting Monday, each person’s goal is to complete one of the 5 steps each day and report back to their accountability partner by an agreed-upon time. For some people, finishing one step may generate the momentum to complete all 5 steps on the first day, and that’s great!

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    Week 2: Mindful Meetings

    When everyone is present and tuned into the discussion, meetings are more fun, productive, and efficient. For this week, challenge your team to commit to being mindful during meetings. This means taking a couple of deep breaths before the meeting, setting an intention for what they will each contribute and take away from the meeting, and staying engaged for the duration of the meeting by taking notes, listening actively, and speaking up thoughtfully.

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      Week 3: Authentic Smiling

      A genuine smile conveys warmth, trustworthiness, and interest. It’s the number-one way to boost likeability. To smile authentically, you have to engage the muscles around your eyes, not just those around your mouth. Practicing this in the mirror first may seem silly, but it does help! Challenge your team this week to smile at everyone they pass in the building or, for extra credit, everyone they come in contact with inside and outside of work.

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        Week 4: Hunger Awareness

        Overeating during the workday can leave you feeling sluggish and unproductive. Tuning into your hunger will help you slow down, enjoy your food, and feel satisfied with less, so you finish your meal feeling light and energetic. This week, challenge your team to stop and note their physical hunger level on a scale of 1 (famished) to 10 (stuffed) before, during, and after eating each meal. By the end of the week, their goal should be to start eating when their hunger level is at a 3 and stop when it’s at a 7.

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          Week 5: Walking Breaks

          Walking breaks ease mental tension, free your mind for creative thinking, and help to counteract the physical stress caused by long bouts of sitting. The challenge this week is to integrate 10-minute walking breaks into the work day. Have your team schedule their walking breaks into the calendar the day before to ensure they don’t forget them. You can set a good example by converting any 1:1 meetings you have this week to walking meetings, whether you walk outside or just around the building.

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            Week 6: Tech-Free Hour

            Disconnecting from technology, even just for an hour a day, can help you reconnect with the people in your life and experience the world more fully. Challenge your team this week to pick one hour every day when they would normally be connected and completely unplug — no phone, tablet, or Internet access of any kind! It could be during the work day, first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Encourage them to use the tech-free time to do something no-tech like writing with pen and paper, reading a book, sketching, or having a face-to-face conversation.

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              Week 7: Must-Do List

              Taking a few minutes at the end of each day to set your top priorities for the next day is a powerful time management and productivity technique. This week, challenge your team to set aside time at the end of every day to write down the 3 most important tasks they will tackle the next day. For extra credit, ask each person to post their 3 tasks in a shared document. This will add both transparency and accountability, and you might be surprised by the discussion and collaboration it creates.

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                Week 8: Small Talk

                Small talk at the office may seem like a waste of time, but it’s actually one of the most effective ways to build rapport with other people, and that leads to open communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving. This week, challenge your team to practice making authentic small talk with someone they barely know, whether it’s a customer, client, coworker, or even their barista. To establish genuine rapport, you need to go beyond “Crazy weather we’re having!” and generate conversation by offering up an opinion or story: “What did you do over the weekend? Even though it was crazy cold, my kids wanted to go out for ice cream, so we did!

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                  Week 9: Posture Check

                  Chronic sitting triggers back pain and neck tension, contributes to stress, and saps energy and productivity. While a daily stretching regimen can help counteract all that, what affects your posture most is how you hold your body throughout the day. This week, challenge your team to set a reminder on their phones or computers for an hourly posture check. At each reminder, they should adjust their seated position, stand up straight and stretch for 5 minutes, or scooch forward to sit upright on the edge of their chair.

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                    Week 10: Mindfulness Meditation

                    The idea of stopping to meditate for even 2 minutes during a hectic workday may be hard to contemplate, but the benefits make the sacrifice worthwhile. You’ll notice reduced stress, improved creativity, and enhanced focus. This week challenge every person on your team to stop and take 2 minutes during the workday to meditate (this guided track will help). For extra credit and to help reinforce the benefits, encourage them to take note of how they’re feeling before and after each session.

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                      Week 11: Eye Contact

                      Eye contact is one of the best ways to establish trust and rapport with other people, but many of us struggle to make and sustain eye contact, especially with people we don’t know well. The challenge this week is for your team to practice making eye contact with everyone they pass in the building or with friendly strangers. They should try to hold the contact for a few seconds before looking away, and for extra credit, add an authentic smile.

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                        Week 12: Pomodoro Technique

                        Do you often look back after a day at work and struggle to identify what you actually accomplished? We have so many temptations and distractions vying for our attention that it’s hard to get anything done. The Pomodoro Technique helps solve that problem: You carve up the work day into 25 minute chunks separated by 5 minutes of indulgence in social media, online shopping, or socializing. Challenge your team this week to work in “pomodoros,” using a phone, an app like Freedom, or a kitchen timer to signal the start and end of each break.

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                          These challenges were borrowed from the free e-book: 26 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees.

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                          Sharen Ross

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                          Last Updated on July 13, 2020

                          How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

                          How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

                          Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

                          If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

                          1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

                          The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

                          Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

                          For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

                          The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

                          2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

                          Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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                          As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

                          Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

                          3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

                          Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

                            This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

                            We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

                            Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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                            When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

                            Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

                            4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

                            Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

                            For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

                            Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

                            5. Make Decisions

                            For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

                            If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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                            If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

                            Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

                            I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

                            This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

                            The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

                            6. Take Some Form of Action

                            Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

                            The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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                            It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

                            Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

                            The Bottom Line

                            Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

                            When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

                            More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

                            Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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