Written while listening to this, why don’t you forward to a friend who hums along?
Nowadays, I wake up to silent mornings, not necessarily serene ones but quiet nonetheless. Today, for a brief moment in that stillness, I thought everything was a nightmare, and now that I was awake, I was finally free from it. Sadly, it didn’t last long. The silence swiftly left the stage to reality and worrisome thoughts. Don’t we have a lot of those recently?
Still and all, I got up, made the bed, got dressed, and specifically wore my favorite shoes. This is a cue I am trying to establish for my new routine. I am trying to make home a more pleasant place to be, but I am also trying to dress my part. Why? Because one of the things I have learned from being a freelancer for so many years, is that my environment affects my productivity - especially in dire times, and I am prone to label everyday Sunday, which takes a depressing turn after a while. So while I tend home more than usual, it helps me to dress my favorites as if I am going out.
I find myself working more since we moved the office home. While the retail industry is on a halt, we are trying to weather the storm as a female-founded small business; my to-do list is piling rapidly, and zoom meetings especially take up so much time.
But when do we do the work itself? I clearly need to dedicate time to my creative tasks. I need a fresh mind for about 90 minutes, not a few distracted minutes squeezed in between meetings or deadlines.
I forwent multitasking years ago; it is impressive how well the mind performs in deep focus. Compartmentalization is harmful in the long run, and I believe multitasking is a lousy hype we inherited from the 90s. No one really benefits from it. It drains more energy than it should - not only for little to-dos or errands but mainly for high-performance tasks. Keeping all tabs open is really a leak in energy.
That is why I have been working in blocks of time for the last couple of years, which I must say, have profoundly benefited from. Personally, this happened when I had to make the transition from being a night owl to an early bird and, dedicating a block of time to what I valued most allowed me to quiet my mind and do the work.
I find it extra compelling in these times we all are going through. Being showered by worrisome facts and thoughts are not natural conditions to work under, and we all must try to at least allocate an hour to find our center and move into the Flow.
Oh, the Flow - my favorite word and my beloved state of being. For me, it is the rhythm I find when I’m writing or designing. It is the state where every decision I take is in harmony with my being, my work, and the world. It is the ultimate state of productivity, and it fills me up with dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins! Oh, don’t we need those?
Dedicating a block of time is the only way to achieve this abundant level of concentration. Unless we set it, it is only a matter of time to see a drop in our daily performance as we are still adjusting to our new routines and trying to navigate stress at the same time.
Setting parameters for when and how long you’ll work will help you sustain a strong performance as long as you allow yourself closure. Knowing when to stop is as important because we all know, it is rather quite easy to miss the cue, and then suddenly, you find yourself working 24/7.
There are two things to consider when ending your day. First is to let your mind have closure - have a Z report because it needs it. And second is for your future self - to have the stamina to start again tomorrow.
As Hemingway has put it, ‘stop when you are going good.’ Yes, you can work for another hour, yes you can reply to another email, yes you can finish that piece. Well, don’t. Leave that last bit for tomorrow. Not only will it be easier to pick up where you left yesterday, but you will also begin with a fresh mind.
Don’t answer emails at 10 pm, and don’t have dinner at your desk. Don’t exhaust yourself. Instead, cook slow, luxurious dinners, enjoy your night in. Nourish yourself. This will help you ground yourself and manage anxiety.
Take off your shoes and mindfully end your workday.