From Surviving to Thriving – Find Your Weekly Rhythm and Perform Better

For the past year, I have been professionally trying to find a way the knowledge workers could flourish in the midst of all the demands they face. How they could get more done without burning out. I have tested almost all the techniques in my life. Almost nothing stuck. Until I started to look at things differently.

‘Is it about me?’, has been my default reaction after I have failed to follow a technique. Inbox zero. A great technique in theory, but it caused me to feel inadequate as I was not able to keep my inbox email count at zero. Daily planning. A great tool, but again I was unable to follow it. And the list goes on…

Following my friend agonising about the same issues in his social media, I figured out what I had done wrong. I had tried to use the same technique for all my situations. And that clearly didn’t work.

Aim for peace of mind

My revelation was that peace of mind is the key. Peace of mind that I am doing the things that are most meaningful. Peace of mind that I am responding to clients and friends on the schedule I promised. Peace of mind that my deliverables are on the level of quality I want them to be.

My colleague Juha Äkräs wrote about the value of seasonal rhythms in December. He explained that you can see your life in four stages:

  1. Normal – when you do more right things than wrong
  2. Mission – when you implement hacks to get things done, and really to survive
  3. Recovery – when you try to do all the right things
  4. Renewal – when you reflect on the past and the future

Could the seasonality be used in shorter time frames as well? For me, a week is a manageable operational time unit.

Ask the right questions

Before beginning the implementation I needed to do one thing. I needed to define what each of the modes means to me.

I used the following questions:

  • What is my target of good life during the modes? This requires being realistic what is achievable on the mission mode. Can I, e.g. train 4 times a week?
  • What is my ‘service level’ target in each of these modes? Can I promise to answer all the emails?
  • What is the place where renewal can take place? Is a busy office a place for that, or somewhere else?

Pick mechanisms that work for you

Enthusiastic about my revelation, I started to use the following mechanisms:

  • I book a good half an hour every Friday afternoon to have a look at the following week. And I do this in a café rather than in the office, just to ensure 100% interruption-free time. What does next week look like? If it is an extremely busy week, how do I get through it? If it is a ‘normal’ week, how to make sure the good things fit there.
  •  If the week is going to be very busy, I let my colleagues know that my delivery may be late. In all honesty, this post got postponed due to the technique.
  • I plan my exercise on my calendar. If it is a normal week, I pencil in the exercises after my meetings are over. Friday night tennis is unnegotiable. I will go there and use it for recovery and reflection time no matter what. If I’m travelling, I accept that my workouts will be different but I still have them.
  • I make sure I have at least one night during the weekdays when I can ‘just be’.
  • Saturdays are for normal time – running the errands, socialising.
  • Sundays are for 100% recovery and reflection. Reading, listening to podcasts. Nice lunch with the family. Visiting the parents. No work whatsoever.

This is my personal implementation. What really matters is that you recognise how weeks and days and longer seasonal rhythms can be different. Then you accept it. And let your stakeholders know.

It’s not the hectic time that burns us out. It is the feeling of lack of control.

Find out what is important and impactful during your week. Plan for it. Reserve time for all the modes. Because, in the end, it is about reaching that peace of mind.

 

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