Asking myself why do I do certain things? Why do I lose track of time?
I’ve combined a few regimens that have calmed me down, increased my effectiveness, and made me feel healthier. I’ve created for myself things that some blithely call “habits”. But we all have habits we’re not really proud of and the word “habit” sounds pathological … like you’re Howard Hughes washing your hands.
So, one thing with a “habit” is to make it healthy. Something you do, often because you’ve created your own little system to do it. If you don’t, you don’t have a fit or lash out at the world, you just adjust to do better next time (or you just accept that life doesn’t always respect your system).
Having said all that, here’s my current system which has me feeling much healthier, successful, and calm.
- Give yourself obtainable goals: I make sure I have plenty of tickets in my Personal Kanban to move each day. I try to move several tickets and to make sure that each ticket is either something I MUST do (pay parking ticket, call the cable people) or something that will really move the needle on something I’m trying to complete (finish a Modus Institute class, finalize consulting contracts, write blog posts, etc).
- Focus on your work and yourself: Perhaps more than ever before, I have been sticking to Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro regimine. I work for 25 minutes on a ticket or two. When the Pomodoro timer chimes, I get up and do one of the following:
- Give your brain oxygen: Your brain needs to oxygen in order to work. It does that when you move around. My fitbit gives me nice feedback if I exercise every hour a little bit (250 steps). Whether you do that or some stretching exercises, get up, move, let your mind process quietly, and let your physical systems get some attention.
- Give your brain water: You and your brain are made of water, on every break make sure you drink at least a few ounces of water.
- Clean or tidy: You know how that one piece of paper over there becomes a pile? By not addressing it. When your surroundings become untidy, it actually stresses you out. The best way to keep things in order is to deal with them in little chunks. On a cleaning break, I’ll just find three quick things to put away, toss out, or otherwise clean up. Some I’m working in a beautiful and calm space.
- Remind yourself of what you did: I’ve started saying out loud the things I’ve done over the course of the day and doing an internal check. Am I happy with that list? Did I feel it was enough? Should I have done something else? I’ve found over the last few months that I’m becoming much better at selecting and finishing work that I both should do and am happy doing.
- Know when YOU are done: This is harder, of course, when people are expecting you to be in a meeting or make a deadline, but I’ve found that my body will tell me when I’m done for the day. I’ve generally been running at 6 am to 3 pm each day. Sure I have calls in the middle of the night with people on other continents or, like today, need to start working with a group at 2:30 pm, but I now have much more strength to deal with those situations (and not complain about them) because I’ve let myself finish work when my brain is done.
Very quickly, a note on awareness. I know that these times are done because a clock bings for the pomodoro or the fitbit watch vibrates. I do need external reminders to take a break. Last week I didn’t set the Pomodoro timer and worked for over 3 hours before I’d noticed. We get lost in our work … and that doesn’t make things better.
The flip side … don’t be pathological. If you are in a 2 hour meeting and you want to get up and run around every 25 minutes, you won’t make any friends. You’ll seem like a person who can’t sit still. Do the best you can, when you can.