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.

Little Tips to Improve Your Work Life

I’ve been doing the corporate thing for 2.5 years now. What I’ve learned? That the littlest things can make a huge impact on your daily life.

Here are a few quick tips to make your time at the office (and those moments before and after) a little more enjoyable:

Drink water. If you’re anything like me, staring at a computer screen for hours on end will give you a killer headache. After months of popping ibuprofen constantly, I finally learned that filling up my water bottle 5+ times a day keeps my headache away. The more water I drink, the better I feel, AND drinking lots of water forces me to get up and walk around, which gives my brain muscles a little break.

Your office is like your room. Treat it as such. You spend the majority of your waking hours in your cubicle, make it feel comfortable. I don’t mean you need to bring in photos of your family, or purchase cute office decor… I simply mean that it helps to have comforts in your cube. A box of tissues, a hand mirror, a hairbrush, a coffee mug, deodorant, utensils, a blanket (I’m serious), etcetcetc…. All of these things will come in handy at some point.

Take a break when you need it. It can be hard to pull yourself away from your desk, but don’t underestimate the necessity of breaks. I bring an anthology to work with me everyday, and read a poem from it once or twice a day. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it allows me to focus on something I’m passionate about, pull myself away from my work, refresh my mind, then dive back in. You can benefit similarly by doing a crossword, having a casual chat with a coworker, or going on a walk.

Over the years, practicing these few little things have truly made me much more comfortable at work and have had a large positive impact on my attitude.

For some (much better) writing on similar topics, check out my articles on GenTwenty by clicking below:

 

Making the Most of Your Summer as a Young Professional

10 Ways to Give Back to Yourself Each Day

Whether Your Day Ends at 5pm or Not is Up to You

 

Writing Garbage/ETC

I write everyday, but some days are harder than others. Some days I find myself churning out pages of inspired poetry… Other days I struggle to complete a single prompt. And still other days I barely write more than a journal entry. It’s a very novice writing life, and I sometimes get discouraged with myself, especially when I churn out pages and pages of overly personal poetry (it happens, okay). But I keep on writing. Even when my writing is trash, I keep going, and eventually I get out of my slump.

The act of writing poetry is often cathartic, and I find that my productivity increases when I’m feeling particularly emotional or “down.” I occasionally get into writing slumps. Sometimes I’m simply uninspired. There are days when I don’t feel like writing at all. And you know what? That’s okay …If you discipline yourself. Writing is work. Our passions are work. On those days when I don’t want to write, there are a few things I do to get the ink flowing:

  • Free Writing: When I’m feeling totally uninspired, I find free writing exercises to be of tremendous benefit. Set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, grab a typewriter or reliable pen and paper, and just start writing. Don’t think about it. Just let your thoughts go and write out everything that comes to mind. Don’t be judgmental of your work. Just write. Look back at it in a couple of days. The noise in your mind may actually inspire some great writing.
  • Pick a Prompt: There are times when I tend to get a bit obsessed with a particular aspect of my life, and devote all of my creative energy to that one thing (ie. during my last semester of college, I was so emotional/stressed/anxious that nearly all of my poems hinted at my anxiety for the forthcoming change). Focusing on prompts is a great way to force yourself out of the bubble and into new territory.
  • Dear Diary… On those days when I simply can’t bring myself to write or revise a poem, I grab an old journal from my book shelf and just start scribbling. I find that just forcing myself into the act of writing can be beneficial, even if the subject matter is completely worthless. The following excerpt is from Feb. 8, 2012, for your reference: “Spring break is less than a month away. It would be cool if summer was less than a month away. But I shouldn’t wish time away. Away away away.” Yay, trash! But still, it’s writing. Total garbage writing… but writing.

The thing is, if you want to write good poetry, then by all means, just write when you’re feeling inspired. But if you want to write great poetry (I do!), then you need to do the work. It’s as simple as that. Stop spending time questioning your abilities as a writer. Just write! Write garbage. Write total trash. Even the worst poem ever written is still 100% better than no poem at all.