Keep Calm and Don’t Punch Anyone

stressed out guyThis guest post was written by graduate candidate and full time professional, Kristina Swope.

Well, easier said than done. On days like today, where the humidity is 450% and I’m drowning in schoolwork and job responsibilities, it’s incredibly difficult not to take down innocent bystanders. When the biggest urge you have is to karate chop a coworker in the side just because they exist, it’s time to stop, take a deep breathe, and think about what can be done.

We hear about work-life balance all the time. As a society, we talk about it constantly. It’s in articles, blogs, and often discussed in the workplace. The bottom line is the employee is responsible for their work-life balance. In theory, it’s a great concept – when you can swing it.

But what about days like today? What about sitting at your desk at 9pm, when the florescent auto-lighting in the office has turned off on you and five people are shouting at you via email? You feel run-down, like nothing can be done fast enough or well enough for anyone’s liking. By the time you get home, the most energy you can muster results in laying on your living room floor watching the ceiling fan spin around.

I’m guilty of all the above. On more occasions than I’d like to admit, I’ve been one step away from ripping my hair out, just because it would be less painful than the stampede of people. Instead, I’ve started using a less painful technique that has helped organize the millions of little tasks that have to be taken care of.

stressed out girlFirst, breathe. Close your eyes, stop yourself from reacting, and don’t allow your emotions to take you on a rollercoaster. No one actually likes to go upside-down anyway, it just happens and then afterwards we’re glad we survived.

Shut it down.  Even if you have a ton more to today, the best thing you can do for yourself is to shut down. Close the laptop, turn off the cell phone, and do something you truly enjoy. Whether that’s catching up on a show in a blanket cocoon because you never have the time, or it’s going out to dinner with a friend, it’s just what your soul needs.

Make lists. Once you’re ready to reboot, the best way to move forward is to organize yourself. If you’re juggling multiple responsibilities, it may help to make separate lists. Personally, I make one list of tasks for school, one for work, and one for personal. Looking at what needs to be accomplished on paper helps you get a better sense of timing and allows you to prioritize tasks across categories.

Finally, take action where you can. Look at your respective lists and see what can be done today. If you have three small personal tasks, why not stay up an extra hour or two and finish them up? You’ll be lying in bed thinking about everything you have to do anyway, so you might as well be productive. Not to mention, the feeling of crossing something off your list is surprisingly rewarding and one by one those tasks come off the list. Even though more will be added, it will prevent anything important from falling through the cracks. It won’t happen all in one day, but you’ll wield the lists slowly but surely.

Kristina is a full-time Market Research Project Manager in Philadelphia and a full-time student at NU pursuing a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication, with a concentration in Leadership. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.   

How to Keep Your Energy Level Up On Co-op

Can't. Move. Another. Inch.  Image Source: lovemeow.com

Can’t. Move. Another. Inch.
Image Source: lovemeow.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

Pulling five eight-hour work days in a row every week is a far cry from the typical college student’s schedule. You have to wake up early, get yourself together just enough to pull of the “I’m employed” look, and run out the door to get to work on time. You spend a long day at your desk or in front of your computer, and come home exhausted. You shlump your way through dinner, watch an episode of TV before falling asleep like you just got back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. However, it is possible to keep yourself feeling energetic during the week, even with a full-time schedule.

Hustle in the morning. Maybe you have a goal or two. Maybe you want to step it up at work and get a raise, or put more work into your side hustle, or maybe you’re just looking to recover from the twelve coffee cakes you ate on Easter. Whatever your goals may be, it’s hard to have the energy to get things done after a long day of work. If you start your day strong, that energy will translate into higher productivity for the rest of your day. If possible, work out in the morning. Even though you have to get up earlier, the energy you get from a morning workout far exceeds the energy you get from the extra hour of sleep.

Shop right. I’m sure you have never heard that eating right is important to your energy level. What an original piece of advice. Eating right is one of the most important parts of a high energy level, but it’s important to know how to shop right first — otherwise eating right is nearly impossible. When you walk into the supermarket, keep most (or all) of your shopping in the outer ring. That’s where the fresh stuff is. If your cart is full of mostly fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grain, you’re going to be fine. Keep snacks like apples, bananas, and yogurt in the fridge at work so your stomach isn’t eating itself all the way home on the T.

Keep yourself busy. After work, grab coffee with a friend. Take a yoga class. Check out what’s happening in your city for free on a Tuesday evening. While down time is crucial for a balanced (and sane) life, too much can cause sluggishness and unnecessary boredom, depleting your energy level in a big way. If you keep yourself busy, you will appreciate and take advantage of moments of relaxation much more. As an added bonus, a busy and active day leads to better sleep at night, which means more energy in the morning. So treat your body to a busy schedule because you deserve it.

If you hustle in one aspect of your life, that mentality tends to spread to other aspects of your life. If you keep your energy high during the day and keep your mind focused on your goals, those New Year’s Resolutions you haven’t thought about since January 2nd will seem like a piece of cake.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

What is “work-life balance”?

Top Option 2 work life

This guest post was written by Kristina Swope, a full-time Market Research Project Manager in Philadelphia and NU student pursuing a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication.

In April 2013, I officially became a part-time Graduate student in addition to a full-time employee. I was so excited about starting my Masters that I didn’t even realize how difficult it would be to have a life outside of those two aspects.  I work in the Market Research industry, where just like any job where you have clients, the hours can be rather unpredictable.  I quickly found myself having to schedule in my grown-up activities in advance, such as getting groceries, doing laundry, and even buying cat food.  I’ve committed myself to being a great employee, and a great student – but it’s really hard to do them both at the same time.  As I sit and reflect on how I haven’t done my best figuring out the delicate balance between the two jobs, I find myself wondering – what does “work-life balance” really mean?

It’s a phrase thrown around constantly in the workplace, usually in a defensive nature; and yet, from what I’ve seen, few definitions of this phrase are the same.  In my experience, half of work-life balance is defending the fact that you actually need it, and the other half is completely ignoring it by working 12-hour days.  The balance between work and other activities (especially in my case, school) is important to identify, and create a plan for, right from the start.  It’s not only important to an individual’s well-being, but it’s proven vital for success.

Businessweek.com posted an interesting article back in 2009 on the growing requisite for work-life balance, and found through studies that “work-life balance now ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes – second only to compensation…and employees who feel they have a better work-life balance tend to work 21% harder than those that don’t.” (CEB, 2009). A workplace environment that creates a supportive culture for employees and focuses on work-life balance will likely be more successful overall based on the findings by Businessweek. Isn’t greater production quality and quantity what matters most for profit strategy anyway? We get so caught up in the day-to-day grind, focusing on the end goal that we forget to take care of the people who have to get us there. Contrary to popular belief, forging ahead with non-stop working hours will have very little benefit for the individual, and further yet, the company. Overworking will certainly act as a barrier, causing physical and emotional exhaustion, completely burning yourself out. By the time you get home from a 13-hour day and realize you have three discussion posts to do, you’ll be kicking yourself for not sticking to your plan of leaving at 5:30pm a few nights this week.

It’s easy to talk about work-life balance and how important it is – but without actions, it’s a useless concept.  Work-life balance is tough, as it often is mirrored down the totem pole; if your boss works 5:30pm, travels home, and gets back online at 7:30pm until midnight, you are going to feel really guilty about wanting to leave even remotely on time; especially if it’s for an outside activity such as school.

Bottom optionAt the end of the day, it’s important to take a deep breath, look at your workloads for the week (both school and employment), and dice out which days you’re going to work on what. Managing your time in advance for the week helps to ensure that everything in your life receives equal attention, and most importantly, that you don’t work late after night. Be sure to include some days in that schedule that you only do your favorite activity, and do nothing even closely related to work or school. After all, we are all human, and we all need a break.

Kristina is a full-time Market Research Project Manager living and working in Philadelphia and a full-time student at NU pursuing a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication, with a concentration in Leadership. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.   

REFERENCE

The Staff of the Corporate Executive Board. March 27, 2009. The Increasing Call for Work-Life Balance. www.businessweek.com. September 9, 2013. http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/mar2009/ca20090327_734197.htm.