How's your year going? Seriously, sit down and let me know how 2019's treating you. As we enter the last third of the year before *audible gulp* 2020, I think it's time to take stock of how the years been and set the wrongs to right so we can go in strong to the last part of the year so, in that terrible tv talent show we can 'make it our own.' Reader, I don't know about you but the past few months have not been great for me, I've felt burnt out, anxious and just not at my best. After slowing down I'm finally starting to find my rhythm again and want to rattle through some achievements before the festive season overtakes us. To that end, this is the first of a few blogs that will run with the idea of ways to get ourselves achieving our goals. The first one pertains to three things that you should sort out before the last part of the year with some ideas of things to do or but that might make you feel ready to own the next few months. Why should kids going back to school get all the stationary fun? We didn't even get a summer break, let's treat ourselves right.
Sort your space-
First of all, where are you working and how can it work better for you. Maybe it's time to declutter that desk and get all your supplies in order. As cliche as it is, a tidy work space does, for me at least, lead to a tidy mind. Do you really need that dodgy ballpoint pen that only works after scribbling for 5 minutes solid? Time to put away everything you don't need and make sure everything you frequently use is close to hand.
Maybe consider an IKEA Pegboard? Oh IKEA, have you an end to you Swedish wonders? You show us the lingonberry way in your labyrinth of a shop (sans Minotaur thankfully). My latest and most useful IKEA purchase was the SKÅDIS pegboard and it's great. It's basically a piece of wood with a load of holes drilled into it but its versatility is boundless when you pick up some of the accompanying wonders. Things include letter holders, pen pots, hooks (great for scissors), small shelves, clips and bungee cables. It works wonderfully well in a kitchen too but in my home office, it's been superb in being able to give me lots more desk space. It's a brilliant way to neaten up the things you need close to hand and the boards themselves come in lots of sizes to accommodate any space. Have a look here.
So your desk is looking better, now how are you sitting. I think it's time to ditch that old dining chair or the office chair with the broken back and invest in a new one. Office chairs are expensive but we spend so much time in them (hours a day) we might as well make sure we're not killing our back. Get a nice one like this back support built-in mind chair from HAG here. Or this beautiful Saul office chair from MADE here.
If budget fails (and Lord knows I'm with you there) Lumbar supports are a cheap and quick option and can be added to any chair. There's a range of options here but I personally am enjoying my mesh one that was less than £10.
Sort your workflow-
Time to think about what you want the last part of the year to look like. Sit down with a new notebook and write your goals. You can then work out a step by step plan on how you're going to get there. Now I always seem to have spare notebooks (because they are the most useful gift ever) but if you don't may I recommend Kraft notebooks from Paper Chase. Cheaper than a Moleskin (great designs but not good paper) easy to recycle and plain enough to not be precious about. Have a look here.
Get those goals on paper, but be realistic. There's nothing more demoralising than over-promising and underachieving so think about the practicalities of each goal. You can also use the old SMART targeting formula to test each goal. If you haven't heard of it before it's a useful little acronym meaning are your targets...
Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Assignable – specify who will do it.
Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Cringey? A bit, but it is useful in practice. Finally, share your goal and have someone keep you accountable and praise you with cake and coffee when you're doing well.
So we're getting things done but we want to feel like we've got people cheering us on in our corner, giving us help and techniques for when we get stuck. Luckily a lot of wise people have written some really good books on how to become and stay motivated. I recommend 99u 'Manage Your Day-to-Day.' A series of short essays on different aspects of your working life or Work Like a Woman by Mary Portas. A great manifesto on why traits such as empathy, vulnerability and instinct should be as valued in your work as confidence and competitiveness. I find these books can vary depending on what you're looking for so do shop around but sometimes reading about how you work can provide some perspective on how to work better.
Sort your head.
Finally, let's all make as much as an effort to take care of ourselves as much as our work. You've sorted out the working pattern, you've set up a nice place to work and you're on your way to set your goals. However, hard work can take a toll. I feel it's important to say, never sacrifice your mental health for your work. The cost is too big and if you should take proper action and get help and advice. However, if you're just looking to help stress here are some things you might find useful.
Eye Leo is a great free piece of software that reminds you to take a break. It has prompted to do eye exercises and then will tell you when it's time for a longer break. You can set the time parameters to go as often as you like. It's almost annoying when it goes off when you're in the middle of something but we do need a break away from the screen and this has helped me with migraines. Check it out here.
I also really like the Headspace app which has a free meditation starter course (it will prompt you to subscribe but just close the window). I don't do it as often as I should but when I do meditate I find it helpful and relaxing (I also LOVE the sleep sounds). Reading is good too, I'd suggest 'How to Stay Sane' by Phillipa Perry and if your looking for something active to do that's a fun distraction I'd check out the 'How to steal like an artist' journal. No artistic skills required, it's just lots of fun prompts on journalling in a new way.
We've also heard all the countless articles on why staying hydrated is more important. There are countless fancy apps, smart water bottles that all help but let me spare you some time and money. It all comes down to this. If water is on my desk/eye line/bag/ I will drink it. If it's not, I won't. Do yourself a favour and start your day by getting a big glass or reusable bottle, filling it up and then doing it again at lunch. It'll do you the world of good and you can still get your coffee and tea as normal.
I hope that's helpful and given you some suggestions on what can get you excited about working into the next part of the year. Any more suggestions you have I would love to hear them! Comment below or on my social media. Next blog, let's snap-on our lycra, put on our sweatbands and get physical!