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15 Minutes to Workplace Sanity

15 Minutes to Workplace Sanity


    Ever have one of those days when you’re just completely overwhelmed? Too much to do, not enough time. Deadlines looming (or whizzing past), phone ringing, emails pinging.

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    Just everyday life for a lot of us.

    And most days we manage to roll with it, deal with things as they come up, and get along just fine.

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    Some days, though, the clamor of multiple competing demands on our time, energy, and attention can be just too much to bear. We feel overwhelmed and out of control. It can paralyze us — dozens of things to do, and we do none of them, because we don’t know where to start. We fight the urge to just quit — crawl under our desk and hide, hoping it will all go away.

    Quitting isn’t an option, though, and fortunately, it’s not necessary. In fifteen minutes or less you can take a few simple steps to retake control, overcome the panic, move forward, and regain workplace sanity. So when it’s all too much but you must get it done, try this:

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    1. Close your eyes for one minute and just breathe. Grab hold of your mind, block out the screaming voices of panic, and purposely focus on just breathing in and out. Notice where you’re feeling tense, and intentionally relax those muscles. Slow your breathing, calm your mind. Just take those sixty seconds to reclaim quiet and peace.
    2. Clear your workspace. When we get too busy, our workspace usually reflects the clutter of our minds. Our carefully prepared organizational systems go by the wayside; we leave papers on our desk or on the kitchen counter as reminders to do something, and pretty soon the desk or counter is a mass of piles and sticky notes and reminders. Whether or not you consciously recognize it, the chaos of those piles distracts you and makes it nearly impossible to focus on anything. So take five minutes to clear off your workspace. Don’t sort or file anything unless you can do it in seconds. Toss the trash, drop the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, and stash the piles of papers in a nearby drawer or shelf for later attention. If you’re afraid you’ll forget something important, take a second to schedule an appointment to tend to those stashed piles. Your immediate objective is to create a clear, clean, distraction-free space for focused working.
    3. Take five minutes to write down everything that needs to get done. Use whatever method works best for you to capture everything. I rely heavily on technology, but when I’m in this situation, I prefer old-fashioned pen and legal pad. Don’t try to organize or prioritize the tasks; just do a brain dump. Part of the anxiety you feel is a fear that you’re forgetting something, so get it all there on paper in front of you.
    4. Scan the list. Is there anything there that somebody else could do? Your secretary or assistant? A colleague? Your spouse or child? This is no time to be too proud to ask for help — remember, we’re in crisis mode here. Take five minutes to offload anything that reasonably can be delegated.
    5. Is there anything on the list that can be put off until tomorrow (or the next day) without knocking the earth off its axis? Take one minute to check off those tasks that don’t truly have to be done right this minute. Circle the ones that do need immediate attention.
    6. Choose one of the circled tasks. Don’t spend a lot of time agonizing over priority. Just pick one. If there’s something that can be done in a couple of minutes — responding to an email or returning a phone call, maybe? — do that and enjoy the catharsis of seeing your list begin to dwindle immediately. But the main thing is to just pick one.
    7. Clear everything else away, and do it. Gather the materials you need for that task, then sit down and get it done. If it will take more than half an hour or so, considering using the Pomodoro technique: set a timer for 25 minutes and work steadily until the timer goes off. Then take a five-minute break — stretch, walk, get a drink of water — and then get back to work, with the timer set for another 25-minute segment. Keep up that approach until you’ve finished the task.
    8. When you finish that task, cross it off the list and choose another. One item at a time, work through the list until you’re caught up.

    I know this approach works, because it’s saved my workplace sanity numerous times in my own professional life. I’d love it if you’d give it a try and then let me know how it works for you.

    Related Lifehack articles:

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    (Photo credit: Meditating in Office via Shutterstock)

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    Laura McClellan

    Passionate about encouraging women in their roles as wives, mothers, friends, and workers.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

    1. Understand Yourself Better

    Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

    Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

    2. Keep Track of Small Changes

    I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

    Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

    3. Become Aware of What Matters

    As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

    You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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    4. Boost Creativity

    The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

    When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

    You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

    5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

    A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

    Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

    6. Process Life Experiences

    When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

    Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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    7. Stress Relief

    In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

    Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

    8. Provide Direction

    Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

    One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

    9. Solve Problems

    Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

    Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

    When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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    10. Find Relief From Fighting

    Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

    Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

    11. Find Meaning in Life

    Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

    12. Allow Yourself to Focus

    Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

    13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

    When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

    14. Let the Past Go

    I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

    15. Allow Freedom

    Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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    16. Enhance Your Career

    Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

    Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

    17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

    All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

    18. Catalog Your Life for Others

    No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

    We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

    Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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