Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. -Benjamin Franklin
And aren’t we all trying to do just that every day of our lives – to be happy and healthy, wealthy and wise? Which is why there are so many self help books these days, a whole industry of doctors, psychologists and spiritualists. But before we feel the need to approach doctors and depression therapists, if we can start making slight changes to our eating and sleeping habits, we can avoid (or at least delay) the whole concept of treating minor illnesses, and instead indulge in preventative care of our bodies and minds.
Ayurveda is an ancient science of health that uses the body’s own wisdom to balance and heal itself. Sleep is one of the supporting pillars of Ayurveda, in addition to diet and lifestyle habits. Sleeping well enhances your energy levels during your waking hours. In this article, I share a few Ayurvedic tips to sleep better and wake up fresher. None of these are rules or regulations, simply suggestions – take what resonates with you, leave out what doesn’t :)
Things to do Before Bed to Sleep Better
1. Eat a light dinner before 7 PM each night. Modern way of life seems to leave little time for a proper lunch these days. So most people eat a big breakfast, skip lunch or skimp on it, and end up having a big dinner before they go to sleep. This means we’re not using the body’s generation of digestive juices during its peak time, which is mid-day. Instead we’re trying to push our bodies to digest big meals when it’s least equipped to do that: when it’s getting ready to go to sleep or when it’s still trying to wake up. It’s not easy to change our life-long habits, but this is an important one to change. A couple of suggestions to help create this habit:Advertising
- Make lunch a priority during your daytime schedule. Eat a bigger lunch, so you’re not starving by the end of the day.
- A bowl of soup is warm and comforting for dinner, but not heavy in your belly.
2. Avoid electronics in your bedroom. That means no TV, no computers, no phones. All of these screens have a way of stimulating the senses at the end of the day, when we should be settling down our minds and bodies. The back-lighting in all those smart screens so close to our faces in the dark makes the sleep-inducing melatonin to slow down. Try to get all your TV, laptop and phone checking done outside of the bedroom before a certain time, before you get to bed. A couple of suggestions to make this a habit:
- Set a reminder for when you need to turn off everything by say, 9:30 PM.
- Shutting down the appliances completely hinders the temptation to “just check one last time.”
3. Massage your limbs. This is a pleasant activity before bedtime, to help induce a sense of relaxation in your body, but also your mind. It’s an effective way to reduce stress at the end of the day, any headaches or tension pains, and also insomnia. It would be great to have a willing partner to help you with a massage, but you can do this yourself too. Pour a small amount of oil into your palm, and rub it into your legs – from above your knees down to each toe, and into your arms – from your shoulders to each finger. Use long, easy strokes as you gently rub in the oil. A couple of helpful tips to make this a nightly routine:
- Use a light, non-staining oil, like sweet almond, or jojoba.
- Add a few drops of essential oils, like lavender or rosemary, that are said to be soothing on the nerves.
4. A cup of tea, or warm milk before bed. You may or may not need this tip, but if you’re still feeling awake and hungry past 10 PM, craving for something to eat while you ease into your new habits, a cup of warm milk might help soothe that craving. Chamomile tea, or other sleep inducing teas are also a good idea for this time of night. A couple of hints and suggestions:Advertising
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine after 7 PM.
- If you must eat something, eat a few dried cherries and / or dates, that are supposed to induce natural sleep.
5. Deep breathing or meditation. To help wind down your body and mind, turn off all the lights at 10 PM. If you live in the city, put in ear plugs to cut out noises. Adjust your room, your nightwear and your blankets so that you feel balanced – not too warm or not too cold. If you’re familiar with meditation, you can create your own ritual that helps you sleep. A couple of meditation techniques that help induce sleep:
- Deep breathing: Lie down comfortably. Place your hands on your belly. Deepen your breathing to a point where you feel your abdomen rise up and down with your breaths. Focus on your breaths. This will help keep your mind off your problems and thoughts. If you catch your mind wandering, simply bring it back to your breath. This practice is very calming, and will slowly induce sleep as your mind relaxes.
- Counting sheep: yes, it works. It doesn’t have to be sheep – you can count your exhale breaths each time you breathe out, and visualize yourself going deeper and deeper into sleep. This is almost hypnotic and very calming.
Things to do in the Morning to Wake up Fresher
6. Wake up at the same time every morning. If you fall into a pattern of getting to bed at a certain time every night, your body will fall into a natural rhythm of tuning itself to nature’s days and nights. This means that your body will wake up at the same time naturally every morning. Ayurveda recommends that we stay in tune with nature’s cycles as much as possible. How you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. A couple of considerations to take into account:
- If you do need an alarm clock to wake you up, choose one that has a gentle, non-invasive sound that doesn’t jar you awake.
- When you open your eyes, don’t jump out of bed. Take the time to remember any dreams, notice how your body feels, and stretch your limbs gently before you get out of bed.
7. Greet the sun every morning. In our modern way of life, we take no time to take in some sun each morning. We go from the house to the garage, in our cars, and work in encased artificially lit buildings all day long. According to Ayurveda, sunlight has a supremely empowering effect on all of creation. There is an energy in the atmosphere at sunrise that comes to us free and cheap, if only we remember to make use of it. So make it a routine to get some early morning sunshine every day to get your body back in balance. A couple of ideas to get some sun on work mornings:Advertising
- Make it a ritual to see the sunrise. This can be a time to consider your blessings, plan your day ahead, and build in a pause into your day, rather than hit it running.
- A short walk at sunrise. Do you walk your dogs? Walk to work? Or simply like to get some invigorating fresh air in the mornings? If so, time it with the sunrise. You’ll notice what a difference it will make.
8. Hydrate your body. After a night of sleeping indoors, under blankets, the trapped heat and sweat dries out your mouth and your body. Ayurveda says how you start your morning helps set the mood with how the rest of your day goes. So start off by re-hydrating and re-energizing yourself for the oncoming day. A couple of ideas to re-hydrate:
- Splash your face with cool water when you roll out of bed. Wash your eyes while they’re slightly open – be very gentle. Also rinse out your mouth. Repeat a few times.
- Sip a glass of warm water. Add some lime or lemon to reinvigorate and stimulate your digestion and to wake you up.
9. How about some yoga? Now I may be pushing it – who has time for yoga in the mornings, right? However, Ayurveda prescribes that early morning is the best time for yoga, to activate and energize your body and mind. If you don’t have time for an hour or 30 minutes, consider doing a few stretches, or a couple of rounds of sun salutations. Similar to the previous tip, this builds a pause into your day, make you meet the day deliberately, rather than trying to play catch up. A couple of suggestions to build this into your morning routine:
- Believe it or not, it all starts with going to bed early enough to wake up early. Once you get your ideal amount of sleep each night, your body is ready to go in the mornings.
- If you’re not into yoga, use your favorite exercise routine during this time. Tai Chi, walking, running, or climbing stairs are all great alternatives.
10. Eat a light breakfast. This goes along with what I said above about having a big lunch. Before noon, your body is simply not ready or active enough to handle a big breakfast. It will make you feel dull and sluggish, rather than wake you up. Instead, have a small breakfast before 9 AM that will activate your digestive juices but not overload the system. A couple of suggestions for a light breakfast:Advertising
- A piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or a small bowl of granola is plenty for your morning meal
- Don’t snack between breakfast and lunch.
So what do you think about the 10 tips to have a more energizing morning and waking up fresher? If any of the tips resonated with you, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Featured photo credit: Saiisha via NestInTheForest.com
Published on January 16, 2019
How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work
We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.
You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.
You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.
That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.
Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:
1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All
Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.
We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.
To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.
At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.
The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.
2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.
The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.
In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.
It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.
It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.
So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:
- Are you a great strategist?
- Are you an effective planner?
- Is Project Management your strength?
- Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
- Are you the ideas person?
- Is Implementation your strength?
Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.
3. Use the Strengths of Your Team
One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.
Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.
Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.
Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.
4. Take Time for Planning
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln
One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.
You can take the time to think about:
- What’s the purpose of the project?
- How Important is it?
- When does it need to be delivered by?
- What is the best result and worst result for this project?
- What are the KPIs?
- What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
- Who is working on this project?
- What is everyone’s responsibilities?
- What tolerances can I add in?
- What are the review stages?
- What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?
Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.
5. Focus on Priorities
Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.
Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.
One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box
The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.
If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.
If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.
6. Take Time Out
To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.
If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.
Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.
In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.
Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.
7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.
I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.
Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.
If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.
8. Stop Multitasking
Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.
So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.
When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.
If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.
9. Work in Blocks of Time
To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.
I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.
Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.
Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.
Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.
Then take another 10-minute break.
Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.
By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.
10. Get Rid of Distractions
Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.
“Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”
Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.
If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.
11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks
You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.
Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.
Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.
12. Take a Time Audit
Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?
Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.
You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:
Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.
Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.
At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.
If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.
13. Protect Your Confidence
It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.
When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.
Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.
When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.
A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.
The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.
If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.
Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com
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