Today we live in a world where information and demands are coming from every direction. Where everyone at work and home needs us, often all at once. Where we expect ourselves to thrive, despite the uncertainty and complexity each day brings.
No matter our specific situation or role, today’s world is tough. Some days we maneuver with “grace,” and other days are not so pretty. To bring our best to as many moments throughout each day, it is vital we commit to focus on ourselves.
As I reflect on my days and my engagement, I can honestly conclude that I must do better. I must make myself a priority and frequently ask “How can I take care of myself so that I can positively contribute and support others?” Logically it makes sense to focus on ourselves, yet it is hard for us to enact. Every time I fly, I am triggered by this. Before a flight takes off I hear, “In the event of changes in cabin pressure, your oxygen masks will come down. Remember to safely put yours on first before helping others.” As a frequent flyer and mother of twins, I often think, “My children must go first.” And then I am reminded, if I cannot breathe, I will not be helpful to anyone.
So, how do we put ourselves first in today’s world when we are desperately needed? For this, I refer to advice from Level 1 technical support. On most days, taking these proven steps will help us reflect and adjust so we can more consistently perform at our best.
Diagnose the problem.
Throughout the day we must get in tune with our feelings, the good ones and those that are disengaging. Do not push the feelings aside or justify them, just understand them. Maybe you are feeling sluggish, disconnected, overwhelmed, or even stuck. Figure out the main feeling that is holding you back, and dive deeper into when it started and its impact. This information will help you identify the root cause and effectively address the roadblock.
Troubleshoot the problem.
There are many basic Level 1 strategies that we can implement alone or in combination to remove or mitigate roadblocks, improving our engagement and results.
Refresh yourself. Maybe you just need a break, to step away from what you are doing and regroup. Working from home like many of us today, has removed the habit to get up and go to the “water cooler” or stroll to a colleague’s desk for reassurance or a few laughs. We now need to proactively employ new techniques like creating reminders to breathe, stretch, or get up and move. Perhaps even call a friend, listen to some music, or grab a snack. These small actions will refresh our energy and perspective, resulting in longer-term habits that support a new and healthy way of work.
Streamline your focus. On our computers we often open Task Manager to see what’s processing when something seems off. Like our computers, we also need to explore what is on our mind. Given the awesome responsibilities many of us have and feel, we become numb to the multi-tasking occurring in our minds and actions. We need to go old-school and write down everything we are processing (mentally and physically). We can then consciously review our list and prioritize, removing distractions and freeing up energy to focus on and tend to what is most important. We must be stringent on the vital few, giving ourselves permission to put a few things on pause or shorten the list. Remember, if everything is important then nothing is important, and we can only focus on one thing at a time to really give it our best.
Assess your connections. Making sure the right connections are made in the right way is significant to our level of effectiveness. As we look at our computers, being connected to more things is not always better. Connections fight for priority, and cords get loose and tangled up. In fact, it can result in reduced ability to process and perform. Similarly, it is important we assess the quality and quantity of our connections to information and people. We need to choose with intention which connections we want to maintain or renew and remove those that cause a drain or distraction. For example, as we work, we can shut down news feeds or popups, or set up filters to organize email into importance or categories. For our relationships, we can set boundaries, such as picking up only select calls or spending time with those who fuel and lift us up.
Power down and restart. If your attempts to refresh, refocus, or connect with meaning are not enough, it may be time to shut down. Completely step away and recover, building resilience needed for long term engagement. We must make time to disengage from work or the stressor, allowing us to participate in various activities that reset the mind, body, and spirit. For example, take a fitness class, enjoy a hobby, dive into a book, meditate, listen to a podcast, host a movie night, spend time with family and friends, and get a good night’s rest. There are many options to explore and implement to benefit the self, allowing re-engagement with renewed energy and focus.
Escalate the problem.
If the prior techniques do not give you the relief you need, then reach out for help. Just as you openly help others, there is an open hand waiting for you. We cannot be good at everything or have all the answers or expect perfect days. What we can be good at is knowing our limits and when it is time to engage others for Level 2 support.
Today’s world is not about perfection or having to endure roadblocks on our own. Its complexity demands us to make self-care a priority and work with others for better results. We have great opportunity to take back control and put our needs first, implementing the right strategies and securing the right support to perform at our best – for ourselves and others.