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“Get up, go for a walk”
It sounds simple in hind sight, but here’s the sitch:
You get frustrated at work and you get into mental quicksand. Something happens that really bothers you, it weighs you down and you get less effective throughout your day as a result.
When that happens, stop what you’re doing, walk away, do something completely unrelated to work for 5 minutes and then come back with, hopefully, a new more calm perspective so you can re-engage and be productive again.
It sounds really simple. And it is. The hard part is recognizing when you need to walk away to break out of the quick sand. Here’re some tips that have helped me recently and over the years:
- If you’re getting emotional, that’s a pretty clear indicator that you need to take a step back. It’s harder when you’re in meetings and if someone is physically in front of you talking about something that’s getting you all hot and bothered. But if you’re reading an email, chatting with someone on a messenging service or something else just as asynchronous, emotional reactions should be easy to spot and react to.
- If you’re literally stuck. Sometimes I’ve got so much on my plate that it feels like I’m not getting anything done and it gets in my way such that I can’t identify what to do next (hey, what’s the point? Whatever it is, it won’t help move the needle, right?). Walking away and not thinking about work can help unblock you mentally. If nothing else, walk away and for 5 minutes, just think about 1 of the things on your plate and how you can move the needle forward there. Then come back to work and do those things you just thought about. Hopefully that will alleviate some of the pressure with all that’s on your plate.
- If your’e stressed about an important and rapidly approaching meeting for more than a few days. Walking in all hot and bothered looking stressed out won’t really paint a good picture of you. Chances are, it’s an important meeting because someone really senior is in the meeting, or someone really important from outside your company is present. You should probably take a few minutes before the meeting to relax, collect yourself and then go the meeting. Going for a walk or reading your favorite blogs for 5 minutes just before going to the meeting is a great way to relax your mind and ease some of the tension.
I’m sure there are other times when this approach can generate pretty good results. If you have some other examples, please share in the comments!