OPINION: HARVEY MACKAY — Enhance your life during tough times
For so many of us working from home during our stay-at-home restrictions, the days seem to take on an eerie similarity regardless of how much we actually accomplish. I can barely remember the last time I put on a suit and tie!
On my reading pile was an article on easy ways to enhance your day. It got me thinking about simple ways to improve my own life and outlook. Clearly, these times are not business as usual, but we need to stay sharp so when we do start returning to our routines, we are ready to roll. I’ve picked out a few items that intrigued me especially.
You don’t have to make drastic changes to improve your days and life. Take it one step at a time.
The list starts by advising people to re-evaluate their sleeping habits. Get to bed early and wake up early to get the day started. I find that most days, I don’t need to set an alarm because my body wakes me up naturally. I used to worry that I would miss something if I slept more than a few hours. Now that I know better, I don’t feel guilty about getting more rest.
Pace yourself. There will always be busy times you can’t avoid, but when possible, keep them to a minimum, so you can stay level-headed with less stress.
Learn to say no without feeling guilty. I love when people are willing to take on extra tasks when necessary. However, I do not love when their work is substandard or their usual responsibilities suffer because they are buried and on overload. Know when to say no.
When things do get hectic, find a quiet place you can go to think and get the maximum amount of work done. Smartphones and social media can overwhelm us to distraction. To be more productive, you need to put limits on all these interruptions. I have a window of time every afternoon when I ask people to call me back. Time management is crucial.
Organize your life, which means cleaning up your office and home workspace. If you are working from home, you likely have less space to spread out. An orderly space saves time and frustration.
I try to do two things every day that I need to do but have been dreading. I get them out of the way in the morning so I can face the rest of the day fresh. We all procrastinate on items we would rather not deal with, but the longer we put them off, the more difficult they become.
Make a prioritized list. I live and die by my lists! Plan what you want or need to achieve for the day, and concentrate on completing that list. Allow some time for last-minute emergencies. Before the day is out, plan your next day.
Keep track of your goals. Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day. Goals tend to tap the deeper resources and draw the best out of life. Achieving goals produces significant accomplishments.
Limit the time you spend with negative people or those who drag you down. I surround myself with positive people who encourage me and lift me up, and for whom I can do the same.
Look for the good in other people. One of my all-time favorite aphorisms is: “A pat on the back accomplishes more than a slap in the face.” Right now, especially, whatever we can do to lift each other up will elevate us all. Sometimes a little encouragement is all it takes to keep another person going.
Read more, whether it be the newspaper, a website or a good book. What an opportunity to tackle that stack of books you’ve been meaning to enjoy! If you have children at home and have become a “substitute teacher,” model great habits by reading with them or to them.
Now that we’ve all binge-watched old episodes of TV shows into oblivion, check out the fascinating courses and podcasts that will broaden your horizons. Take advantage of the empty hours when you would have been at a movie, sporting event or traveling and use that time to learn something new.
Finally, don’t expect others to make your life better. These challenging times will pass, and we’ll be playing catch-up for a while. Make the best of these days to prepare for the best tomorrows.
Mackay’s Moral: Tough times don’t last; tough people do.
• • •
Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.