01/31/2012 08:29 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2012

5 Tips to Give Yourself a Break!

Knick-Knack, Paddy Whack, Give Yourself a Break!

There's a great lyric from the movie "Once" that goes like this: "... you have suffered enough and warred with yourself. It's time that you won." If you're up to something, your own business, raising kids or just about any pursuit, you'll be better off if you can stay positive and give yourself a break.

"Happy employees produce more than unhappy ones over the long term ... Moreover, they're not sprinters; they're more like marathon runners, in it for the long haul." ("Creating Sustainable Performance," Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012, Gretchen Spreitzer, Christine Porath)

Don't you want to be your own "happy employee"?

Here are five suggestions to help you maintain a positive attitude.
  1. Go better, not bigger. As much as you may be tempted to "sell out" or hustle after the pursuit of more quantity, it's quality that gives you not only satisfaction but ultimately wins the game. Keep asking yourself: "Am I doing the best I can do?" and "Am I proud of what I'm up to?"
  2. Schedule realistically. Yes, there's always more to do, but creating a realistic relationship with time, and with what you can actually get to in any given day with all of your other responsibility and the chaos that inevitably competes for your time, will ultimately give you the best long-term results and outlook. Just try to get two to three forward-moving things done a day and complete one small project a week.
  3. Avoid Time Bandits. People who call you up and just want to "shoot the sh*t" during the work day when you're busy are stealing from you, even if they're not "bad" people. Try turning off your phone and ignoring your emails for 1-2 hours of focused work a day. People who show up late, stand you up or don't keep their promises should be weeded out of your contact list, and that means you need to make sure it starts with you not being someone else's bandit!
  4. Taste the future. You have goals and rewards and that's OK -- they keep us going. We lose momentum sometimes, though, when it seems our goals are too far away and, when our energy sags, we begin to doubt we'll ever hit our bigger goals. Do something now that gives you the sense of what you're working toward. For instance, you may be a long way away from that new car, but you can take your current one in for a wash and vacuum.
  5. Do something for someone else. Do you know how to get more referrals? Give more referrals. Get active in helping someone else hit their goals and, even if they don't all reciprocate, you'll see that you're making something happen when you see them win. You don't have to make a big donation to some good cause either; just give of your time. Or call someone and ask them how their project is going and offer advice or help if you can. A sign that you need to focus out a bit more is when you feel totally stuck, lost or depressed. That's a mire you can't stay in too long -- focus OUT.

At the end of the day, when you have no more energy and you begin to think about the day to come, you deserve to have a moment of "Phew, I did the best I could today." If you're beating yourself up about what didn't get done... well, who is the one losing and WHY? It's time that you won.

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