In this series (check out Part 1 and Part 2), we have been thinking about what to do when you want and need to continue working and creating, but you’re exhausted, tired and frustrated. How do you keep going?
Here is a checklist of helpful tips that work for my clients — and for me!
Ritualize the hard work
You may have heard people say, “Do the hard work first.” I totally agree. Sometimes when we are tired of the project or exhausted from the work we avoid the hardest parts. Those hard bits and pieces keep lurking around, getting bigger, and wearing us out. The more we avoid them, the harder they are to accomplish.
What I like to say is this: “Do the hard work first AND build consistent rituals that make work easier to get in to.”
What does ritualizing the hard work look like?
Create a time, a place and a method for getting the work done.
In my business I have a few pieces of work I avoid. I love my business. I just do not love bookkeeping! Bookkeeping — actually, AVOIDING the bookkeeping — can make my whole business feel like a chore. But I am learning that if I make this task a ritual, it eliminates the stress and strain caused by avoiding it. I do my bookkeeping the same time of the week and month, in the same place. I give myself a treat (tea and music). And I put on my “Get it done” attitude.
Do you have a task or two that are making you dislike your whole job? Figure out the pieces you really do not like. Do not put off those tasks. Create a ritual for getting them done. (Or if you are lucky, maybe you can hand those tasks to someone who would enjoy them.)
Take a break
Take a break! Take a break! Take a break!
Walk away from the desk. Walk away from the work. Walk away from the project.
Do this for a short time every day. Do it every week for a longer period of time. And please take a real break. Do something nourishing and DO NOT talk about work.
For more about the benefits of taking breaks, check out this post [link] AND this post [link]. Really, taking breaks is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself.
If you’re going to keep going when the work is tiresome, you need to know why you are doing the work in the first place. Then when the work gets hard, you have to remind yourself of the reason you are doing it.
Ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” Write it down. Put that note somewhere you can see it.
(Oh, and check in with yourself about that “Why…” If your answer is about guilt, obligation, and pride you may want to examine if you really want to keep going.)
Move your body. It will reduce stress. It will give you new perspective. It will increase your creative problem-solving ability. It’s fun.
You don’t need a big new routine. You don’t have to join a gym or buy an exercise outfit. Walk around the block. Stretch in the mornings. Put a happy song on your iPod and take a dance break.
Trust me, getting in touch with your physical self really helps when times are tough.
Sleep will… well… make you less exhausted! If you are tired of the work and you are not sleeping, it is hard to keep going. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier for starters. Create a cozy ritual around bedtime. Don’t take your phone or your tablet to bed.
If you are having trouble falling asleep it could be the stress from work. First increase your exercise during the day. If that doesn’t help you fall asleep more easily, talk to a health care professional.
Meditating for just five to 10 minutes a few times a week will give you a different perspective. Meditation does not always bring immediate relief, but you will discover that it does help throughout the day. Meditation reminds us of our breath, of our connection to each other and nature. It helps us take things a little less seriously.
Stay tuned to my next post to see four more tips in the checklist.
Erika - May 31, 2015
I always enjoy reading your articles… I can practice your tips even to break home routines. I’m trying to stop procrastinating steps that are the base for my future goals to achieve a master program. Do you have any advice for starting new good routines? I’ve read that after doing a certain activity for about 21 days in becomes a routine/habits. I want to break the idea that I’m still in a process of adgusting myself to a new world, but a month and a half should be enough don’t you think? Or Am I being to though to myself?
Annie Von Essen - June 15, 2015
Hi Erika – new habits can be so tricky. Research is finding that 21 days is not actually always true. It really depends on what the new habit is. I really like this book about habits – “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” by Jeremy Dean. One thing I think that is really important is to pay attention to the context in which you are creating the new habit. Keep the setting, timing, etc. the same as much as you can. Context is huge when setting a habit! Start small. And build a little kind accountability around the habit. Also a big move can take a real long time to get use to so be super gentle on yourself.