It has been a very busy few months since the beginning of the year. I have given my undergraduate lecture course, run tutorials, demonstrated in a first-year lab, and refereed a major grant application. I have also written three papers, a feature article for a nuclear physics magazine, and a conference proceedings. All of this while also looking after my child, now almost 18 months old. And you know what? It feels so good! 🙂 So, I thought I could share with you three little secrets that have helped me accomplish all of this.
Interestingly, it has been precisely the arrival of my son that has prompted me to look at my various commitments and to realise that I needed to prioritise. However, you do not need to have a child before becoming more productive! So, here is what you can do to improve your output while also striking a good work-life balance.
First, and perhaps most importantly, you have to get clear about your own priorities. This is something I have learnt from the coaching work of Olga Degtyareva and Christine Kane. It seems an obvious thing, but we rarely take time to identify what is truly important to us. So, we develop a tendency to live re-actively, rather than act on the basis of precise choices and intentions. Getting clear about our intentions and what we want to achieve helps us taking the immediate next steps in the right directions.
Second, you may need to learn to say NO. I must confess that I have often struggled with this. In part it is because I like to help others whenever I can. But at times, we find it difficult to say no because we do not want to disappoint people or because we seek their approval or simply because we don’t want to be impolite. So, we end up spending time and effort on activities that are not in alignment with what we truly want to achieve. Saying NO to things we are ultimately not interested in frees up precious time for what really matters to us (and yes, this may even be spending more time with family or friends).
Finally, you may want to get support. This can mean finding a mentor, a coach or simply an accountability partner. In fact, the very act of telling someone else what you want to achieve, how you plan to get there and which steps you intend to take can be enough to keep you on track. It also serves to encourage us when we loose motivation or when we feel overwhelmed.
Now, next time you feel stuck or struggle to achieve more of what you want, why don’t you try to follow any one of these little tips and see if your days take up a different shape. I bet they will.