I realise now that some of my last blog posts may seem a bit “ranty” and probably more than a little unprofessional. I will blame this all on stress, as I’ve had a lot of it lately. I won’t go into the intricacies of my daily schedule, as that bores me, and, in fact, adds more stress to my life. Instead, I will share with you one of the best ways I know to calm myself down to get to work:
Watch a well-loved film, or at least just put one on in the background. I’ve found over the past few months that some of the most comforting things are those films that I love so dearly. The past week it has been Lord of the Rings that’s been my saviour. Watching the beautiful friendships of The Lord of the Rings brings a sad sort of comfort to my heart that I’d long since forgotten about.
Other films I like to watch to destress include Moulin Rouge, (500) Days of Summer, and Pan’s Labyrinth. In a similar way, series 5 of Doctor Who always brings a smile to my face, or a tear to my eye, depending on the episode. If you’ll notice something about all of these, they all have a bit of happiness, whimsy, and sadness to them. This combination is especially comforting to me. I can quietly shed a tear for Frodo and Sam, Satine and Christian, Ofelia, and The Doctor, while escaping my own troubles. Probably not the most ideal way to deal with stress, but it works for me.
Another technique for destressing is to actually sit and block my day out into hour long time slots. This might sound tedious, but seeing the day laid out on a neat little piece of paper actually makes me realise how much time I do have. I find that personally, this technique works better for me than a simple “to-do” list. To-do lists grow and mutate. Things are added to them in an unrealistic fashion, but you can’t add more hours to the day. I’ve read a couple of articles over at the99percent.com on time and task management (read A Day Without Distraction, If It Won’t Fit On A Post-It and Lab Rat: Do Your “Most Important Task” First for some good examples). In a way, I think I’ve been combining these different methods for a little over a year now as a way of coping with stress. I don’t make these lists all of the time, just at the most busiest periods of my career. My hourly schedules help me prioritise, divide up my day, and get the most difficult tasks out of the way first. Here’s an example of what a day plan might look like:
10-11 Research Target Markets
11-12 Finish researching Target Markets
1-2 Reading for coursework
2-3 Finish reading for coursework
3-4 Email to NPD
4-5 Write Blog Post
6-7 Work on Magazine in IT Suite
7-8 Work on Magazine in IT Suite
8-9 Finish work on Magazine in IT Suite
I try not to plan beyond 10pm, and if I stick to this plan, I find myself working harder in order to accomplish things in the allotted time period. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Shower don’t actually take one hour each to complete, but by dividing my time like this, I can extend tasks if I need to, or start a new task earlier. Also, by the time I’m done with my 3 hour shift in the IT Suite, I’m at least able to cross something off the list. I may not have finished what I set out to do, but I can safely say I did the first two hours of “work”. In the end, I’ve accomplished something, but more than anything, it’s the process of writing everything out and seeing that my work is actually manageable that makes me feel better.
And finally, I feel a bit of satisfaction and manage to destress by just sitting in the kitchen waiting for my dinner to be ready. As I said above, cooking and eating dinner doesn’t take an hour, but even that half hour of just sitting and waiting, knowing I can’t be focused on anything else because I might light the kitchen on fire helps me to destress. And who isn’t comforted by the warmth of a kitchen and the smell of food?
What ways do you calm yourself down in the face of a heavy workload? Are you a rabid to-do list writer? A player of addictive computer games? Sudoku master?