Every Labor Day is greeted with plans of avoiding work and squeezing every last ounce of enjoyment out of summer. We get our invites to various BBQs, picnics, ballgames, etc. and we separate ourselves from work as much as possible. But doesn’t this cause us to lose sight of what this holiday is all about? Sure, it’s always amazing to take advantage of a long weekend and spend some time outside and with loved ones, but we have numerous opportunities for this throughout the summer and the rest of the year.
Labor Day is different, though. Labor Day is a celebration of the American workforce and the work they’ve (we’ve) done. With that in mind, I wanted to turn your attention to something that may be a little counter-intuitive this Labor Day: improving yourself, and your work, at work.
No matter how much we love our coworkers, and/or enjoy doing what we do, there will always be times when we feel bogged down by the monotony, or crushed under the pressure, or overwhelmed by our work-related responsibilites. It’s inevitable, and for some, it’s the status quo.
This is less than ideal, obviously, and in order to avoid it, we need to create a work environment that allows us to be more productive, while focusing on ourselves, rather than just the work at hand.
Ok, first of all, it should go without saying, but use discretion here. We (you know, your boss and I) don’t need you taking 20 minute breaks every hour and a half.
With that being said, taking breaks is hugely beneficial to your productivity, and your mental state while at work.
I know, it’s hard to get past the whole “I have so much work to do, I can’t take a break” thing, but giving your mind a rest may be exactly what you need. Contrary to popular belief, there is no benefit to working yourself to the (figurative) bone. Turns out less actually is more.
You can handle your calendar on your own, you don’t need some sort of “system” to help you keep your things in order. I know, I’m the same way. But let me tell you, as responsibilities continue to pile on, this becomes more and more difficult (read: impossible) and things – big and small – start to slip through the cracks. Get yourself a planner (digital or otherwise) and start mapping out your days and your weeks. It’ll keep you moving like a well-oiled machine, and will greatly reduce the number of times you’re reminded of a project just three days before it’s due. (We’ve all been there.)
This goes way deeper than just making yourself a calendar to keep track of your projects, this encompasses mapping out how and when others can co-opt your time, too.
How many times have you been in a good flow with a project only to be tapped on the shoulder and asked for help? Don’t get me wrong, it’s super important to lend a hand when asked, but you also need time to get your work done.
Set a block of a couple hours in your schedule every day for “you time”. During this block, don’t schedule meetings, don’t work on other things, just plug in, get your work done, and watch your productivity skyrocket.
Productivity is the name of the game, but in order to even play the game, you need to get yourself in order. Self-care – you know, taking care of yourself – plays a bigger role than you might think in your productivity. It clears your head, diminishes stress, and recharges your mind so you stay sharp.
One of the best forms of self-care is exercise. Spending just a few hours a week exercising can have incredible benefits for your mental health and your work. I know it’s hard, and no one is asking you to wake up at the crack of dawn to hit the weights – unless you care to join me - but getting your body moving will knock off the cobwebs and set you up for a clear-headed, productive day at the office.
As Blink-182 so eloquently said, “work sucks, I know”, but it doesn’t have to. This Labor Day, take the opportunity to improve your work life. It’ll benefit the rest of your life, too, I promise.
Until next time – I need that report on my desk first thing tomorrow.