We all get up on the left side of the bed every once in a while. Everything just seems to go wrong.
We hit snooze on our alarm (assuming we heard it), and wake up only after something (or someone) drags us out of bed. Perhaps it’s our kid, spouse, or in my case, my dog barking on a large mound of “brown matter” he left for me during the night.
After that, it gets better…I usually skip breakfast as I run out to work. During the drive I’m thinking about whether I closed the door. I try to remember if I turned off the air conditioner, and if I refilled the dog’s water. Yup, things are not looking up this morning.
When I reach the office on days like this, it’s pretty much the same scenario, just with work related problems. Rushing from one task to another, spilling the coffee over my keyboard and missing deadlines as a side treat!
It’s a funny thing how non-work-related events influence our ability to get into the zone and focus on our job. Our day can look totally different if we do a bit of planning before we start our day. All we need is a little fine tuning to change behaviors that damage our ability to stay focused…Here’s what to do:
1# Before work – Fight the Snooze Button
Snoozing – Technology made it legit, put your trust in the snooze button and it’ll give you 15-20 minutes of extra sleep. But nobody gave Mother Nature the memo right? You can’t snooze without consequences and she’ll get back at you for that.
Before your alarm rings, you are in the REM sleep stage (Rapid Eye Movement). At this stage your body is extremely calm and you might be still dreaming. Then the alarm goes off, waking you out of REM. You hit the snooze button hoping to get to the end of that awesome dream and get an extra 15-20 minutes of calmness. But you’re actually doing quite the opposite; your sleep becomes fragmented and causes a huge amount of stress to your system leading to the wonderful – “how many balls can I drop for you today” – day. Check out some cool tricks to help you fight snoozing.
2# During Work – Ease into it, avoid eating that frog
The beginning of the day is not the right time for big challenges. I know, I usually advise to tackle the most brain-bashing tasks first, but that rule applies only when you’re full of energy. On a day like this, your lack of focus and the stress that accompanies “out of the zone days” calls for a different approach. You need to ease yourself into the day and only then tackle large prey.
- Start with little tasks, those tasks that you know you can accomplish easily to build momentum. Those tasks and your ability to complete them will build up confidence that will allow you later to swallow any frog easily.
- To reduce stress, ask your colleagues how much time a certain task takes and try to finish that task within that set time frame. When someone else gives you a target, he removes the decision making stress from your shoulders leaving you with the task and removing possible “analysis paralysis”.
- There’s no substitute for good old fashioned motivational talk or even advice. Sit down with your boss or some other authority figure and ask for input on how to get through this day/task. By speaking about it, you’ll feel much better; think of it as “office therapy”.
3# After Work – Rest the right way and plan ahead
After battling the entire day to get into the zone, you finally make it home. Easy street? Not yet.
Right about now you’re feeling the burn, feeling exhausted makes you want to eat and sit in front of the TV, zap between channels, and empty your brain until you’re drowsy enough to fall asleep.
This semi-hibernation state of blinking in front of the TV for hours is one of the reasons you feel drained and stressed in the first place. Getting into the zone can be easily orchestrated from the outside by investing a bit of time to replenish depleted resources beforehand…
- Do some exercise and energize your mind and body. If you want to stay sharp, you’ll need to improve your body’s ability to absorb oxygen. The more oxygen you process the more alert and vital you’ll feel.
- Read a bit to ignite your imagination. Interesting stories and good reading materials like books, blogs, or poems can help you get your creativity juices flowing.
- Plan ahead. If you know that you’re facing a big project, sit down and plan the day ahead. Make a list of all the points you need to touch, deadlines and reference materials that could help you while at work.
Preparation helps you get into the zone much faster and eases your mind towards sleep. Trade the 90% perspiration you invest during the day with 10% preparation during the night, a small price to pay for an awesome day in the zone!