It’s Monday and I have that same thought I’ve had for the last several weeks… I have too much to do. When this thought passes through my brain, I find that I am extremely unproductive with my time. I find myself looking at articles, rechecking my personal email, and slipping in a game of sudoku to “take my mind off work.” These things done in moderation can be effective, but done obsessively do nothing to decrease the workload.
Some researchers have come up with theories, methods, and fancy vocabulary to describe this action. “Overworking Anxiety” or “workload paralysis.” To say these words makes it sound almost acceptable; as if there is a reason I am not doing what I need to do and it makes it okay. The first rule of mindfulness is being honest, and the honest truth is: I am getting in my own way. I am self-sabotaging my work and hating myself for not being more accountable.
When I get into these slumps, I find it is important to go through a mindfulness checklist. I keep it pinned to my cork board next to my desk so it is always in my line of site. It allows me to be accountable for my actions, be mindful about what I need to do, and find the peace of mind to get it done. This list may help you as well.
☑ Remember why you are doing the work you do.
It can be so easy to start working and have the tasks pile up on each other until the work seems monotonous. When this happens, all motivation will float away and in its place is denial, doubt, and helplessness. Thoughts like I’ll never get this done or What’s the point? begin to fill our heads. This is why it is important to remind ourselves why we do the work we do. If we love our job, write it down or say out loud in the bathroom mirror why. “I love my job because I get to help a vulnerable population.”
☑ What is your incentive
On the other side of the above coin, someone may hate their job. “If I hate my job, then what’s the point in remembering why I’m doing it?” Well…. that’s the thing. Why are you doing it? Are you doing it to pay your bills? Are you doing it to put food on your table? Are you doing it to provide opportunities to your loved ones? Are you doing it to build you up to the next level, where you can get to where you want to be? What is your incentive? Once you identify that incentive, repeat it like a mantra. I will do this because I love my family. I will do this because it will raise me up. I will do this to maintain my home.
☑ Work with Focus
Single tasking will become your best friend. When your task pile has become so high that you feel like you want to hide under a bed, break out the purple pencil (or whatever your favorite color is) and identify the top 2 items that need to be completed today. If you create a priority list where you are completing the 2 items you identified as the most important, the rest is just in addition to. It will make you feel productive instead of climbing a never-ending escalator. This has been the singular most important part of my checklist the last few weeks.
☑ Reframe Your Perspective
This is important when it comes to accountability. It is easy to look at a pileup of tasks and think there’s too much to do so I’m going to do nothing. It is harder to look at your coworker or colleague and say “I didn’t get any work done yesterday because it felt too heavy.” Especially in client-based or team-based work environments, it is important to understand how your actions affect those you work with. After you have refreshed yourself and buckled down into the why’s and incentives, remember who else is in this river boat with you; rowing together is much easier than rowing with someone going against the current.
☑ Do Not Compare Yourself to Others
While it is important to understand varying perspectives, don’t get caught up in how much your coworker is getting done versus you. Light competition might be healthy, but too much comparison leads one down a path of self-doubt that is hard to turn back around. Once you start comparing yourself, it will be hard to stop looking at your coworkers as adversaries versus equals and colleagues. Someone may look like they have it all together while behind the office door they may be experiencing the same feelings you are. Everyone works at different paces and qualities, that does not mean you should compare one person’s method of working with your own. Be your own unique self!
☑ Take a Moment
It is important to take a moment out of your day and just be present with it. Listen to five minutes of music that moves you. Close your closet door and do stretches. Go through a very methodical routine of preparing a cup of tea. Make five minutes of each work day yours. But be mindful with your time. Make those five minutes intentional. Sitting for five minutes while you quickly scarf down a burrito before your next client is not the same as taking five minutes and reflecting that this is okay.
☑ It’s Okay to Not Be Finished
It is okay to look at your task pile at the end of the day and not have it all completed. We all recognize that some days will be more productive than others. It is okay to recognize that the pile will always be fluctuating. Consider this – if your basket of to-dos was always empty… what would you be paid for? To-do’s make up our jobs, and we will always have them. At the end of the day, we need to be satisfied that we did the best we could. If we feel we didn’t do the best we could, we need to shake it off and say tomorrow will be intentional.
Other things to consider for a checklist:
– Sit in the morning and relax before your day begins
– Brush your teeth with focus and think about each individual brush stroke
– Eat mindfully with no phones, head phones, or technology
– Take slow walks
– Read in silence
I hope this list helps, just writing this out helps me intentionally acknowledge what I need to do to get through my day mindfully and aware.