Springtime can be a time for reflection, renewal and planning. Being homebound for a while means we've got a nice opportunity to dust out the cobwebs and find a bit of clarity.
It's easy to overdo it with complicated systems for optimising every last detail of our lives, and there's plenty of moralising quackery dressed up as inspirational advice out there. This can leave us feeling beaten before we’ve even begun.
But we're all about simplicity here at Timetastic, so here are a few simple and easy ways to freshen up your working life - and maybe put a spring in your step too.
Simplify your possessions
A spring clean is a great idea any time of the year, but especially now.
A tidy desk can put you in a better mood before the day's even begun. In the spirit of Marie Kondo, the world's leading expert on tidying up(!), we can use the KonMari Method: eliminating clutter thoroughly within a short span of time, keeping only the things that spark joy.
For a work desk, this should be fairly simple. Instead of letting it overflow, why not have a dig into your drawers and get rid of all the faff? Who knows what you might find - plastic spoons, old packets of Monster Munch, leaflets for business events three years ago.
Not always a fun job, but it’ll leave you feeling accomplished. It’s a useful excuse to put aside work for a few hours and get away from the computer screen.
Your desk will be a nice place to work when it’s neatly arranged with some joy-sparking things like plants, things to fidget with (eg. Lego), photos of your loved ones, and maybe a picture of an exotic holiday destination to work towards.
Simplify your social life
In times of social distancing, we've got space to think about the connections that really matter to us.
While social platforms like LinkedIn encourage us to continually expand our connections, this isn’t always the best way to bring the right people into your life - simplifying your social life is just as important as growing it. Don’t just accept any request. Consider the business relationship you might be building and whether or not that person is right for you. If not, politely decline.
Rather than 'networking', just try to be social in the right ways with everyone you come into contact with. That involves listening, asking questions, and being genuinely interested in what folks have to say. Connecting people with one another benefits you and them. It's better to be known as a great people person than a great networker.
The same goes for your personal life - just because you’ve been friends with someone for ages, doesn’t mean they're a benefit to your life. I’m not saying be ruthless in cutting everyone out to pursue your career, but if you spend a lot of time with energy vampires that leave you feeling drained rather than rejuvenated, it might be worth re-considering how much you see them.
Simplify your habits
When making resolutions, it's easy to aim too high and trouble ourselves with grand aspirations. With a simpler approach, you're much more likely to achieve them.
James Clear has made waves with the launch of his book Atomic Habits. He reckons you've got to sort out a system for simple habits:
“If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems."
So just put a little thought into how you decide on your new habits. His system, the Four Laws of Habit Change, goes like this:
- Make it obvious - state it in a few words (eg. monthly productivity review, 2 hours) and set up your environment to help you (eg. regular calendar reminders, book no meetings that day)
- Make it attractive - continually remind yourself of the benefits it’ll bring, and reward yourself for hitting milestones along the way.
- Make it easy - get specific and achievable (not ‘get fitter’ but ’10 push-ups a day’; not ‘do more work before noon’ but ‘arrive 15 mins early and don’t open email inbox until morning tasks are done’)
- Make it satisfying - give yourself an immediate reward for doing it. Made good progress with your project? Have a snack. Took the stairs instead of the lift all week? You’ve earned that Friday pint.
The great thing about small habits is that, like interest in a savings account, they compound over time. Getting 1% more productive each day leads to massive improvements over the course of a year.
Simplify your self
Not a whole personality revamp - just a few life tweaks.
Healthy living is key to a happier and more peaceful working life, and one of the simplest paths to this is removing things. Why not try removing something that doesn't spark joy in your life:
All of them at once? You might become superhuman... but let's keep it simple. One step at a time.
Simplify your resolutions
Finally, how about just letting go? The writer Matt Haig, an expert on mental health & wellbeing, suggests that guilty new-year resolution-setting is a path to disappointment.
“You don’t need some shouty fitness instructor to shame you off the sofa. You don’t need some cookbook you won’t ever use making you feel guilty on the kitchen unit. Just be kinder to yourself and learn to like the person you already are.”
I think there’s a balance. A bit of self-reflection can benefit anyone. If we just sit back and accept things, it might reduce our anxieties, but also might make us a bit complacent. A drill-sergeant approach isn’t much fun though, and can cause us to burn out after a month. So how about a simple, healthy approach to working life instead?