Common Resolutions to Tackle in the Workplace–Made Easy

Article originally written for Wekudo and can be found here.

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Tis the season to hit the gym, eat healthier, and be a better version of yourself–at least for the next couple of weeks. Most of us begin the new year with great intentions to lose weight, be healthier, and get organized. But after a couple strong weeks of conquering our goals, most of us find it impossible to keep up.

Fortunately, there are some little things we can all do to tackle some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions all year long.

Cultivate a healthier lifestyle. We all know that being healthy requires making smart choices about our diet and exercise. When life gets busy, it can seem impossible to find time to hit the treadmill or plan and prep healthy, nutritious meals. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

On days when you can’t make it to the gym, fit micro-exercises into your daily routine. Take the stairs, walk on your lunch break, or do calf raises while you stand at the copy machine. It may not seem like much, but even a little exercise can do a lot of good.

A few simple dietary changes can go a long way. You’re more likely to make better choices if you make it easy for yourself to do so. Pack healthy breakfasts and lunches for work, and don’t forget to bring easy snacks like mixed nuts and whole fruit. If you’ve got tasty (and healthy) options sitting at your desk, you’ll be less tempted to hit the vending machine.

Get more organized. As much as we often like to convince ourselves that a messy desk is a sign of genius, a disorganized work space can be mentally overwhelming and stressful. Plus, it’s just plain ugly to look at. It can be hard to stay organized when to-dos are constantly flying into your inbox, and paperwork piles up on your desk faster than you can address it. Trust me–I can relate. In a world where many workers waste valuable time each day just searching for lost items, a simple tidy-up can be the obvious solution.

This year, make a plan to tackle the clutter–both physical and digital–methodically. Identify your major problem areas and address them in order of importance. Do you find that critical documents often get buried on your desk? Are you constantly digging through your inbox to find a helpful response?

Make a commitment to spend a few minutes at the end of each day tidying up your work space. Review your daily emails and delete anything you know you don’t need. As for your physical desk, put away anything that isn’t in its proper place. Taking just a few minutes a day to tidy up is a simple and sustainable way to declutter throughout the year.

Make time for loved ones. This is arguably the most important resolution, but can often be the most difficult to achieve. How do we make more time for loved ones when we can barely find the time to take a lunch break or schedule regular doctor’s appointments? We all block off time to attend meetings with our coworkers, so why not apply this same strategy to spending time with those we care about most?

If you often find it difficult to leave the office at a reasonable hour, then consider making specific plans for date night or family night. Hit happy hour with some of your old friends, or meet up for a movie on a weekday evening. The more specific the plans are, the better.

Even if you’re not able to meet up in person, use your lunch break to make some calls to family or friends. I began doing this a few months ago, and found it to be incredibly fulfilling to spend 15-20 minutes on the phone catching up with my grandma during my break.

Finally, take a few well-planned vacation days to simply spend time with loved ones. Taking off a Friday to go shopping with your mom, spend the day at the zoo with your uncle, or try a new restaurant with friends will be time well spent for everyone.

Major lifestyle changes can often feel impossible to uphold. You’re more likely to keep up with your resolutions by making small, manageable changes to your daily life. With persistence and dedication, these little acts can make a big difference.

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Mindset Shifts for a Better Workday

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Article originally written for Wekudo and can be found here.

It should come as no surprise that your attitude at work can impact your career. A bad attitude can be detrimental, while a positive one can have major benefits for you and those around you. Like most things, a shift in attitude and perspective begins at the individual level. Here are three mindset shifts I’ve personally adopted that have made me happier (and probably more pleasant to be around) at work.

The business professional dress code is a privilege, not a burden. Waking up early to straighten my hair, lint roll my slacks, and slip on a pair of heels has never been my idea of an ideal morning. I’d much rather slip into some comfortable jeans and pull my hair into a ponytail. As a result, I often found myself scrambling around my closet each morning desperately trying to find something suitable for the office.

This year, I decided to change my perspective. During an afternoon at the mall, I realized that I had endless options of what I could wear to work. There are entire stores dedicated to clothing for career women, full of beautiful blouses, pastel pumps, and flattering pencil skirts. It feels so silly to only realize it just now, but I finally discovered that dressing up for work could actually be fun–it just took an attitude shift for me to realize it.

It’s up to you to define your own work/life balance. Yes, it’s important that our supervisors and colleagues respect our personal lives and allow us the freedom to find balance between work and everything else. But what we each need to realize is that work/life balance looks different for everyone. What works well for your boss may not work well for you. I have coworkers who never take a lunch break–they simply eat while working and are perfectly content to stay at their desks. Personally, I find that a lunch break–even a 10 or 15 minute one–is hugely beneficial to my morale, productivity, and overall happiness.

Little things, like how you use your lunch break, when and where you spend your working hours, and how you portion out your vacation time can look different for each employee. Take the time to really identify what you need to feel balanced and in control of your life, and then apply those concepts realistically around your work schedule.

I apply this strategy during busy season at work when I need to put in extra hours. I used to log my overtime by staying late at the office, which inevitably resulted in me going home exhausted and hungry for a very late dinner. I’ve since realized that it’s much more effective for me to leave at a reasonable time, get in a quick workout, eat dinner with my family, and then log back on remotely to finish up my work. The amount of tasks I’m able to accomplish remains consistent, but my outlook and happiness is far better just by taking control of how and when I do my work.

Embrace the distractions that serve you. I admit, this mindset shift is a little different, but bare with me. I’m sure all of you can relate when I tell you that my productivity is constantly hindered by time-sensitive emails, lengthy phone calls, and coworkers stopping by to ask questions. Many of these distractions are just that–distractions (with little to no tangible value to me or my workload). But I’ve realized that some of these “distractions” really do serve me, and I’ve altered my mindset to embrace these positive tasks.

When I was asked to give a last minute presentation while I was already swamped with year-end work, I immediately felt overwhelmed and irritated. Then, I realized that giving this presentation would be a great development opportunity, and that the rushed nature to create a slide deck and talking points would be part of the fun. The attitude shift really altered how I approached the extra work.

Even small tasks, like being asked to retrieve an item out of storage, can be a major annoyance during a busy day. Instead of being irritated, I’ve started approaching the task as a good excuse to stretch my legs and get away from the computer screen.

Despite what the distraction is, I’ve found that embracing the tasks that serve me has been majorly beneficial to my attitude and outlook.

No matter what your workday looks like, never underestimate the power of a good attitude. Identify some of your major annoyances in the workplace and approach them with a positive mindset instead. I’m sure you (and your colleagues!) will be glad you did.

Recommended Reading: The Happiness Project

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This article originally written for Wekudo and can be found here.

Per a recommendation at my workplace, I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. It’s one of those books that had always peaked my interest, but never made it into my shopping basket, because, thankfully, I’m already very happy. Frankly, I didn’t think I needed a happiness project. But after reading up on Rubin’s personal journey to become happier and more grateful in her everyday life, I’ve totally changed my tune.

This book is recommended reading for anyone who seeks to improve their happiness right where they’re at–without changing careers, taking a creative sabbatical, or moving into a remote cabin a la Henry David Thoreau.

I’ll admit, after I graduated from college, I genuinely believed that a cross-country move and a glamorous new job in a big city was what would make me happy. But what I learned as I trudged through my corporate internship in my hometown for the next two years was that happiness was never far away. If you seek happiness where you already are, and learn to be grateful for what you already have, you can improve your outlook without turning your life upside down. I still believe that to be true–there are so many ways we can bring more happiness into our daily lives without necessarily making any drastic changes to our living situation or career path.

Rubin’s happiness project began with an epiphany–she already had a great life, but she knew she should appreciate it more.  Rubin armed herself with a stack of library books and began researching theories on happiness (in other words, she did the hefty lifting so that us readers don’t have to!). Rubin’s approach led her to create a Resolutions Chart that would guide her journey throughout the year.

The book follows Rubin as she tackles a different aspect of her life each month: family, money, and mindfulness to name a few. She works through actionable steps to accomplish her resolutions to do things like get more sleep, be more patient, or make time for friends. Ultimately, she learns that small changes in her daily life can have a real impact.

I learned this for myself after the book inspired me to make several improvements to my own day to day life. For starters, I began exercising more frequently (taking the stairs, walking on my lunch break, doing yoga 5x a week), tackling home projects on the weekends (donating old clothing, decluttering my desk) and dressing better (updating my workplace wardrobe, buying comfortable shoes in various colors).

I’ve learned that, for me, taking a short walk during lunch is like hitting the reset button. I’m able to get back to my work feeling more energized and focused. Oh, and dressing better really did improve my confidence in my workplace. You know what they say: look good, feel good.

I’ve always known that exercising, cleaning, and dressing the part are great habits to have, but I was amazed at how my small actions could have such a positive impact.

By the end of Rubin’s year-long journey, she reflects, “After all my research, I found out what I knew all along: I could change my life without changing my life.” In other words, she was able to find more happiness right where she was, and at the end of the day, I think we can all learn something from that.

Daily Habits for Happiness and Wellbeing to Embrace

This post was written for Wekudo. View the original post here.

Like most working adults, no matter how content I am, I can’t resist always looking for ways to find more balance, health, and happiness in my life. But despite the fact that I’m always looking for ways to improve, I’ve had a tendency to ignore commonplace advice to do things like take the stairs, drink more water, and dress for success. For the past couple of months, I’ve decided to make small changes in my day to day life to see just how much of an impact they can have. The results have been surprisingly encouraging. Here are the daily habits I’m finally embracing with open arms (and think you should too):

Drinking more water. Hydration is critical to our health and wellbeing, and there are several benefits of drinking water.  After struggling with occasional headaches and dizziness at the office, I realized I needed to be more mindful of staying hydrated. Each morning I fill a travel mug with ice water and carry it with me all day, filling up whenever I need to. I have my water in my car on the commute, carry it into meetings, and keep it at my desk throughout the day. It’s much easier to drink plenty of water when you make it accessible and convenient for yourself.

Staying active at work. I made a realization a couple months ago that my desk job had suddenly made me more sedentary than I’d ever been. In the workplace, it becomes really easy to go for 8 or 9 hours with barely any physical activity. Fortunately, there are many small steps we can take to be more active at work. There are also some simple stretches we can do that are good for those who sit most of the day. Personally, I’ve started taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking a few laps during my lunch break, and doing calf raises while I scan documents. These small, daily rituals have helped me to feel more energized and active at work and give me a great mental boost of accomplishment when I need it.

Dressing for success. We’ve all heard the saying: “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Well, if I did that, I’d probably have to settle for wearing a Snuggie to work every day. For me, comfort is always a top priority. Style–not so much. Which, in the office, is probably not a good thing. Like it or not, people judge each other on appearances, and that can hold especially true in the workplace. I decided to take this advice to heart, and updated my wardrobe to include pencil skirts, dress slacks, and black pumps. What I’ve learned is that it feels good to look good. And the compliments I get on my updated appearance aren’t half bad either.

Taking a break–literally. Taking short breaks during the workday can be a wonderful way to recharge. I’ve always been a little uptight about productivity and focus at the workplace. Meaning, when I’d see my coworkers taking breaks to walk around the office, scroll through their social media feeds, or read the newspaper, I’d get irritated. “We’re here to work, not frolic around,” I’d think bitterly to myself. But I’ve since come to my senses. A few brief breaks during the day aren’t necessarily detrimental to your productivity–they can actually be great opportunities to clear your mind and recharge for the tasks ahead. I’ve found that occasionally taking short breaks to make a cup of tea, stretch my muscles, or catch up with coworkers results in a great mental boost.

Finding balance and wellness in the workplace can seem like a never ending challenge, but there are many small steps we can take each day to feel better and happier.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned these past few months is that your health and happiness should be a priority, even in the workplace. Whether that means taking a couple extra minutes to take the stairs instead of the elevator, to take a short break in the afternoon to catch up with a coworker, or spend a couple extra dollars on a tailored pair of slacks, happiness, healthiness, and productivity often walk hand in hand.

Hacks to Create More Free Time in Your Week

This post was originally written for Wekudo. Check out the original blog post here.

For many of us, “free time” is a little bit like a missing sock–we know it’s around somewhere, but we can never seem to find it. Add up the time most of us spend commuting, working, doing household chores, and putting in extra hours to get ahead (or, in some cases, catch up), there never seems to be free time during the week. Fortunately, there are some small tips we can each follow to build more free time into the week.

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