In the last 21 days, I’ve been at work for 19 of them. Many have been 14 hour days filled with stress, bombarded by questions and non-stop meetings. It’s enough to make someone sick–and it has for me. I’ve done this job for 8 years and every year, by the time this month is over, I’m sick and spend my holiday weekend in recovery.
But not this year.
Over the course of the last year, I’ve made a few important changes that have saved my sanity and helped me maintain my health. Here is my stay-well-stay-sane strategy:
Exercise. This may seem like the opposite of what you’d expect to hear when you’re double busy–add more to your schedule! But trust me on this one. My regular exercise routine may have been the best strategy to keep me healthy. On days that I was very stressed, I’d go to run or my workout classes, even when I didn’t want to attend. About 10 minutes into it, I was worn out–in a good way–and was able to think more clearly as a result of pushing myself with exercise. In the entire month of insanity, I only missed one day of my workout program (and it was for a meeting with my university’s president that couldn’t be rescheduled). If it’s hard for you to find time, think about your TV time differently. Can you do a core workout in during the commercial breaks? Can you ride the exercise bike at the gym while watch your trashy reality TV show? Can you watch the show online after you’ve finished your walk/run? Yes, yes and yes!
Make use of your “runaway mind.” Sometimes, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and couldn’t turn off my thoughts. The more I’d lay there, the more my mind would run through all of the things I needed to get done. When I’d stayed in this cycle, I’d lay there for hours and not make any progress. And so I made a rule. I’d lay in bed for 15 minutes. If I couldn’t get back to sleep by then, I’d make use of my “alert mind” and do research on my Pinterest page (important research at 4am), I’d get up to clean the house, or I’d get up and make a list of tasks that were running through my mind. And I found, that within an hour of doing any of these things, I was ready to go back to bed.
Delegate well. When I started in my job 8 years ago, I spent my days doing everything. Directly involved, hands-on, doing everything. As my department has continued to grow and evolve, my position has significantly transitioned into a managing, mentoring and delegating role. I can’t attend every event, I can’t be present at every meeting and I can’t answer every email. So I hire amazing people, I trust them to do their job and I delegate appropriately. I still want to be involved in everything, but as I’ve delegated to them–I’ve seen new and better ideas emerge. And I’m grateful for it. Look at the people around you. Every day you have a chance to empower someone else, develop their leadership skills and give them lasting skills that will benefit them for the rest of their life. Realize the power of delegation. It doesn’t mean you’ve pushed crappy tasks to someone else (If you wouldn’t do it yourself, don’t delegate it–lead by example); it means you’ve invested in someone’s potential and you’re here to see it through to the end.
Know when you’ve had enough. I’ve been extra busy this month because we’re also hiring new student employees. Toward the end of the month, One of my employees said he could handle the interviews by himself, and I agreed. So I bowed out. He hired 7 employees on his own–great development for him and great breaks for me–and it’s worked out well for both of us. These student employees seem to be a great fit for our field staff. Realize the opportunities that present themselves to you. Do you have to attend that meeting? Can you reduce your involvement in the committee? Can you ask someone else to represent your group at the event? You are replaceable and you can’t do everything all of the time. You will serve everyone much better when you focus on the most important things with your time and energy.
You have the chance to change busy into balanced. Keep your focus and you’ll come out better on the other side. I know it, because I’ve seen it in my own life.