I mentioned before that I’m a startup junkie, which means a few things: unpredictable hours, demanding and fast-paced projects, and no heads-up before the winds change and you have to scrap most of the work you’ve done.
Working that #StartupGrind means chaos just about every minute of the day, but I’ve developed some feel-good rituals that help protect my zen and let me stay on target.
1. Morning tea
Unless the office is literally on fire, I always make it a point to start my day with a big, warm, unreasonably soothing cup of tea. I’ll talk to a team member or two in the kitchen, get my London Fog on (earl grey + half and half = best morning ever), and sip it while taking on the world – at least for the next hour or so.
2. Track my wins
I’m obnoxious with my organization and calendar habits, but this one will never falter. I live out of my moleskine weekly notebook, and mark off any projects of note as I go. Whenever I have a big win, I list it in my self-indulgent “Highlights Reel” – or a little bullet list on the lined page.
This serves two purposes: one, in startups it’s easy to lose sight of your impact. You just accomplished a thing – it’s worth the mental high-five of writing it down! And two, by the time you’re looking to revamp your resume, or make a case for your well-deserved raise, you can skim through the highlights reel you’ve been keeping all year round. Use that to your advantage!
3. Acknowledge the things for which I’m grateful
On that note, my moleskine has two highlights reels every week. Along with professional wins, I’ll track the things for which I’m grateful that week. If a coworker did something particularly clever and saved me 8 hours of work, you best believe their name is going on the page. Every time I’m smiling ear-to-ear after biking to work, it goes on the page. Some of my frequent flyers on this list are:
– Getting to have dinner with my grandparents every week
– Having an emergency fund in times of need
– My now totally healthy cat
– My company’s amazing office manager, who gets shit done
– The tools that let me do my job
– The unexpected joy of having a blog
It’s easy to look back at this list when I’m stressed and remember, oh yeah, things are pretty damn good.
4. Take care of something outside of my job
This can be anything. Maybe I want to do something nice for a coworker, or just take a moment to water the plants. It can be brainstorming with someone else, outside of my department and scope.
Although, let’s be real. Usually it’s taking care of the plants. I have a serious gardening problem.
Whatever it is, it’s time well spent, still company-centric, but gives the 2-3 minutes needed to refresh before getting back into the grind.
5. Turn it off
Sometimes all you need is to step out of the office, take a walk around the block, and think about other things for a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll call a friend in another time zone, or sometimes I’ll just walk and enjoy the sunshine. Either way, it helps to totally reset my brain before moving on to the next project.
Bonus: Biking to and from work helps to really turn things off. Nothing lets your mind run free like physical activity, and by the time I get home, I’m already adrenaline-d up and ready to party (aka cook dinner and hang out with the cat).
4 startups in, and these little tricks have saved me untold stress and headaches, and they don’t detract from the day. In fact, staying zen doesn’t just keep me sane – it keeps me productive. Big project, unrealistic deadline, minimal clarity? Bring it on.