If your job involves managing people, juggling high risk investments, working with children or driving HGVs, you’ll know better than anyone what is meant by a long hard day.
I am no stranger to 15 hour days. This I’ve done several times per week for the last 3 years. However unlike people I know who make it clear they’ve had enough, I very rarely feel tired or burnt out mentally, even when carrying out strenuous physical work. In this article I will show you some ways to deal with workload, whilst still keeping a smile on you face every day.
Working hard for long periods requires a certain mindset. How many of these qualities apply to you?
Stoic- the ability to endure pain or hardship without complaining
Rational – mentally putting the scale of tasks into their proper place without fixating on negative thoughts or panicking
Patient – understanding that tasks take time and that you can’t always fix it
Tolerant- when tired, the words of other people can be draining. Tolerance is learning to ignore any irrelevant waffle.
Liberal – open to new opinions or behaviour and willing to let go of previous mindsets. This could be referred to as taking criticism well.
Having one or two of these qualities means it’s very likely you can learn to push yourself even more. To an extent, these attributes are mutually exclusive with values such as attention to detail, being pedantic , organisation and leadership. So if you have only two or three of the attributes in the previous list, you get the best of both worlds.
To develop these attributes you will want to practise them. T’is no easy thing, but by focusing on one area at a time it is possible to increase your endurance just like a long distance runner. The techniques to learn this can be applied to exercise, projects, work and studying.
How to be stoic
During exercise, tell yourself that the pain does not exist. Our perception of pain is largely phycological. Mind over matter is very much a proven phenomenon, this is why hypnosis and meditation is sometimes used as pain relief.
Time-boxing – give yourself small chunks of time to fill. Say to yourself “Just work for five more minutes” Set a timer for five minutes. When the time is up, give yourself a pat on the back and restart the timer
Sing when you would rather not be doing something. Especially good is: “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobbie McFerrin. This will psych you up to be happy.
Say motivational phrases out loud: “You can do this”, “Just a bit more”, “It won’t take long”, are very powerful because they are self fulfilling prophecies. By voicing them to yourself you are ensuring your confidence in your ability.
Stay away from being verbally negative. It is a deep deep trap.
How to be rational
Inhale very deeply. Hold your breathe for a few seconds and then release. Hold your lungs empty for as long as possible. Repeat these steps 5 or 6 times. Close your eyes throughout. When completed you’ll have made three changes. Firstly your blood has elevated oxygen levels so your brain experiences clarity. Secondly you’ll have stretched and warmed up your lungs so you can breathe more freely, removing any feeling of physical burden. Thirdly your eyes will perceive extra brightness when you open them which wakes you up a bit. All of these will prime you for rationality.
When stressed, think hard about exactly what you are worried about. Be extremely specific. If that worry is rational, then find a logical solution to tackle the problem head on. Say out loud that it is the best decision, then you are justifying it and can continue guilt free. If your worry is irrational, I recommend this trick used by Derren Brown the illusionist: Imagine your thought is being put inside a cardboard box. Visualise the sounds, smells, colours and thoughts. Visualise your hands closing around the box and crushing it. Mentally feel the sensation of crushing cardboard on your hands, the sensation of resistance, and the willpower you send to your muscles to make then contract fully. Scrunch the thought into a ball and throw it away.
How to be patient and tolerant
The breathing exercise is helpful for patience. Detach yourself from unconstructive criticism by focusing only on the job at hand. If you want to imagine how you would like to respond then that’s fine, just be careful to not actually respond, otherwise your negativity will become a self fulfilling prophecy.
Understand that some jobs need to be done regardless of whether you’d like to go home. Find your exact fear and apply to it the cardboard box tip. This will help you to live in the present moment. Ignore the idea that there is a tomorrow. Forget about stresses in other areas of your life – concentrate on the now. You will find that to live in the present moment is very liberating and relaxing. More on this soon.
You can easily incorporate some of these ideas into your everyday thinking. Do your best to try and improve on them. Most importantly try to understand the purpose behind the advice. You surely want to be happy and get lots of work done at the same time. Boil down every tip to the idea that it will maintain your happiness.