Don’t forget to look up!

A number of years ago when planning and preparing for a three week trek of the Annapurna circuit in Nepal – clothing, equipment, devices and water sanitation tablets stacked in heaps on my bed – someone gave me a great piece of advice. Lindsay told me that when the going got tough in her recent trip to base-camp Everest and she had paused mid step, frozen fingers, sweaty-faced and puffing like a woman twice her age, she happened to look up and what was left of her breath was swept away. The beautiful view, stunning terrain and dramatic scenery of Everest reminded her of why she was there and of how far she had come. “When you get out there, don’t forget to look up!” She warned me.

Just a couple of years shy of a decade after that amazing trip, I find myself recently thinking the same thing. Sailing with some friends in Antigua with less than 3 years combined experience between us all, it struck me as we screamed and yelled at each other during a particularly clumsy anchor off Carlisle Bay, that perhaps we weren’t looking up enough. We were doing an awesome job and didn’t even notice it.

Whether you are goal oriented or an ‘enjoy the journey’ person, it is healthy, rewarding and zen to pause and just take stock of how far you have come. Here are 4 ways you can do that in your daily work life.

Bad day? – Self-pat your back

When you have a particularly bad day or have messed up somewhere in the middle of a piece of work, stop, write down all the things you have achieved so far and tell yourself well done. We are so good at being self-critical and we easily forget all the obstacles we have overcome to get where we are. Making yourself feel bad when you have messed up or don’t think you are performing as well, is not going to put you in a good frame of mind to put your best foot forward and more importantly, it negates all the good work you have done to get to this point. I keep these lists and build on them whenever I feel down about where I’ve not go to and I have also found they make a great memory jogger for when I have to do my mid-year self assessment for performance reviews.

Share the love 

Make it a point to say something kind, positive and encouraging to a work colleague or your team member once a day. There is something very healing about focusing on someone else and appreciating their work. Not only does it make them feel special and encouraged but it also forces you to recognise other people’s efforts and put it all into a wider perspective of collective work that is less about you and more about a wider impact. Quick ways in which I do this is to comment on an email article a colleague may have sent, give immediate positive feedback when a colleague gives me something I need to review, saying ‘nice tie’ or ‘great shoes’ when I walk passed someone in the hallway or saying ‘that was helpful, thanks’ when a person hosts a meeting or conference call.

Have a treat in your pocket 

At any one time, you should have a special project or activity – work-related – that you thoroughly enjoy doing and find a small part of your day to work on it or give a whole afternoon for it as a sort of ‘reward’. The great thing about these kind of activities is that you are still working but the joy of doing it is more apparent, instant or aligned with your sense of interest than some of your other tasks. Blending these types of activities into your day can be refreshing, a reprieve and some regularly will enable you to keep a broader perspective even when those tough projects land on your plate or your weekends disappear behind number crunching or proposal-writing – unless that’s your treat! Some examples of my treats are tidying up PowerPoint presentations so they look as slick as an apple advert, or conveying them into a prezi to look super snazzy, re-organising my outlook calendar and applying coloured categories to different types of meetings, researching great icebreakers or team activities to use for the next meeting I have to host, picking out a few topical Ted videos to send out to a colleague or two, selecting, re-sizing and shaping images for the next learning mailer that has to go out. Anyway – you get my drift.

Step away from the vehicle

Sometimes nothing else will do but to pick up your coffee mug or skip on your coat and get away from your desk, laptop or phone. Decide you are going to talk to someone for 20 or 30 mins about nothing to do with your work. It is important to just step away and switch off and nothing does that more effectively than putting a physical distance between you and your work. Genuinely focusing on someone or something else will get your mind off things and again, give you some much needed perspective on life generally. I work from home and often have no one else to talk with when I need or want a break so I do things like, watch a 30 minute episode of Friends, Skype my sister if I can see she is online, read a news article or prance around to 3 or 4 Beyoncé songs. I’ve also tried a few times to do a 30 minute workout but that can be a bit tired and tedious and requires massive willpower for me! Whatever works for you just step away from your desk.

Feel free to share some of your methods for remembering to stop and look up.