Author: Kate Sunners
We had a year of breaking our own records in 2016 – the number of Perpetual IMPACT applications we worked on with our nonprofit partners last year was twice what it was in 2015!
And yes, sometimes it gets stressful. There are times when we can be found caressing a chocolate bar whispering “my precioussssss”. When there’s a lot to do, time management can tend to fly away out the window, deadlines can grab us by the brains and shake the sense out of us, and late nights in front of computer screens can make us seem like extras from the Walking Dead.
So, in solidarity with all you grants administrators out there, we thought we’d share our best tips on staying sane in the busy times, and making sure the busy times are as minimally stressful as they can be. I asked the SG’ers to share their:
1. Top time management process or tool
2. Best de-stressing method, thought process, or what helps you think clearly when you’re super busy (it seems a lot of us forget to breathe!)
1. Make a list in priority order. Assess if it is realistic. If not, delegate or get additional resource. If you can’t see a way to accomplish it all, take it to your manager, and ask them their advice on how you can accomplish it all. This may help too with tactfully identifying situations where unrealistic expectations are being placed on you.
2. Don’t ever look at it all in entirety for too long. Yes, you need to understand the big picture. But break it down into short, medium and long-term tasks and then go back to 1 (above!). This helps you identify what is actually realistic and achievable and what resources and support you need to achieve your goals. Breaking it down then into daily, weekly, monthly and year by year lists, helps prevent feelings of being overwhelmed and hence, reduces stress.
1. I try to work on the 50/10 cycle – concentrating for a solid 50 minutes each hour (no emails/no internet etc), with a regular 10 minute break. Studies have shown this to be an ideal formula for productivity.
2. I’m a big fan of controlled, deep breathing, and if all else fails just taking a 10 minute walk outside to regain perspective. On a grander scale, I find acupuncture works a treat! Strong tea as well!
1. Using a word document as my ‘diary’ (thanks Cathy!). I’ve always been a paper diary person, but that gets crazy when you’re constantly re-prioritising. Now I have a list of ‘today’ jobs, ‘big projects’ and ‘ the slow times hit list’. Urgent deadlines are in red, and I colour code jobs to let me know who they are with in the pipeline so I remember who to follow up.
2. I found a wonderful article the other day on 10 ways to be mindful at work. My favourites are: “Give your full attention to seemingly mundane tasks like washing your hands…dialling phone numbers…” and to use “the sounds of bells and rings in the workplace as ‘bells of mindfulness’…take a small step back and reflect rather than automatically react to what’s coming at you in the form of demands, tasks and challenges.” I also have a postcard of a Margaret Olley still life above my computer where I focus my attention after too much task switching!
1. I’m a list writer. Plan your day the night before with a list…also get better at halving the amount of “to do’s’ on your list.
2. I like the heart breathing method or just simply breathing in for 6 and out for 4.
1. Lists, lists, lists – for me, I have to hand write a list at the start of each day – the act of physically writing each task allows extra time to focus on how the task will be achieved. Once written, I will look over and number according to priority for the day. At the end of each task, there is nothing more satisfying than crossing off or ticking that item as complete.
2. Breathe, stretch, walk – in that order generally. If the particular instance of stress cannot be resolved through breathing, I stretch, then go for a walk if
needed. Even if it is through the front/ backyard; getting away from the work environment, and surrounding yourself with life (trees, flowers, grass) generally tends to help with any kind of stress. Or, if Finn is around – I will go and tickle him which always brings joy to any situation…he is THE MOST ticklish child you have ever met!!
1. FOCUS! Avoid getting distracted whether it’s Facebook posts, colleagues chatting or something going on in the street outside. Know what you need to achieve each day and stick to it. If you need to make a pressing deadline, turn off your emails and other social media, put your phone on silent and get down to it. Experts say that every time we are interrupted and lose our train of thought, it can take up to 10 or more minutes to regain our concentration.
2. I always try to stay positive and count my blessings even when the pressure’s on. But, for me, being in nature is the ultimate de-stressor, away from the computer, phones and the to-do list. Even a short walk round the block is an opportunity to notice the sky and the seasons, to listen to the birds and tune into the wind rustling in the trees. That really helps me to reset and clear my head. I also find getting swept up in a good movie a great way to relax after work.
1. The electronic to-do list – best thing I’ve ever done. I keep my to-do list in a single word document with a task and a due date column. It’s so easy to keep track of priorities and tasks all in one place, rearrange as needed without having to keep spending time writing out a new to-do list. And I keep everything in one place, so nothing ever falls off my radar.
2. Humour is my absolute first choice for getting rid of stress. Watch a funny video on You Tube, have a laugh with a colleague, reflect on a funny situation, see/watch a comedy of some sort. Anything to get some laughter happening and shift me out of my head.
I’m also a big fan of breathing – I love the 4-7-8 method and app.
And my mantra ‘there are no answers, there is no finish line’ some people say it’s depressing but I like the reminder that there will always be questions without answers (helps me if I get stuck in indecision to push forward) and that there will always be more work to do.