Last year my post “My little astuce to professional happiness” (https://bit.ly/3CzgWGH) was beyond valuable to me (as a reflection), so much so that I have been compiling new self-care that I have adopted since then to share for the International Day of Happiness 2023.
Before the pandemic started, it was clear to me that I was not happy professionally. I was tired of toxic work environments, each academic institution has been from bad to worse and my experience with line managers had been falling out of the frying pan into the fire. It was no surprise then that early on during the pandemic I wanted to have a healthier professional environment. This here sums up what I had been doing from 2020-2022:
📅Action for Happiness monthly calendars give a purpose to every single day
🗄️Well-organised calendar for more focus
😊More daily self-care activities
💻 Being digitally versatile
Nonetheless, whilst I was able to apply professional self-care for me, I was still feeling prey to the toxic professional environment because others in my professional network still had toxic work habits and patterns that impacted me. I, therefore, needed to shield myself from others’ immodest repeated behaviours. So, during the last 12 months, I added a few key tools to my repertoire:
🎯Started using Focusmate to increase productivity on independent projects
🖌️Got more creative to convey core anti-discrimination messages
🪠Flushed toxic professional connections and send clear messages to keep them at bay🐆Using existing software such as EyeLeo for a healthier screentime at my desk
Focusmate changed my working style
I discovered Focusmate (https://www.focusmate.com/) in August 2022, a tool that revolutionised the way that I was working on my projects. As an independent researcher I was answerable only to myself, and sticking to deadlines and maintaining productivity get tricky sometimes. Some of the useful free features of Focusmate include:
- You can book focus sessions for 25/50/75 minutes and repeat the booking either daily/weekly for at most 10 times.
- There are up to 3 free sessions every week
- Upon booking you get an email with a calendar invite
- You get to meet people from around the world with whom you can choose to work again or block if you wish
- If you have missed a few sessions, you get an email in your inbox checking if you are alright, how cool is that!
25 and 50 minutes slots really suit me especially as I want to maintain my move to 25 and 55 minutes slots on my calendar rather than the 30 mins and 1-hr long which is usually practiced in organisations. Comfort breaks are important for me to be able to fully focus on the next piece of work. In Dec 2022, 75 minutes slots were introduced, which help me with longer tasks such as adding captions to videos.
Creativity conveyed my messages to a wider audience
Regular self-care has led to more creativity in my thoughts. Last year I blogged how I was writing my first poem for the 2022 World Creativity & Innovation day with #creativeHE (recording and Lifewide magazine article) and started a video series “Celebrating small steps in HE“.
My first poem led to a second one in Sep 2022 “Forget me not” as part of the first-ever #altc Open Mic (recording available).
As I struggled to get my point across in my anti-discrimination work, I found poem writing to be a fun way of passing on my messages to my existing network and also to those outside my connections. I say fun, as I found that my messages were accepted, appreciated, and amplified without any direct messaging from bullies, which often happened when I voice out concerns about discrimination.
Likewise, I started to blog more and engaged in borrowing the voices of the more priviledged to do so in my video series, allowing me to tackle more serious issues.
Keeping at bay from toxic people
There are and will be toxic people in my network, I, therefore, decided to keep them at a distance as much as possible by blocking them and sending clear messages to them.
In Dec 2022, I found decluttering my professional Social Media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) to be really therapeutic. On LinkedIn, I particularly removed and blocked any connections who had bullied me (in-person or online) in the past or contributed to the process. I did the same on Twitter, removed and blocked a few followers. After all, why would I want to be in touch with a “professional” who does not have professional etiquette? What they do with the rest of their lives is of no interest to me, and I do not want to give them the opportunity to pry on me either. I also removed and blocked those who had posted bullying messages in response to others’ posts.
At the start of 2023, I blocked those with unhealthy working patterns that I found inadmissible. Anyone who emailed me on 31st Dec or 1st Jan about a piece of work cannot really be wishing me well. It was clear that I will not entertain and accommodate toxic work behaviours from others. This in fact made me feel empowered of my own work and projects.
Last year, I blogged about how I usually avoid meetings on Friday afternoons. Nonetheless, it was hard to not get my inbox filled with emails that needed a response, thus adding more to my To-Do list for the current week. Anyone emailing me with more tasks on a Friday afternoon and wishing me “a lovely Friday and weekend” is a Friday Grinch in my books. I thus found it really useful to add a specific note to my email signature:
”Emails reaching me after 11am on Fridays may not get an immediate response until the following Monday. “
No need to say that people with toxic work habits find this annoying, but they are exactly the people I want to avoid on a Friday when I need to focus on completing my tasks for the week and plan for the week ahead. Planning my work for the day and for the week is a crucial activity for me and is my preferred working style.
EyeLeo watching out after me
I came across EyeLeo in Feb 2023 during #LTHEchat 254, question 6 in particular, where I discovered EyeLeo (http://eyeleo.com/) thanks to Santanu Vasant. After the chat, I took some time to create the Wakelet and then immediately hopped on downloading this small piece of software that has made wonders for my eyes.
On the EyeLeo website, it is explained how focusing for a long time on a computer screen can reduce blinding, thus causing eye strain or asthenopia. You can remind EyeLeo when you want to take breaks and I promise it will be on time to remind you to relax your eyes. Some of the features of EyeLeo that I have found useful include:
- Short breaks with eye exercises
- Long breaks with your screen blocked (unless you skip it)
- Instructions for different eye exercises
- Strict mode that prevents skipping of breaks
- Customisable intervals
I have scheduled short eye exercises every 10 minutes, which last only for about 20 seconds. And I have scheduled longer breaks for every 50 minutes. Obviously, self-discipline is needed to not swap to the tablet or phone but to respect the break that our body needs. One feature that would have been useful is to be able to schedule it for 50 minutes past the hour rather than every 50 minutes, which may sometimes fall during an important meeting. However, important meetings or not, no one is going to take care of my eyes if I do not.
You may find some more useful tips for a sustainable professional lifestyle and positive mental health from #LTHEchat 253 and #LTHEchat 254
What are your self-care tips and what tool are you willing to take forward in your own journey?