For the next few weeks my life is looking a little out of control. I am moving between producing on film sets, to running workshops, writing reports, writing a pack of articles for a website, building strategies for companies with deadlines and all the admin in-between as well as the normal day-to-day stresses of running a business. Thats work, life outside of work also has its demands including birthdays, selling my flat, dealing with some necessary maintenance and the regular responsibilities of family life.
It’s not surprising that I am stressed, not sleeping and getting crazy anxiety eczema. The irony of me writing this blog post at 5am instead of sleeping is not lost on me. I am hoping that putting my thoughts onto screen will help me balance things a bit better.
Years of martial arts has taught me that a successful life is built by striking the perfect life balance. Balance keeps us at the top of our game, with enough space to be able to keep moving forward.
Everything on my list to do, is something I WANT to do. Even the admin and the report writing and the more traditionally boring bits of the work, I want to do all of this. This is how I find myself in this situation. It is all such great work, I don’t want to say no. And now that I have committed myself to the work I need to deliver. There is no way I will let any one of the people down. So I am writing this piece to work out how not to let myself down in the process.
It can be so hard to FIND THE TIME…
When a filmmaker is on set they can do nothing else. It is an all consuming environment that needs you on the top of your game. The same can be true for running workshops. As a UX Content Strategist I am building and running workshops with users for new content we will be making later in the year. These sessions are super rewarding but also very exhausting. You are not keeping up to date with your emails or staying on top of company requests.On these days you have to take the time in the evenings and mornings to carve out extra space for the work that doesn’t know you are busy. The admin, the future and some annoying bits of the past – these things have to continue (or conclude) so that when you are done with set and workshops you have more to look forward to.
But these days are the exception to the rule and also the days that is putting pressure on the rest so while they need special attention its the default days that need to be balanced in order to not be overwhelmed. Here are some strategies I plan to follow:
1. EAT PROPERLY
Eat a proper breakfast. Stay Hydrated and get real sunshine on your face. If this means taking lunch away from colleagues in the sunshine rather than the cafeteria – do it. Sunshine will keep you sane and give you a break. Importantly, take time and space to eat meals. Stop working and breath. Rather take shorter lunches, where you are not at your desk working than working through lunch. I will commit to taking 20 mins lunch rather than thinking I can work non-stop at the office. Even if I am fasting – which I am – I will take 20 minutes to have a short walk and pause my day.
2. STAY HEALTHY
Being physically healthy gives you energy. This means sleeping, as well as exercising, as well as giving the body the right fuel it needs. Each person has a different rhythm of what makes them feel good. For me I need to move everyday. I feel it when I don’t, sleep comes harder and I eat nutritionally questionable foods. So I start out the day with a little bit of exercise to make sure that it keeps me healthy. If the start of the day feels too pressured then I carve out the space at the end of the day.Being mentally healthy is as important. None of us can deliver without our mental capacities. So if this means taking the time to pray, to meditate, to spend time with your family, to unwind with self care, to sleep, to be alone. Whatever that space means to you, find out what it is and protect it.
3. DON’T STRESS ABOUT THE THINGS YOU CAN’T CHANGE
I would like to say I am getting better at this but I don’t think its true. We are always going to find ourselves in a situation where – things are stressful – and there is nothing we can do about it. We can follow up and persist and make contingency plans but eventually things will just happen as they were going to happen and stressing or worrying about it won’t make any difference except to you. It will be worse for you. These things are hard to manage. I find the best strategy is to write out a plan, with the steps you are going to take if different outcomes prevail and then (try) not to think about it until the next step needs to be taken. This is the most damaging type of stress because we have no agency in it. Don’t give it power – let it go.
4. KEEP PERSPECTIVE
In three years time, when you look back on this – is it going to matter? That is the question I will ask myself when deciding how much stress to put on a decision or a task. I will also balance the perspective; are the other people involved with this decision, process, deliverable as stressed about it as I am? Or am I making something more important than it really is? Perspective is so important to keep stress level down and to make sure that your focus is on the right priorities. Keeping the perspective keeps you focus on the goals and the tasks needed to achieve the goals.
5. PRIORITISE : EXECUTE
Don’t get lost in the list. Prioritise BUT THEN EXECUTE. It is so easy to get lost in all the things that need to get done that you forget going the work is the thing that will relieve the pressure. Often other people also need to be told, be involved, be kept up to date about all the different bits and pieces not he different projects and deliverables. But talking about it is not going to get it done. So make sure that the majority of the day is devoted to DOING THE WORK and not all the other actions required to get the job done.It is important to take the time at the start of the day to make a list, to make an action plan and to know that you are prioritising the correct work. Shuffle projects, deadline and expectations is the way to get through it all. So take 5 minutes at the start of each day to see the overall picture with action points on how to achieve the necessary, 5 minutes to plan the elements above that will keep you balanced and then 5 minutes to organise all those things into a reasonable way to spend your day.
This is my plan, I think it’s a good one. I did lose some sleep deciding on it but now that I have I am feeling confident. Good luck to all of us out here on this hustle.