The pressure to be constantly on your best game and to always be producing, delivering and executing is intense these days. Not only are the expectations of other people placing us under pressure, but the pressure we apply to ourselves is relentless. There’s never any let-up and no drop in the pressure. Just constant demands, endless work and high expectations.
We are living, emotional beings that from time to time get upset, angry, feel tired and are just not in the mood to do the work expected of us. The push to standardise work — to make sure we are always following the SOP (standards of procedure) manual — has left us feeling we have to get the work finished on time every time to the exact same standard on time every time.
Take a step back.
I think It’s time to step back. Time to realise we are not machines. We have our own independent thoughts and feelings. Some days we are going to be on fire. On those days we can achieve an inordinate amount of work to the highest possible standards. Other days we are less energetic. Maybe we didn’t get a great night’s sleep, perhaps we had a fight with our loved one or a relative is seriously ill. There are many factors that can have a debilitating effect on the work we produce.
And that’s the point. We need to understand we cannot produce a consistent amount of work every single day. There will always be days when we are not at our best. We are human beings, affected emotionally by external events subjected to our own body’s biorhythms and our own body’s physical fragility and we need to become comfortable with that fact.
On days when you feel fantastic, take the opportunity to get a lot of work done. On days when you feel particularly fragile just focus on getting whatever you can do done. Small steps taken every day can lead to amazing destinations. You do not have to accomplish everything in one day. When you feel great, do a lot. When you feel not so great just do what you can.
You don’t have to be hyper-productive every day.
That’s a problem with the world today, we feel we have to be hyper-productive every single day and that’s simply not true. It’s not only not true, but it’s also impossible.
This is why we need to be less hard on ourselves. Accepting that there are days when we are not going to be as effective as we would like and instead of sitting at a computer screen and getting more and more frustrated with ourselves, we should give ourselves permission to get up and go out for a walk or just take a nap. Just do something different and that we want to do and feel like doing.
Each week I have a number of things I want to complete. This blog post for example usually gets written on a Monday morning and posted Wednesday morning. Although I like to get it written Monday morning, there’s absolutely no problem doing it Monday night or Tuesday morning if I am tired and not in the mood to write Monday morning. It’s far better I write when I am in the best mood for writing rather than forcing myself to do something my heart is not in the mood for. This need to feel under pressure all the time is what leads to break down and that is not something we should be aiming for.
There are, of course, things you can do to maximise your energetic and productive self. Make sure you get enough sleep. Pulling all-nighters three times a week will just lead to burn out and a terrible state in which to get quality work done. Likewise, if you are filling your stomach with greasy, sugary food all day this will impact your brain’s ability to stay alert.
A few small steps…
To maximise the number of days you perform at your best make sure get enough sleep and drink enough water. These are the basics. On top of that make sure you get enough exercise each day — and no, that does not mean going to the gym or doing a 10k run every day. It just means you do at least thirty minutes walking each day — eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid alcohol. Take regular breaks throughout the day. Trying to sit at a desk for several hours without a break every day won’t produce more work than a person who works for ninety minutes and takes a thirty-minute walk. It’s likely you will produce less work and the work you do produce will be of a lower quality than the person taking regular breaks.
And it is not just healthy physical habits but also mental habits too. Avoid stressful situations. Understand you do not, and will not, have the answers for every problem and never allow yourself to get upset, stressed or angry about events you have no control over. Accept negative events and situations for what they are and deal with them. As the Stoics would tell you, you may not have control over the events that happen to you, but you do have control over how you react to them. Letting small inconveniences annoy or cause you to get angry will not change the event.
Stop putting yourself under constant daily pressure to produce and execute. When you feel you need a rest, take a rest, even if it is only for an hour or so. Just take that time out. When you come back to what you were doing you will be refreshed and energised and ready to produce amazing work. Life should always be about enjoying what we do every day and being proud of what we produce. So be proud, stress-free and well rested.
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