The daffodils started pushing through the ground, and then the snow came.
It’s the time of year when the days are noticeably longer, and so is the wait for winter to end.
If the mid-winter malaise is adding to your work malaise and further sapping your mojo, you’ll want to keep this from blooming into full blown burnout. March Madness can only take you so far, so score some points for Team Energy with this list:
- Get your rest. Seriously.
Heard this before? That’s because it’s important. If you don’t take time to rest from work, you will burn out. Period.
Think of an athlete in training: He or she can’t go all day, every day swimming, running or lifting weights. An athlete takes time to rest her muscles, to refuel his body with nourishment, and to cross train her mind and body with other activities. The same goes for you. If your brain is constantly connected and thinking about work, it can exhaust itself. And don’t underestimate the evil effect of staring at your mobile phone screen right up until you turn your bedroom light off.
- Have a To Do list and a To Don’t list
When it comes to prioritizing and getting things done, it’s hard to beat the power of a good ‘ol To Do list. Add one more thing to your notepad though, right behind it (and a secret source of energy), a To Don’t list.
Write down the kinds of things that you want to avoid or that you tend to get sucked into (like buying raffle tickets from co-workers’ children). This list then serves as a reminder to, well, don’t. Research is clear on the power of writing down your goals (versus just keeping them in your head). This power also applies to writing down goals of what not to do.
- Make a pact for impact
Promise yourself you’ll only work on what matters most; what will make the biggest impact on your core objectives. Articulate your winning aspiration and how the work you take on will feed it – if it’s not helping you win, then it’s making you lose (I totally just channeled my inner Vince Lombardi there).
Keep your “or not’s” in front of you. Will the new work contribute to your winning aspiration, or not? Will it contribute to your objectives, goals, and strategies, or not? If the answer is no, you know what to do.
Work on having 20/20 vision – meaning, work on the first 20 percent that adds the most value, and keep sight of the next 20 percent you can’t get to but that you’d like to migrate above the cut line should the opportunity arise.
Another filter you can use is to ask yourself if the work is not just warranted, but worthy. Lots of work is warranted, but that doesn’t mean you should do it all. Is it truly worthy of your time, effort, and energy? Will it help enable a worthy goal?
By the way, all of this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t commit to maintenance work along the way – things that are cost of entry to enabling you to keep working on the things that do matter. It’s more broadly about keeping the pact with yourself to keep your portfolio of work dominated by high impact tasks/projects.
- Work on your life versus in your life
What if I told you that recommitting to learning and growth could feed a sense of greater control in your life and yield more energy?
When you do so, it gives you a sense you’re working on a better life for yourself and are escaping the hamster wheel of daily life we can all so easily get caught up in.
Some of the best employees I’ve ever had, a) picked up my dry cleaning, and b) worked on the systems they labored in (to make them better), versus just in them – it’s no different for us with our own lives.
We can work on our best lives by learning and growing throughout, and basking in the significance of so doing, rather than just looking back one day and realizing we’ve merely been living in our life as it was happening to us.
To assist in this, it’s critical to be disciplined enough to spend less time on the maintenance tasks in your life, and more time on the growth tasks in your life.
Research by K. Anders Ericsson, a leading cognitive science and performance excellence expert, supports this. Ericsson’s studies on growth and expertise, whose subject matters ranged from typists to elite athletes, indicated that rote repetition of a skill, no matter how much, clearly plateaued one’s growth. It was the deliberate practice, working on specific tasks that would grow and stretch, like technique, that lead to true growth.
And so it is with all of us when we spend more time on tasks that we know will stretch us.
- Remember the why
Why do I even work here? If you haven’t asked that, zippy-doo for you! For the other 99.9% of people, think back to your first day on the job, or your first interview. What drove you then? Was it the company’s mission? Was it the opportunity to work under a great leader? Go back to your task list and see if you can find that spark through your work.
- Phone a friend
If you don’t have friends at work, make some. Much like your sibling is the only person who truly understands what it was like to grow up with your parents (1990 road trip to Mount Rushmore, anyone?), your coworkers understand your company culture, the expectations, the highs and the lows. Find a cheerleader and a confidante.