1. Examine your systems and fix ones that are inefficient
Do you know exactly what you need to do and where to find the paperwork, tools, or other resources that you need to do it well? Are you hobbling along with broken technology or technology that you don’t know how to use?
Broken and inefficient systems are frustrating. They also cause us to procrastinate and hurt our productivity. Make sure that your physical and electronic scheduling, project management, and filing systems work well for you and fix them if they do not.
2. Set up regular time to unplug. Train others not to expect you to be constantly connected.
Being on call and expected to respond 24/7 is mentally exhausting. Constantly checking messages impedes our ability to de-stress or fully engage in satisfying activities. Unplugging clears the mind and refreshes the spirit so that when you return to work, you are more productive.
A few years ago, I went on my honeymoon and really wanted to unplug but knew that folks had to be able to reach me in an emergency. I notified everyone in advance and put a message on my telephone and email saying that I would NOT check or return messages until I was back in the office, but that in an emergency my assistant knew how to reach me. Then, I left her with a complete itinerary and told her to call me if the building was on fire and I had the bucket of water that would save it. (Metaphorically, of course.)
I returned to find that the entire company had been reorganized while I was gone but because I was well rested and had not spent my honeymoon worrying about it, I was able to be philosophical while everyone was hand wringing.
3. Stop expecting everyone else to be plugged in 24/7.
Sometimes, working on the weekend or late into the evening is necessary or convenient. But be careful not to assume that just because you are working, that everyone else should be. Learn how to use the schedule function on your email and time messages to hit people during their work hours. You’ll avoid putting undo stress on others and also set the expectation that you prefer to do business during ‘business time.’
4. Re-examine relationships. Decide if high-maintenance ones are worth it.
There are some folks that don’t want you to work sustainably. They will consistently put last minute, unreasonable demands on you. Set your limits and be prepared to end the relationship when it puts your ability to work sustainably at risk and you are convinced that you can’t change the situation.
Note that I am not talking about refusing to extend yourself through great customer service. I am talking about unreasonable demands made by people that are often unpleasant to deal with in other ways as well.
How else do you try to work more sustainably?