Things I’ve learned this week is back! In this instalment I mull over coping with boring but necessary work tasks, and how staying in one place can affect your work (spoiler: I’m not a fan).
Thing the first: Being in charge of your own time is exhausting
When you are your own yardstick for things, it can become a little frustrating to look back on the day – or even the week – and assess what you’ve done. This week, I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with technical issues – those both of my own making, and out of my control. They were things that needed to be fixed (for example an error with our hosting company over at UniHack that meant that I couldn’t email my colleagues), but they aren’t things that actively contribute to the progress of the organisation.
When my working day is bogged down with things like this, I often find it useful to get a number of ‘quick win’ tasks out of the way to get me back into the swing of things. These might be tasks that are relatively simple, but go a long way. For me, if I’m in the right frame of mind, writing can be that task. I’ll set myself an hour (or sometimes less) to write out a blog post with a very specific theme. If I’m not feeling particularly creative, then I might spend that hour reading through my Feedly and queuing up posts for social media.
These aren’t necessarily all tasks that will move things forward. But they are at least tangible things that I can look back on and think ‘ok, I’ve spent 8 hours this week on the phone to customer services, but at least I also wrote 3 blog posts and have queued up next week’s twitter feed’.
With these tasks, efficiency is key – the worst thing I could do would be to spend 8 hours with customer services, and then take just as long to write only one or two posts. I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro technique. In the case of writing, I might give myself 20 mins to write the skeleton of the post down to make sure I actually address the title, give myself a 5 minute break, and then spend the next 20 mins putting flesh on the bones.
Thing the second: A change of scenery is very underrated
This, as with many of my Things I’ve learned this week series, is something that really shouldn’t be news to me at all. In fact, that header should probably read: a change of scenery was very underrated by me.
This Friday UniHack launched on social media (I may have mentioned that once or twice…). This meant that in the run up to that Friday, there was a lot of running round doing all the little bits and pieces that I ‘sort of’ finished a while ago and said ‘that can be something I fix nearer the time’. As a result, I spent quite a lot of my time working from home with my head buried in my laptop at any one time doing any mixture of coding, image editing, research, emailing, the aforementioned phoning the hosting company, writing copy, etc etc.
As with all of these things, the longer I worked, the smaller my marginal return on effort. And I could tell. Copy was getting sloppier, I was making more mistakes with code, etc. My natural response to this was to work harder, sleep less, work harder, drink more coffee, and work harder.
Obviously, that was a stupid plan.
Until one day last week I had a meeting that ended up walking to instead of driving. It was, frankly, ridiculous how much calmer I was by the time I got where I was going. When my meeting was finished I went to a nearby coffee shop to catch up with some work, and ended up writing the ‘skeletons’ of half a dozen blog posts and finishing a couple of them in the space of about 2 hours.
Obviously I’m not claiming to have revolutionised anything here. I’m just saying that it is very easy to forget the most basic of wellbeing tips.
Thing the third: You can start a business from scratch with just a Chromebook
…sort of. I’ve written more about that here.