This summer was good. But it was also hard.
Good because I got to do a ton of fun stuff. I got to travel every month, speak multiple times, help at my church’s VBS, launch The Young Writer’s Workshop again, housesit for my grandparents, write several articles, shoot a video series for young writers, and somehow more.
Hard because I got frighteningly close to burnout. This summer was stressful in a way my life has never been. I’m not a crier but two weeks into August I found myself sitting on the couch by myself weeping. There was nothing wrong. My life was amazing. But I was so tired and empty and everything was terribly, terribly difficult.
And so I took a break — first at the urging of my parents and then at my own realization that I desperately needed one.
The break was good, but the night before I went back to work, I felt the familiar grip of stress and fear. I couldn’t go back to working the way I had been. It was too much. It was unsustainable.
So my mom and I sat down and created a strategy.
This strategy is fairly simply and just contains a handful of healthy habits to help me be more productive while enjoying my work more. I’ve added a few more habits since then and have come up with a current list of 6 practices that are saving my life right now.
Some of them might sound counterintuitive to productivity because I’m actually working less. But here’s the thing: I’m actually getting more done because I have more mental energy and enthusiasm for my work.
I want to share these 6 habits with you in the hope that you might be able to work a bit smarter, healthier, and happier too.
But first, two quick caveats: 1) I don’t do all of these 100% of the time (for example, I may disobey #1 during a particularly busy week or two… but not for much longer than that) and 2) I’ve just started building these habits so I’m far from an expert at them.
No work/internet/phone before 9am (unless you want to finish early). Instead, I do my devotions, get dressed, and read. Or, if it was an especially late night, sometimes I just sleep in. I recognize not everyone has the luxury of this but for people who create their own schedule, I highly recommend considering this. On the rare occasions that I do decide to work before 9, I then finish work early for the day.
Delete email from your phone. I’d heard people talk about this for ages but had never actually done it. But on my break, I decided to take the plunge. I have never been so happy about a tech-related decision. Email has always made me feel like a slave (a hugely resentful one) and this has set me free.
Take a lunch break. I used to take lunch breaks in school and I’m not really sure why I stopped. They are so refreshing! After I’ve been used to working through lunch, now being able to read, take a walk, just go outside, play the piano, watch a show, do some exercise, or even take a quick nap feels magical.
Have a slow Monday. I stole this from my favorite podcaster, Annie F. Downs, and am still figuring out what this looks like in my life. The idea is starting Mondays a little later with less to-do list and more flexibility. It’s easing into your Monday instead of vaulting into it. Monday mornings have always been especially stressful for me and this makes them less so.
Take 2 days off per week. I’ve always taken Sundays off but have never taken another regular day off. No more. Technically I’m experimenting with taking Sundays off plus two half-days, but it’s working for me right now.
Schedule reading time. For me this looks like intentionally planning when I’m going to do non-work reading during the day. Because I need reading time. That was the most life-giving practice I did on my break and it made me realize how little time I’d been making for reading. My reading time might be in the morning, during my lunch break, the afternoon, or after supper, but I’m making a conscious effort to schedule it in.
I’d love to know: what habits are you cultivating to be a healthier and more productive worker?