Starting & stopping

Ideas for greater awareness

This last week has been tumultuous but fulfilling in terms of work and maintaining my energy throughout the week.

Last week, it took enormous amounts of energy to get out of bed, and this week I’ve been waking up early, energized by the work others are doing while building a new fence on my property to provide more frolicking space for Shakes. It’s provided an exciting buzz, knowing that someone is also up early and ready to get to work.

I’ve got some new projects and stumbled upon some unique interactions at work that have left me feeling creatively stimulated with new ideas. I’m slightly anxious because I want to deliver well. It’s also refreshing to meet work strangers and end up working very well together.

I’ve been growing acutely aware of how I can spend my time, almost to a fault, which leads me to some habits I’ve experimented with this week in order to stay organized…

This week’s tip is to practice when to start and when to stop. Make whatever you want to start very easy.

I came across an opportunity alongside a colleague to write a blog about how to Stop AAPI Hate. We gave ourselves a very quick deadline, which required strategic scheduling and communication on how to work on it.

I’ve never created such an efficient outline in less than 15 minutes, but when I look back, I recognize some familiar pieces: I was aware and anticipatory of how I’d go about it (setting up a short meeting, drafting an outline, setting a timeline) that I could perform without having to think about how to perform. I had the structure to allow me to be creative.

Some of my strategies and learnings have included:

  • Keeping boundaries: taking the time-blocking on my work calendar seriously

  • Sabbath: exercising periods of no-screen time, and not keeping my phone at my desk during work

  • Self-awareness: recognizing signs that my mind or body is becoming to be anxious so I can take action to address it and avoid unconscious spiraling

  • Habit stacking: listing what I need to do (and doing it first), so that I can do what I want to do as a reward

  • A parking lot: putting tasks in my Google Calendar or on paper so they’re out of my head and dedicated toward a specific time

  • Rest: going to sleep half an hour earlier to combat some of the fatigue I’ve been feeling

I’ve been more productive this workweek than any other week in the recent past, and while I feel weary, I also feel proud and fulfilled. I think this is what good work is: knowing you have something to do, executing it in a groove, and reflecting on your work and saying that it’s good, for now. It doesn’t mean you don’t have more work coming, and it doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard. It’s just easy enough to be fulfilling and to prompt you to do it again (Atomic Habits).

At the same time, I had a total meltdown because of a moment of disappointment yesterday, and I didn’t realize that I let it affect my entire evening. The theme that I’m seeing for myself this week is awareness.

When I feel like I’m able to see that I’m making better decisions when it comes to managing my time, I have more confidence in my ability to try. I know that if I block off an hour to do something specific, I can likely deliver it in increasingly productive ways. Less spiraling, more compassion and confidence in myself. It doesn’t mean that we won’t encounter doubt in our creative work, but if this is a muscle, then let’s get to work!