As a bit of a follow up to our blog post on Time management and scheduling in ecology, based on your feedback, we wanted to provide a few extra tips on how to manage your time so you have more of it to dedicate to the things and people you love the most.
Organisation, time management, journals and decluttering. Not always things we associate with ecology, but in my experience, they are crucial for showing up as a professional and mentally dealing with the huge work loads we are sometimes faced with in the wildlife conservation industry.
As with so many passion projects, it is easy to take on too much, it is easy to let work time eat into your personal time, because we love it… right? And for many field-based ecologists, we live at work for part if not most of the time (so what else can you do with your down time).
And we worked so hard (and made sacrifices!) to get to where we are, right? That’s the culture in wildlife conservation and it’s something a lot of biologists are starting to take a stand against.
The bottom line is this. We need to respect ourselves enough to sustain a healthy work life balance… otherwise we can and will burnout. And that’s no good for anyone!
Time management and scheduling is a great way to reduce stress and maintain work-life balance. By working hard in work time and setting realistic expectations for ourselves, we should feel no guilt in enjoying our down time and spending it on the other things we love in life.
We have 9 easy steps you can take to improve your time management and spend more time with the people you love and working on your other goals and hobbies outside of work.
- Move your body
- Nourish your body
- Good night sleep
- Declutter and organise
- Preparation is key
- Stop multi-tasking
- Lump similar activities
- Remove distractions
- Learn to say no
1 Move your body
Raising your heart rate and building your strength through exercise is not just a great physical stress release, it also helps to wake you up. When your mind and body are active, you are better able to focus and feel more energized throughout your day.
2 Nourish your body
In case you missed it, the rumours are true! Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for nourishing both your mind and body. Not only will you look better but you will also feel better with more energy to give throughout your day. Try to drink water, even when you’re in the office and limit your caffeine intake. Estimates on ideal caffeine levels vary between health professionals. I’m no doctor, but if you’re shaking and jittery, maybe lay off the caffeine – go a decaf and a snack.
3 A good night sleep
From my experience, there is no better cure in the world for anything than a good night sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, you may be irritable and easily stressed, more susceptible to depression, memory loss and accidents. Although a healthy sleep routine looks different for everyone, it’s important to get enough sleep for your body.
When you finish working on field projects such as trapping or spotlighting surveys, or intensive examination periods with tight deadlines (when sleep is less regular), it is also important to give yourself some down time to recover.
4 Decluttering and organization
Your external surrounds are often representative of your state of mind. In this way, you can induce a calming state of mind by decluttering your physical (and emotional) space and getting organized in your life. Schedules, calendars and lists are a great place to start.
5 Preparation is key
Take opportunities to prepare prior to busy periods. This can include anything from packing for field trips the week prior, laying your clothes out for work the night before or meal prepping for busy weeks when you expect to be under the pump.
Simple things can go a long way.
6 Stop multi-tasking
The truth is, multi-tasking isn’t really a thing. Try to stay present and move from task to task as this is often quicker than feeling distracted or scattered by a multitude of tasks you are trying to your attention to all at once.
7 Lump similar activities
In the same way, the less you jump between small tasks the less your mind has to stop and re-focus. Try lumping similar tasks together so you can sustain your attention on tasks for longer.
For example, I will often dedicate a full day or block of time to writing, tagging camera trap images or fixing traps once we have accumulated a pile of broken ones. Lumping similar tasks cuts out the faffing about with toing and froing that inevitably happens when I tackle tasks individually.
8 Remove distractions
Train yourself to sustain focus by removing distractions that you know will divert your attention. Put your phone on flight mode, put a sign on your office door,
Set a timer for 30 minutes or an hour and challenge yourself to work solidly on a task for that period of time. This can also be an incredibly effective strategy when you are procrastinating a large or difficult priority task.
9 Learn to say no
The first thing you need to know is that saying no does not reflect badly on you. In fact, it says the opposite “I know my work load and know how to set boundaries”.
Build strong communication skills by delegating tasks and explaining why you don’t have time to take on new tasks if they require completion by the deadlines.
In this way, you can learn to set boundaries that will increase your self-worth, reduce your stress levels, set realistic expectations and increase your longevity in your role.
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