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Stressed Out? Adopt these 4 Hacks for the Ultimate Weekend Experience

By | Featured, Work-Life Balance

Suddenly that phone of yours starts buzzing; you ignore it with a tight-lipped, worried smile. It vibrates again and beads of sweat pour over your forehead. Your family, or maybe your friends, start looking at you all accusatory. You and them know what this is about; you just can’t bring yourself to admit it. 

Finally, you hesitantly pluck up  your courage to open the dozens work emails you received in the last minute or so, Knowing that now you are branded a workaholic, whose very existence has become a black hole sucking all the fun out of the hangout, AGAIN! 

Vacation Guilt: Busy is not a badge of honor

Deep down inside, you want to unplug from work and enjoy your weekend, but we are a generation that was raised to look up to people like Steve Jobs who sacrificed their whole life in the name of achieving their “dreams.” But you don’t want to end up like this guy. 

So the dream narrative prevails, with a pang of intrinsic guilt against time off and vacations.

The vacation guilt phenomenon is about the raging war that takes hold of you once a few off-days are on the horizon. Theoretically, you know you should disconnect and the benefits of some work/life balance are not lost on you. However, practically, the burden of the “vacation guilt” is holding you back. This “vacation guilt is the nagging urge to cancel or delay a vacation due to a self-imposed work-related guilt.”

With vacation guilt, one of three scenarios happens:

  •  You procrastinate on the workweek and your guilt drives you to overcompensate for that on the weekend.
  • You’re a member of Workaholics Anonymous. You just feel compelled to work because of this internal pressure and persistent thoughts about how a few days off might derail your career.
  • You start perceiving your work as more than a social contribution; it’s now vital to your financial status as well as your mental health. You treat your job as if it is your identity, and your work is now tied to your sense of self-worth and your significance in the world.
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The vacation mindset: Hacking your rest state

Just because the vacation guilt exists doesn’t mean that there is no way out of it. As the title suggests, this article is mainly focused on weekends; yet I keep using the word “vacation.” It’s basically because I want to enlist this vacation mindset. Your weekend should be a restorative experience just like your longer vacations. 

In a study published by HBR, the team wanted to test out if being more aware of how you approach your weekends and your mindset towards them in general would actually affect the enjoyment levels of the employees. 

They gathered a pool of employees and divided them into two groups telling one group to treat/approach their weekends as a vacation and the other group were simply told to treat their weekends like they normally would. This seemingly minor change affected the results noticeably. The participants who were asked to treat their weekends like a vacation were significantly happier than the ones who didn’t. 

Digging deeper into this, the researchers realized that it wasn’t the scope of chores made the difference between the two groups; rather, it was the very fact of thinking like a “vacationer.” Having this mindset made the participants more mindful and attentive to their weekend activities and the fact that it’s a weekend.

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So how exactly to do that? This study asks you to bring your awareness to the concept of time-off, pushing things to the weekend is not an option anymore when you are prompted to actually take that time off and disconnect.

Hacks on how to disconnect during the weekend

1- Make the right plan for the weekend

You have to set an appointment to go off the grid as surely as to go on it.

Mike Huckabee

You might think that making plans for weekends is an absurd idea, since weekends should be free and spontaneous. But planning for the weekend ahead is not about hindering your freedom or spontaneity; it’s just about putting things into perspective. 

This doesn’t need to be a rigid or strict  schedule. Think of it more as a sort of reference.

How to do it?

“Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another,” says the French Poet Anatole France. Your plan here is not about schedules and restricting yourself to one thing or another; it’s simply adopting another form of labor. Be it exercise or a creative hobby, just deciding to make your weekend about a different kind of effort and flexing a muscle that your work doesn’t usually let you flex.

For maximum effectiveness, try this:

There is no right or wrong way to plan; make it as loose or as tight as you want to. But just like vacations, weekends need some sort of guidance. Feeling productive during the weekend will help you charge your energy for the next week. The key is not to try to impose excessive control over yourself since the weekend is all about relaxation and fun.

    • Listen to your body: Wake up and see how the day feels to you? Do you feel like consuming or creating? Do you feel like physical exercise or human bonding time? Put a theme for your day and go with your gut, but stay away from Netflix!
    • Schedule what you want to do, not just what you have to do: A good way to determine this  is to see your tasks under the 3 major categories: Career, Relationships, Self-development (includes exercise, hobbies, … etc)

For example, if you feel like consuming more today, you can consume more by reading an article on self-development, or watching a documentary that has some insightful information about your career, or listening to a friend talk about the last book they read. All of this is what your body wanted to do but you simply sought it out in different forms to keep it balanced.

2- Plan 3 to 5 anchor events on the weekend

An anchor event is something you look forward to doing, and you anticipate with pleasure

Laura Vanderkam

You have 60 hours between 6 PM Thursday till 6 AM Sunday. If you decide to sleep a full day (24 hours), you will still have  36 hours left. You need to plan for 3 to 5 anchor events to take place during that time.

First, let’s get some misconceptions out of the way: 

  • Weekends are not about unplugging from life; they are only about unplugging from work. 
  • Rest is not about doing nothing; it’s about recharging your mental, emotional and physical energy. 

How to do it?

To make full use of the 36 hours left for your anchor events, use a template called “List of 100 Dreams.” This is an unedited list of anything one might want to do, have, or spend more time on in life. Consider it a list of everyday fun activities, more along the lines of a bucket list of activities within a 2 hour radius from your house.

For maximum effectiveness, try this:

  • Your anchor is there to make you excited for the weekend. Make sure you choose an anchor that always drives anticipation, excitement, and pleasure.
  • Link each of these 100 activities to the major weekend anchor spots:
  • Thursday evening/night 
  • Friday morning/noon 
  • Friday evening/night 
  • Saturday morning/noon 
  • Saturday evening

Create rituals. Pick a special weekend activity that always drives you joy and make a habit out of it. Comforting collective rituals boost happiness and over time become traditions.

3- Tackling the three challenges of the weekend: Chores, children, and office work

Housework can kill you if done right.

Erma Bombeck

I am not totally delusional to just leave you with all these happy-go-lucky tips without addressing the hurdling blocks that you will surely be meeting. Hurdling blocks are tricky and unpredictable, so this will be a general guideline for whenever things are running smoothly. But when a special event or a heavy workload arises, try to adapt to keep the “vacation” mindset alive.

How to do it?

So if you choose to believe the quote on top, your housework can kill you if you do it right, let’s try to  “do it smart.”

  • Chores:  break down your chores to small time slots and try to finish  them throughout your weekdays. Never sacrifice prime weekend anchor events to chores. 
  • Children: Narrow  down your choices to the  activities you can all enjoy. Try and schedule your activities along with theirs. Make this a collectively pleasant experience so that it won’t feel like a chore.
  • Office work: Keep it tight. See if you want to compress professional work into a small time-frame on weekends such as Saturday mid-morning or noon. Other than that try to stay totally away from work.

For maximum effectiveness, try this:

Chores: breakdown dull chores into 15-minute chunks;  try to do them a little bit of this and a little bit of that on your weekdays. Then schedule only 2 or 3 hours on your weekend to do the bulk of it.

Children: Try and get a small workout whenever you take your kids to theirs. Or try reading your books when you have to spend an hour outside their gymnastics class. When you are with your family, try to do a mini digital detox where you all detach from all electronic devices. Make it fun and turn it into a game. 

Office work: If you absolutely have to work on the weekend, I recommend unplugging your laptop from its charger. I personally tried this and it made all the difference in the world. Take your laptop to a place in your house that you rarely use or sit in. This will give you about 2 to 3 hours of battery power and a fresh environment that would strategically add a feeling of newness that will slightly offset the dull work routine. Limit your work to those 3 hours of battery power and try a new place each time.

4- Do Nothing

Setting aside regular periods of “doing nothing” maybe “the best thing we can do to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination and improve our mental health

Manfred Ket De Vries

An article published by nature.com explores the brain research done on the importance of downtime and doing nothing. From the reviewed research we can conclude that 

  •  In a resting “do nothing” state, the brain is not doing nothing. It is completing the unconscious tasks of integrating and processing conscious experiences.
  • Resting state helps you process experiences, consolidate memories, reinforce learning, and regulate attention and emotions, and keeps you productive and effective in areas of work and judgments.

How to do it?

Reflection, meditation and alone time are all essential to your recharging journey. Remember that all of this is to rejuvenate your emotional, mental and physical health. This is not about outcomes, this is about your intrinsic balance and wellbeing. To get started you need to understand that:

  • There are various types of meditation: transcendental meditation, mindful meditation, breath awareness meditation, Zen meditation, among others. Explore them all to find what better suits you, your body and your needs. 
  • Reflection is the ability to think back, observe yourself in action and think from it. So the time you spend doing nothing is not time wasted; it’s a practice to keep the balance between action and reflection.

For maximum effectiveness, try this:

  • Try these 3 steps to improve your self-reflection:
    1. Reflect on your experience
    • What happened? (action)
    • What you thought or felt at the time? (reaction)
    1. Reflect on your learning. Analyze your experience and measure it up to the values and principles you choose to follow
      • What does this experience say to me?
      • What can I learn?

    Apply. Apply what you learned and put it to practice.
    • What options do I see for the next time I encounter this situation?
    • What specifically do I intend to do based on my reflection?

Let’s put it this way: a work-free weekend is the equivalent of a healthy meal; you know you should do it. All studies show how much benefits you can reap from it but you decide to cheat; after all, junk food is a weakness. 

One last Actionable hack:

  • Make sure to conquer the Saturday blues by always ending your weekend on a good note. This will help start your week off on a good note.

 

Ready to start the weekend? Which tip are you excited to try right away?

Office Drama: How to handle stress at work once and for all

By | Featured, Work-Life Balance

It’s natural for us to ignore mental health issues we cannot see, and stress at work is no exception. However, it’s exactly the intangibility of stress that makes it crucial for us to recognize and address it.

Work-related stress is “negatively related to performance,” according to a research paper titled Job Stress and Its Impact on Employees’ Performance. The authors of the paper found that the higher the stress, the lower the performance. That’s why you have to identify workplace stress and learn how to manage it effectively for optimum results and better well-being.

Here is our comprehensive stress-management action plan for work-related stress.

Figure out the root cause

Before you take action, you need to figure out what’s causing your work-related stress.

Is it an excessive workload, a toxic workplace relationship, or unreasonable performance expectations? Dig deep and find the root.

Is it an excessive workload, a toxic workplace relationship, or unreasonable performance expectations? Dig deep and find the root. @WUZZUF #WorkLifeBalanceClick To Tweet

After you recognize the cause, you should identify the type of stress you’re experiencing. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are three types of stress:

  • Short-term stress: It’s the immediate biological reaction your body has to a triggered environmental threat. Short-term stress is the type of stress we all commonly experience when things go wrong and when in small infrequent doses has no harmful health effects. In fact, as long as it’s managed well, acute stress can actually be healthy because it trains your body and mind to handle future stressful events better.
  • Long-term stress: It’s the harmful version of short-term stress. Long-term stress occurs when healthy doses of short-term stress turn into long episodes of unhealthy stress. It’s what happens when you find yourself anxious and irritable for long stretches of time and struggling to cope with the pressure.
  • Chronic stress: It’s the most dangerous type of stress because it causes the sufferer to be in suffocating crisis mode all the time. Chronic stress could go on unresolved for years and lead to serious mental health problems, in addition to serious physical problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

What you should do if your work-related stress is short-term

  1. Prioritize your projects and tasks

girl writing priority planning wuzzufIf you are struggling to handle the workload you’ve been assigned and are stressed about meeting your deadlines, you should create a task prioritization system so you can be more productive.

Start by categorizing your projects and their associated tasks, write each task’s deadline, and then order them from highest to lowest priority. This will allow you to begin executing the most important first, stay on top of your responsibilities, and get more done in the long run.

You can try the task prioritization system we use here at WUZZUF:

  • Tasks are prioritized based on three key factors: the task’s urgency, its significance to your team, and its significance to the business.
  • Each task is assigned a number between 1 and 5, with 1 signifying the highest priority and 5 signifying the absolute lowest.
  • For example, if Task (A) is only significant to your team and has to be completed tomorrow and Task (B) is crucial to your whole company but has to be completed in a week, you work on Task (A) first.

  2. Take care of your body

Because stress is primarily a triggered biological response, taking good care of your body will help interrupt that response and instead trigger your relaxation responses. To do this, make sure you do the following:

  • Get a good eight-hour sleep. Sometimes, sleeping well is something we disregard when we are overwhelmed with work, but, trust me, pulling all-nighters at the office won’t help anyone. You’ll find yourself unable to focus and perform at your best; quality sleep helps boost our creative problem-solving skill which will surely be handy when you head to the office in the morning.
  • Avoid processed foods that make you feel anxious and instead eat whole foods and add more fruits and vegetables and plenty of water to your diet. If you tend to forget to eat healthy meals in the middle of your busy and stressful workday, make sure you remind yourself by leaving friendly sticky notes on your desk or setting up reminders on your phone.
  • Exercise as regularly as you can. You don’t have to hit the gym every single day to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Just taking short brisk walks and getting up and stretching every now and then during the workday can help release brain chemicals that help in moderating stress.

  3. Recharge and relax

relax, Give yourself the time to disconnect from work and unwind. Your mind needs time off in order for it to be rested enough to continue working at its best. You need to take breaks at work and recover from stress by completely disengaging from work-related activities. This is crucial for you to return to your pre-stress levels of functioning.

Also try to relax through meditation techniques such as mindfulness exercises, in which you focus on the present moment without passing judgment on that which you are experiencing. Mindfulness could help you learn how to focus on what matters most and handle future challenges at work.

What you should do if your work-related stress is long-term or chronic

1. Speak up

It can be quite difficult to ask for help, especially when you feel like you’re falling short. But if you know for sure there’s something happening at work that’s affecting your health, you have to speak up.

If you know for sure there’s something happening at work that’s affecting your mental health, you have to speak up.Click To Tweet

Ideally, you should talk to your manager, but if you feel like you can’t speak to your direct manager or your department manager at first, you can talk to a coworker you trust. But following that, you have to tell the person who has the authority to change things that can help you.

2. Ask for what you need

Once you’ve communicated the cause of your stress to the right person, ask for what you need to solve the problem. You can ask for any of the following:

  • Your requirements and deadlines to be revisited: If you think what’s being asked of you or the time you’re asked to complete it in is unrealistic or undoable, ask for them to be revisited.
  • A salary boost: If you think you’re not being compensated fairly for the amount or quality of work you’re doing, you need to say something about it. And make sure you’re specific about the amount you want to increase.
  • A lighter workload: If you think you have an overwhelming amount of work to do and you cannot handle it even after you’ve prioritized your tasks and managed your time, you should communicate that you need a lighter workload to be able to perform better.
  • More growth and advancement opportunities: If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and you’re not learning anything new in your current job, ask for responsibilities that allow you to grow and achieve your career goals.
  • Clearer work expectations: If no one is communicating what’s expected of you at work, you deserve to know and you have the right to ask for it.
  • Better communication: If your projects constantly suffer from a web of miscommunication and misalignment within your team or across different teams, say something about it.

  3. Establish healthy boundaries

After resolving your problem, establishing work-life balance boundaries will go a long way in limiting the chances of your stressors recurring. This is what you can do:

  • Allocate definitive time periods for work: Make sure you’re not overworking yourself or letting your work bleed into your personal life by allocating periods of time for work and periods of time for self-care and personal relationships.
  • Learn to say “no”: When it comes to taking on projects and tasks, you have the right to say no. Only accept the amount of work you know you’ll be able to handle without it negatively affecting your mental health.

It’s important to emphasize that speaking up about work-related stress is not a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure and it doesn’t mean you’re incompetent. It means you’re strong enough to recognize a problem that’s negatively affecting your life, address it, and make an effort to solve it.

Are you struggling to cope with work stress right now? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

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loud colleague quiet silence deal solution

Office Drama: How to deal with a LOUD colleague

By | Break Room, Managers, Productivity, Skills Lab, Team Culture, Uncategorized, Workplace

If you know your coworker is having lunch with a second cousin in two weeks after a doctor’s appointment because you heard them arrange all this over the phone, then you have a problem. You have a loud colleague.

We all know these people. You can hear their voices walk into the office before their feet do. Having a loud colleague only adds to the noise you already have to deal with at work, and that can affect your performance, motivation, and productivity.

How noise affects us at work

  • Noise increases stress

loud colleague stress

Research has shown that exposure to loud sounds and noise in general increases our blood pressure, heart rate, and the level of stress hormones in our bodies. This issue is even bigger if you’re an introvert or a highly sensitive person, who is not comfortable with even the slightest of noise or movement around you, or if you’re working in an open-plan office.

While the debate of open-plan offices versus closed ones or cubicles has been hot for a long time now, everyone agrees on the fact that open offices are definitely noisier, which is not good news because they’re the norm nowadays.

  • Trying to block the noise takes away from your energy

Recognizing all the noises around you and actively seeking to deal with them require effort and energy. This means you’re not 100% focused on the work task at hand; instead, there’s a part of your brain that’s exerting effort and using up your energy to help you stay focused. That’s just one more task added to your to-do list, isn’t it?

  • Noise affects productivity

loud colleague no work no productivity

This is a big one. Being constantly surrounded by noise affects your productivity. A task that normally takes an hour could take you double that because you’re trying to ignore everything happening around you and to muster the focus to complete your work.

This effect is compounded when you’re working on a creative task or one that requires dealing with numbers. Research suggests that prolonged exposure to noise impairs proofreading, mental arithmetic, reading comprehension, and serial recall, among other things. And if we can’t be productive at the office, why do we go there in the first place?

If we can’t be productive at the office, why do we go there in the first place? #DealWithOfficeNoiseClick To Tweet
  • Noise affects both our motivation and ergonomics

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found out that stress affects both motivation and ergonomics, which is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environments.

Employees who worked in noisy environments were “less likely to make ergonomic, postural adjustments.” This indicates inevitable physical damage. The same study also found decreased motivation in employees in noisy environments and fewer attempts to tackle difficult puzzles. This means you would be physically and mentally exhausted at work, and that can only negatively affect your productivity and job satisfaction.

So now that you know all the effects of noise in the workplace, you’re probably ready to deal with at least one of its contributing factors.

How to deal with your loud colleague

Let’s agree right from the start that no one can change an office environment on their own. That’s why we’ve split these solutions into things you can do on your own and things in which you’ll need to involve management.

What you can do

  • Talk to your colleague directly but politely

loud colleague talking privately

The most obvious and straightforward way is to directly talk to your colleague. Make sure you pull them aside and discuss the issue clearly but politely. Bear in mind that they might not even realize they’re causing trouble to anyone, and you don’t want this issue to strain your work relationship with that colleague going forward.

  • Ask your manager to speak to your colleague

If you find the previous solution too confrontational, you can always ask your manager to speak to your colleague about the issue. Point out to your manager the negative effect this has on your productivity, and your manager will surely rush to your help. After all, your manager wouldn’t want your output to suffer. But be very careful not to speak ill of your colleague to your manager. That would only make you look unprofessional.

  • Use noise-canceling headphones

loud colleague noise canceling headphones

You can also try to block out the noise by using a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Listening to music while you work might actually increase your productivity. But not all kinds of tasks can benefit from this. Also take into consideration that this is only a stopgap. Prolonged use of headphones can cause hearing problems.

  • Find somewhere else to work

If all else fails, try to find some other place in the office to work, maybe a quiet meeting room or an unused office.

  • Make sure you’re not overreacting

A good point to keep in mind through all of this is to be certain you’re not overreacting. You could be stressed by other things at work and this loud colleague just had the misfortune of being the last straw. You might be too sensitive to noise or too tired that particular day. The important thing is that you shouldn’t project any of this when dealing with the issue and you should keep matters separate.

Make sure you’re not overreacting. #DealWithOfficeNoiseClick To Tweet

What management can do

  • Discuss the matter with the whole office

You can always ask for someone from management (e.g., an HR member) to speak to the whole company about the issue. This way, you don’t point out the specific loud colleague who’s bothering you. And a bonus benefit is increasing the awareness of the whole office because some people are not even aware this is an issue, let alone that they’re part of it.

  • Designate a quiet area

loud colleague quiet area office

Your company can get inspiration from us here at WUZZUF where we have a quiet room designated for focus. This area is complete with a door sign that outlines the Quiet Room rules. This way everyone can have a suitable place to either escape the noise or just have some alone time to complete a certain task.

Likewise, there should be designated meeting rooms or spaces for work that requires collaboration. This way the team handling such work doesn’t feel limited or restrained either.

  • Match the workspace with the work needs

A room full of journalists working on their latest articles for the next issue of a magazine or a newspaper should be different than a place where a team of HR people is discussing the best ways to improve learning and development inside the company.

Your company should ensure that every team member is working in a space that suits the nature of their job. So, in the previous example, the journalists should be working in a quiet, closed room, where what’s outside the room has no leverage on their work. And, likewise, the HR team should work in an open-plan office where collaboration and back-and-forth communication are easy.

  • Implement policies that prohibit noise

loud colleague office rules stop

Depending on your company’s culture, there can be policies set in place that dictate the rules of the office. Whether it’s having to put your phone in silent mode or being required to take calls outside the office or not take personal calls at work at all (unless it’s an emergency), company policy can help in putting a limit to the noise around the office.

Just remember: You have to take action and not just accept this as reality. Considering we spend a great portion of our lives at work, we all have the right to be comfortable there.

Have you had any experiences with a loud colleague at work? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments below.

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