A Year of Essential at the Office

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I’ve really enjoyed this feeling of simplicity and clarity as I focus on a “year of essential” – cutting out the extra noise and spending my time in pursuit of what’s most important and valuable in life. This week, I noticed that the “year of essential” is having an unforeseen impact on my work life.  As in, I am super productive at the office!

One idea I’ve recently employed was something I picked up years ago from the blog ZenHabits, but never consistently implemented. Basically you select your top three highest priorities for the day and make sure to get those three things done. The beauty of the system is you get the most important tasks completed and feel productive by limiting the list to three things you can realistically achieve that day.  Then, that productive mindset helps propel you to accomplish more tasks.  For me, it’s been very helpful in taking time each morning to intentionally consider what my “highest and best use” is.  I’m deciding each day which essential tasks I’m supposed to be working on, versus things I should be delegating to my team or others.

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Feeling productive provides such a great energy boost! It just makes you feel good to know you’ve done your best that day and helped accomplish something as part of a team.  This energy has been super high this week as our office gears up for the spring busy season.  I’m finding more efficient and productive ways to accomplish my tasks, which generally involve communication with people at all different levels.

By meeting with my team to discuss the upcoming busy season expectations, processes updates, and preseason tasks we need to complete, team unity grows. By asking my team for feedback on my performance, I feel good for walking my talk!  By getting out and engaging people when I need information to solve an issue, I can move forward instead of waiting for an email response.  By buckling down and getting a task accomplished (because I can’t tell my boss one more time why I haven’t implemented a new scheduling process because “I need to catch up the past five months”) I get a boost of energy from crossing a nagging task off my list.  The essential functions of my job are properly getting my attention because I’m ignoring the noise and distraction that swirls around us all.

That all sounds well and good, but also a little like I’m feeling in control and very much like the pre-awakening version of me. But, there’s something deeper going on. By thinking about only what’s most essential to my life, I’m ultimately depending on God to provide guidance and direction on what’s most important.  I find myself praying for strength and wisdom as I make decisions on how to spend my time throughout the day.

It’s also helped me to look at my work as a blessing that God has bestowed upon me. Just this week I celebrated my 12th anniversary at my company.  To be honest, this job wasn’t what I set out to “be in life”.  After studying philosophy in college and history as a graduate student, I very much saw myself in academia.  But, that wasn’t the direction life took me and it took several years for that to become acceptable in my mind and heart.  Now, I see my work as a gift from God, a means to support my family.  When I’m in the office for nine hours in a typical day, focusing on what’s essential makes that time feel valuable.  Being away from my children during those hours in the late afternoon, I best use that time to accomplish what’s important to my job, or else a subtle feeling that “life isn’t as it should be” starts to settle in.

We all have various vocations in life, places that God has planted us to serve him and one another. That’s another way that focusing on the essential has brought peace – it helps balance my various vocations as wife, mom, manager, daughter, sister, friend, citizen, etc.  While I’m at work, my focus is largely on my employee/manager role, which helps me to accomplish enough of my job that I can then be Dennis’s wife and the kids’ mom at home, without letting work encroach on that time.

It’s funny, my initial approach to “only what’s essential” for this year was largely about my personal time and money. I didn’t realize that this mindset would yield such a productive and peaceful start to the year at the office.  Although it’s only mid-January… we’ll see how long this lasts!

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