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7 Principles to Keep Calm when Work Gets Insane

7 Principles to Keep Calm when Work Gets Insane
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Work can be hectic some days. No matter how well-oiled a machine is, we all get swamped every now and again. Some system glitch, field trip, flu, or act of God may hit your workplace, and you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and clean it up. If work is bogging you down and you’re online to ignore it, you’re doing it wrong. Here are the seven principles to keep calm no matter how crazy work gets.

1. Remind Yourself It’s Only Temporary

Life is temporary. Everything in life is temporary. You are temporary. No matter how bad things are right now, it is only temporary. Suck it up and make it through, and you’ll be that much stronger, wiser, and more beautiful for it. You’ve been through worse than this.

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2. Meditate and/or Medicate

In the holistic view, meditation is the answer to every problem. Your problems become easier to overcome if you sit still long enough. I’ve used meditation to great success to keep myself calm at work, and you can too. All it takes is to close your eyes for a minute and listen to your breath. Feel your chest expand and contract as you breathe in…and out…in…and out…In as little as five minutes, you’ll be refreshed and renewed, making the work a little easier.

Most holistic teachers ignore the benefits of medications, but Western medicine is prescription-based and I would be doing you a great disservice to not recognize this. If things are really getting to be too much and your stress or anxiety just won’t go away, go and see a doctor to discuss accessing therapy or anti-anxiety medications. Also know your limits if you decide to self-medicate, or you’ll end up hurting yourself more than helping.

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3. Stop Multitasking

Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew. Just because you’re facing a mountain of paperwork doesn’t mean you have to reach the summit in one shot. Having more work doesn’t mean you have to do more at once – it’s not like you suddenly gain superpowers when the work necessitates it. Continue at a pace you’re comfortable with. Splitting your focus will just tire you out faster.

4. Accept Failure

No matter how good you are at what you do, no matter how much you practice, you will fail in life. It’s unavoidable. Accepting the possibility of failure makes it easier to get through the work. Things may be bad if you fail, but unless you’re in the military or a bomb squad, few deadlines lead to actual death. Do your best to deliver results, but if it doesn’t happen, you at least know you did your best.

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5. Take a Hike

Sometimes you need to walk away from the office for a moment to gather your wits. Don’t be afraid to take a 15-minute stroll to keep your sanity despite the insane workload you’re facing. It may feel like slacking off, but it’s better for you in the long run. I love taking walks to invigorate my mind and body while giving me time away from the heat to formulate plans to get through it all. Try it out.

6. Stop Surfing the Internet

Let’s be honest – you’re procrastinating right now. There’s no real business purpose for you to be online. You’re avoiding work. If you weren’t avoiding work by surfing the Internet, maybe work wouldn’t be so insane. You’d get your tasks completed, and you’d have time later on to surf the Internet. I live online, so I can assure you nothing is happening right now that can’t wait another hour or so to read about. If anything important does happen, you’ll hear about it. Focus on work.

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7. Know When to Fold ‘Em

Some workplaces are always insane. Think about what the hiring manager told you: did they say there may be occasional overtime, and suddenly you’re finding out “occasional” means 12-hour days seven days a week? Temporary (i.e. 3–6 months) bouts of insane workloads are normal, but if you constantly feel like work is insane, maybe this isn’t the job for you. Take a moment to really look at your life and decide if this is worth it. If it’s not, don’t be afraid to leave; just do it in a professional manner.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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