Monday, March 3, 2008

Preparing Yourself for a Hard Week

We all have them: We're staring down the barrel of a stressful, productivity-required week. What do you do?

* A massive to-do list?
* A flowchart of when to do everything?
* Plan on working nights and weekends until the stress is over?

Those are all good options, as they give you clarity about what's in front of you to do. But it's also the time to invite your Higher Power (whatever that looks like) into the situation. If you don't believe in one, consider your support network your higher power. The point is not to walk into the dark forest of your fears and stress alone.

Just like recovering from overwhelm, planning for a busy week can leave you feeling not good enough and compulsively overworking with the hope that that will solve your problems.

Hey, I've been there. As the charter member of of the workaholic's club, I've had more than a few obsessive weeks where I've done nothing but work and gone to sleep panicky and had bad dreams full of what I forgot to do.

Today, happily, we all have more choices. Ask yourself the following:

* What is absolutely necessary today?
* What's ONE thing I can do today to make tomorrow go smoother? (Limit yourself to one or two things. Making a list of 10 means you're trying to do today's work and tomorrow's work at the same time. It doesn't work.)
* What's one thing you can do to take care of yourself today so that you're calmer tomorrow?
* What will your work hours be today? Set them and then stick to them, except in an emergency (and by emergency I don't mean that worried feeling you have. I mean an emergency that's be verified as such by someone objective).
* What do you need to ask for help on?
* Where can you get this help?

Start your day with these simple questions and you'll be more likely to finish the day happy. I always try to remember this objective:

By the end of the week, the work will be done one way or another; how much do you want to suffer in the process?

This is a shift in thinking: It isn't just about the product; it's about the process. One of my favorite lines in the wonderful book Eat Pray Love comes from the Balinese medicine man. When asked to describe Hell and Heaven, he explains that both end up in the same spot; it's just that you go through hell to get to it or you go through bliss to get to it.

The choice is up to you, to some extent. You can't control others, but you can control how you treat yourself and others in the meantime.

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