Work Like You Are Working Out

Work demands so much of our time and energy. Sometimes all I can do just show up and do my best for the day. When I am tired, my technique gets sloppy, and I end up burning more energy. You might know that feeling too.

The fact is, I am trying to do too much. I am thinking about all the things I want to improve on and wondering if I will ever get there. As you might imagine, this wastes a lot of energy and leaves me feeling inadequate.

The funny thing is, I noticed I rarely have the same sort of thoughts when I am working out. What’s the difference? I get warmed up before starting the heavy lifting. I let myself focus on one little thing at a time. Further, I take better care to give my body the rest and nutrition it needs. And finally, I reflect on my progress when I am finished.

Nowadays, I have started to think about my workdays as less like work and more like a workout.

Warm up.

Few of us can jump right into solving hard problems without giving our brains a chance to wake up and warm up. This looks different for everyone. It may be a quick go at Wordle or a cup of coffee while reading a Spin post or two. Whatever it is, remember that it’s important to give yourself time to transition to work mode. Take some time to think about the day ahead and prepare yourself for its demands.

Set an intention or goal.

Just like you might assign certain days as a leg day or arm day when working out, choose one or two small things to focus on for the workday. Near the start of your day, ask yourself, “Where do I want to direct my energy?” or “What do I want to practice today?” It may help to write it down on a sticky note so you can refer to it throughout the day.

  • I want to be a more engaged navigator while pairing today.
  • I am going to try out the scientific method when debugging an issue.
  • Today, I am going to practice radiating more confidence.

At Atomic, we are surrounded by opportunities to learn and grow. Some days this feels energizing, but other days, it feels like my brain is too full to absorb any more information. At the beginning of my career, I often thought that the learning opportunities were wasted on me and “so and so” would be absorbing a great deal more.

If you have thoughts like these, I am here to tell you that nothing is wasted on you, and you are learning more every day, little by little. Setting a small intention or goal for the day will help you narrow your focus and feel less overwhelmed.

Take breaks, eat and hydrate.

Muscles need rest, water, and nutrition to perform well. Our brains are no different. Good food and lots of water go a long way to keep the body and mind regulated and functioning well. It helps me to think about it as giving my body what it needs to succeed. This makes me more likely to prioritize hydrating and eating well throughout the day. Similarly, all sorts of studies show that our brains function much better with regular breaks. Maybe set an intention to add some regularly scheduled breaks throughout the day and see how it feels!

Savasana. Rest.

Before rushing off to the next thing after work, take a moment to sit quietly or walk and reflect on the progress you’ve made. How did it go? What worked and what didn’t? What do I want to try again tomorrow? This is a great time to then let your mind settle and practice mindfulness. Giving your mind and body the space to be still will help integrate all that you practiced and will also help you feel more refreshed. Win-win!