In 2013 I'm embracing be present and I wanted to share some ways I'm working on this at my job. There are times when my mind feels so full of thoughts about the baby or life outside of work that I lose my focus at work. It's not enough that my productivity is significantly affected but it leaves me feeling that I could have accomplished more with my day. I want to establish better habits of being present at work now because I know it will probably get harder when I have a cute little one to think about and when I'm lacking sleep.
Here's what I'm doing to be present at work:
Make it easy to jump back into projects in the morning. Instead of shutting my computer down in the evening I “lock the screen” and then turn off my monitors. Often I have several files and weblinks open at one time for a project and if I leave everything open I can pick right up where I left off when I get in the next morning. I was finding that in the time while I was waiting for my email and internet to open I could easily check personal email, Instagram, etc. on my phone and that would take my focus away from work. It’s not the most energy efficient tactic but I do turn the whole system off on Friday afternoons and the ability to jump back into my work first thing in the morning is worth it.
Put away the iPhone. Oh so hard. If I can see my phone it’s so easy to quickly check my personal email, send a text or check social media when I need a quick break…and the more often I see my phone the more often I seem to think I need a quick break. Plus I can instantly see if I get a text message or call and then my concentration is broken. So the phone has to be put away, out of sight and ideally even turned off. I know that there’s nothing so important that it can’t wait for me to check my phone at lunch or at the end of the day. If Chris really needed to get in touch with me he’d email me at my work address or call my work phone number.
Change my mentality. I think this is the biggest one. I used to get the Sunday blues when I worked at unfulfilling jobs. I dreaded leaving my cozy, happy house and going back to the blah office on Monday morning to endure another week. Now I can honestly say that I love my job – I have a great boss, I get to do interesting work, I have autonomy and responsibility, I love working in higher education…I have so much to be thankful for and I am every week. But still I sometimes find myself wishing I had one more day of weekend and feeling a little anxious on Sundays. It’s nothing like the Sunday blues that I used to get but I seem to be clinging more and more to my weekends. I realize that it’s not realistic to look forward to work as much as I look forward to weekends spent doing exactly what I want, and I don’t expect to achieve that, but I don’t like the mild dread that I sometimes get as the weekend draws to a close.
I had this “aha” moment one night while I was awake at 2 AM (pregnancy…) that instead of thinking, “I have to go back to work tomorrow,” what a difference it makes to say to myself, “I get to go work tomorrow where I have a great boss, get to do interesting work, etc. etc.” I realized the feeling of not wanting to go back to work comes from wanting to spend my time on other things – like projects in the nursery, projects around the house, trying out a new recipe I just read about, and just spending time with Chris; all things I can’t do while I’m at work. Instead of focusing on what I can't do at work I should be focusing on what I get to do at work. Just saying to myself, "I get to go to work tomorrow," significantly lifts anxiety that I'm feeling about starting a new week. It's incredible what a simple mindset shift can do.
I've been practicing these tactics since I went back to work after the holidays, some days I do better than others but overall I'm making changes and I am feeling more present. On days that I can fully focus it's so rewarding. I'm able to leave work feeling a sense of accomplishment from getting things done during the work day and being fully engaged. After work it's more satisfying to dedicate my full attention to all the other things I want to spend time on. I'm hoping it will become a well-formed habit by the time the baby is born and one that I can fall back into when I return to work after maternity leave.