Work More, Stress Less
Today, I discuss what I learned from over-working myself and techniques I now use daily to be more productive and keep myself positive, present and stress-free. One of the greatest strengths I learned about myself when I started this blog in February is that I am extremely motivated and dedicated to my future dream. I believe in myself and while I often have doubts (as any normal person would), overall I have a resounding "YES I CAN make my dream job happen" in my mind at all times. I have recognized how important hard work and TIME is in this blogging world. As I realize my strengths, I also see the weakness I have in how I sometimes let my passion rule my life and my mind, and therefore create constant (and unneeded) stress in my life.
I would be lying to myself if I didn't admit that at times throughout this past six months I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself. I work full time as a dietitian in a position that takes a lot of mental energy on a daily basis (counseling is my passion, but it can be very emotionally taxing and the amount of clients I am expected to see in a day while also supervise other staff can be very exhausting). Blogging and trying to start my own private practice on the side. Trying to be present with my loved ones and be a good wife/animal mommy/friend/sister, etc. I could go on...but you get it. I thrive on being busy and active and I am not one who relaxes very well. I have really BIG dreams and if I am not working towards them, I feel like I am wasting time. (Clue to how I over-did it!)
Oddly enough, I am so incredibly thankful for this stress, as it has been a great life learning lesson for me. I can handle so much more than I thought I could. I am strong, passionate and driven. I am confident in my skills as a dietitian and confident that one day I will have a thriving business of my own. But you know what I have also learned? Running myself into the ground isn't going to get me there.
About a month ago I started making changes to how I work, how I manage my time and how I begin and end my day. These changes have made a profound difference in my stress levels and overall daily happiness. What did I realize a month ago after some major soul searching?
I was not managing my time well. Working from the moment I woke up and until the last minute before I went to bed, spending my weekends trying to cram in as much work as possible (with no breaks), etc.
I was not working efficiently. I was multitasking, working with no goals and direction in mind, trying to fix and learn everything I could all at one time, etc.
I was not starting and ending my day with a routine that promoted a positive, peaceful and present (and therefore productive) mind. Everyday started by immediately opening my computer (while the TV was on) to start working. Trying to cram as much work in as possible while packing food and getting ready for work everyday made me leave the house feeling chaotic. I would end each day doing the same thing and as a result often went to bed frazzled and unable to wind down. The lack of sleep or good quality sleep made me constantly feel like I was in a fog and not able to concentrate properly.
So what has changed in my life? I am actually doing SO much more work and getting SO much more accomplished on daily basis because of these three changes:
Working smarter, not harder.
Creating a morning and nighttime routine.
Working a full time job and blogging (which is basically a full time job as well) is obviously a huge juggling act. I have created 'on' and 'off' times with work, and set boundaries for when I allow myself to work. I believe constantly feeling like I needed to be 'on' at all times was actually making me less efficient in my work. Now that I have cut off times, I am working harder because I know that I cannot keep working after a certain period of time. While this blog doesn't feel like work because I love it, it is important that I structure it as if it is work so that I am giving myself time to relax and unplug.
Times I don't work? First thing in the morning, at the end of the night (more on that below), after 5pm on Saturday, and I only work in the mornings on Sunday. (Side note: I have to work weekends right now, but one day I hope to make weekends off limits for work as well.)
I also realize areas in my life where I was wasting time. My morning workout routine at the gym is pretty quick and efficient, but I was also going to hour and half yoga classes and that coupled with the drive time would often take up 2 hours of my day. I plan to switch all my workouts to the morning as this is when I enjoy exercising the most, and on the days I am not lifting weights, just focus on quick, efficient workouts at home. My favorite right now is BUTI yoga, but I also love barre exercises and walking my dog.
Working smarter, not harder.
I owe all the credit for this idea to Nicole Culver at Blissful Eats. I took her Food Entrepreneur Summit Course (<--highly recommend this!) and have continued with her strategy sessions. I have learned so much from other bloggers and entrepreneurs, include Nicole. Learning to do things like 'power hours' (45 minutes working, 15 minutes off), stop multitasking and having 'theme' days have made a huge difference in my time efficiency. Again, having on and off time periods of the day and on the weekend has also helped me work smarter because I am not allowing myself to continue to work, work, work. I am such a better worker and produce better quality posts when I have a clear and present mind, which brings me to the third change...
Creating a mindful morning and nighttime routine.
And this one I owe full credit to my sister. After she posted about her morning routine and nighttime routine I started making changes in my schedule. My daily morning and nighttime routines are now the following:
Wake up 4:45-5 am and tongue scrape, drinks lots of water, make my coffee for the day.
(Cold) shower and eat breakfast. Write three things I am grateful for.
Get ready and put all food for the day in my lunchbox.
Once everything else is complete: post and promote posts for the day, plan social media for the day, answer emails, etc. before leaving for work.
As soon as I get home from work: complete daily cleaning tasks (so I am not spending all weekend cleaning) and daily blog tasks (related to the 'theme' of the day). Also, pack all food for the next day. (Food prepping most of our meals on Sunday has been a huge time savor as well.)
Allow only specific time frames for social media, commenting on blogs, etc. Gone are the days where I just do this slowly while watching TV until the minute I go to bed. Now I time myself out, take away distractions, and just try to be present and fully engaged.
And then I completely cut off all work, around 8pm and:
Walk my dog or do restorative yoga and stretches including foam rolling.
Write out my to do list for the next day (that way I am not running lists in my mind) and journal any other thoughts I need to get out of my head.
Read while I spending quality, present time with my husband and children (my animals).
Nostril breathing or nighttime meditation and by 9pm, lights out! (Yes I go to bed earlier than my grandparents!).
Creating a morning and nighttime routine has helped me start and end my day with a positive, peaceful, and present mind. This allows me to focus better and be more productive but also relax, handle stress better and simply be happy!
Your turn: I would love to hear your thoughts on preventing burn out, your morning and nighttime routines, and what you do to work more, stress less and LIVE your life more!