We all want to perform well at work and live a fulfilling life. It all gets down to these two simple needs. If we take a minute to contemplate that a bit more, those two simple needs further get down to a few simple actions. I'm writing this for those folks who work in offices at computer screens: software developers and others.
#1. Get enough good sleep
Big things start with simple habits. The heroic sagas about office super-achievers used to have it that sleep is an annoying waste of time, and people should cut down on sleep wherever possible. Turns out, sleep is vital for our well-being and performance, here's just one article to confirm that. Let alone researches, from what I've personally observed, some people can sleep for 8 hours straight, while some sleep in chunks, waking up for several times per night. What matters most about sleep is that we work in offices. We are not construction workers, who are able to wake up simply by staying outside, and doing physical work. Anyone whose work involves staring at a screen and thinking will not get away with it. If your body wants to have its share of sleep in chunks, you have to attend to it. No hacks will do the trick. All our problems with health, and hence with performance, are rooted in the careless attitude to the way we sleep. The earlier in life we start taking care of our sleep, the better our chances for long-term viability at delivering good work.
#2. Re-think your commute to work
You woke up in the morning. You didn't have enough sleep, for one reason or another. Your morning commute will then add up to the impending stress of the day. We somehow take it very lightly when our doctor says that we need to avoid stresses, and we keep on driving in congested areas, stressing ourselves out in bad traffic jams. If the commute takes more than half an hour, and this happens continually, you need to re-think your approach. Either find a way to work remotely, or at least drive to the office only several times per week. We're doing better with letting people work remotely, looks like. Unless there's some compelling blocker that makes you burn your life in excruciating commutes, consider staying away from them altogether. It might seem that we're fine putting up with such things as bad commute or bad sleep. However, as we get beyond our mid 30's, all those small stresses build up and insidiously sabotage our performance. For someone whose work is to cut wood in the forest this all is not that bad. They'd get their share of fresh air and release their stresses via muscle work. Unfortunately, we can not do that as knowledge workers. Even if we work out in the gym, the larger part of our day is spent sitting in a chair, and there's no natural way to release this stress. Bad commutes add up to this unreleased tensions working like a delayed-action bomb that ruins us from inside.
#3. Work in comfortable office space
Our stress ball is rolling on. Office is next in the line. Is your office customized to your individual needs? If you feel that you need fresh air, and not an air conditioner, or some green plants around you, or more control with artificial lights turned on or off when you want them to, fight for it. If your office looks rather like a farm for kettle with open space and no space for privacy, run away. We are where we spend our time. Harmonious environments endow us with the ability to think clearly, decide justly and work effectively. Office space and how it is tuned to your individual needs is another major component to sustainable performance.
#4. Work in comfortable personal space
This involves interactions that we have with co-workers, whether work-related or not. We simply need to work with people we like. Besides, a comfortable personal space at work includes smooth communication flows. If we recall how many times per day we need some information to proceed with our work, smoothly, and what a roadblock to productivity it might be when we are not getting this information in time, then we need to write off those times that we spend idling and heating back up. That's great if a software developer or a QA engineer can sink into a monk-like state meditating in front of their screens, requiring no input from anyone else. However, if your work stretches beyond solitary meditations, you're most likely to interact with other co-workers, and it's in your best interest to fine-tune those communication flows, especially if this is a remote collaboration. Arranging comfortable personal space at work also involves a smart approach to meetings. If you see that all those many meetings deliver a low ROI on the time spent, flag this to your co-workers.
#5. Work with comfortable tools
Count all those occasions when you have mini-bummers as your tools won't let you do the work comfortably, keeping your flow. Are you struggling to build this dashboard that you need in this reporting software? Or retrieving a report that would show all the details about a project progress? Our performance is very much influenced by the tools that we are using to do the work. If a project management tool, or any other digital app that you use is continuously giving you hard time, fight for the tools that help you do the work.
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