How to take back control in chaotic meetings.

Any one who has children knows you are never really in control….

but getting more control at work is important. We’ve all been in meetings — especially virtual ones — that feel like they’re going off the rails. People are trying to get a word in and may be inadvertently, or intentionally, talking over one another.

Be prepared to step in when this happens. You can constructively cut in by using a filler word to drive a strategic wedge into the conversation.

Contrary to popular belief, words like “um” and “you know” can actually be useful in this context. When body language and silent cues can be harder to read, these words can indicate to the group that you’d like to say something. Then, once you have the floor, compliment and build on someone else’s point, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it.

For example, you might say, “That’s a great point, I’d like to add to that.” Or, “I really appreciate this discussion — it makes me think about XYZ.” This way, you can maintain everyone’s credibility while also creating an opportunity to get the conversation back on track.

This tip is adapted from “Stop Talking Over Each Other in Virtual Meetings,” by Allison Shapira

Practice self compassion during a work crunch

Leadership Tip of the week #141
adapted from HBR

When work is intense, it’s easy to beat yourself up for letting things slip at the office or at home.

But doing so can make the stress worse.

Have self-compassion instead: Accept that you’re in an acute period of work stress and notice — don’t suppress or deny — your emotions.

Assigning a word to what you’re feeling, such as “pressure,” “guilt,” or “worry,” can activate the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functioning skills.

  1. Assess your to-do list by deciding what you need to get done each day and what can wait.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s renegotiating a deadline with a colleague or getting family members to pitch in at home.

Having compassion for yourself will help you increase your focus and get through the crunch with greater ease and peace.

Adapted from “5 Ways to Focus Your Energy During a Work Crunch,” by Amy Jen Su

3 change pitfalls and how to avoid them

Leadership Tip of the week

Leading an organizational transformation is hard, learnt many lessons as Customer Director through the Coop rescue.

If you’ve got a major change on the horizon (or if you’re currently leading one that’s stuck in a ditch), you need to be aware of three common pitfalls — and how to avoid them.

  1. Don’t underestimate the scope of the work. Executing a transformation at scale typically requires more time and coordination than leaders expect. To counter this, make sure you have realistic expectations. Take an incremental approach to the overall goal by launching a series of small-scale projects and initiatives led by distinct teams. And be sure that all of these related initiatives — and the people who lead them — are aligned, communicate effectively, and avoid taking on overlapping or conflicting work.
  2. Don’t overestimate your colleagues’ capacity to execute your vision while continuing to carry out their existing day-to-day responsibilities. Listen for feedback about their ability to deliver. Be ready to adapt accordingly.
  3. Don’t hide why this transformation is important . Be transparent and express why you believe the organization should move in this new direction. You want to be a leader who inspires trust throughout the transition.

This tip is adapted from “How Leaders Get in the Way of Organizational Change,” by Ron Carucci

Ask the right questions

Leadership tip of the week #139 adapted from HBR

most leaders are too focused on having all the answers — and not focused enough on asking the right questions.

It’s time to recalibrate.

Despite what you might think, expressing vulnerability and asking for help, clarification, or input can be a sign of strength and confidence, not weakness.

The right questions are signals of trust — and they can inspire people to trust you in return.

For example, rather than telling your team about a new opportunity you’ve identified, ask them, “Do you see a game-changing opportunity that could create much more value than we’ve delivered in the past?” A big, simple question like this can inspire a burst of collaboration and creativity across the organization.

And if you consistently demonstrate a question-first mindset, you’ll help establish an overall culture of curiosity and learning that will keep your team innovating and responding to challenges effectively.

So try it out this week: Ask your team a big-picture, open-ended question, and see if it doesn’t lead to some new and exciting ideas

This tip is adapted from “Good Leadership Is About Asking Good Questions,” by John Hagel III

what super productive people do differently

Leadership tip of week #138 from HBR

It can feel like 24 hours isn’t enough time in the day, and all the productivity hacks in the world won’t change that. Here are four proven strategies to help you make the most of your limited time.

  1. Batch your emails and meetings. It’s hard to get into flow when you know you’re going to be interrupted every hour. By knocking out all your emails or meetings at once, you’ll clear out some undisturbed time to work on deep-focus tasks.
  2. Do your best to learn some keyboard shortcuts that can reduce how much you rely on your computer’s mouse and trackpad. This may seem like a small thing, but over time, it makes a huge difference.
  3. Nudge your way to better behaviour: Leverage your environment to change your self-destructive habits. If you’re losing time because you’re distracted by your phone throughout the day, leave it in another room. If emails are derailing your workflow, pause notifications.
  4. Read your work out loud. No matter what your job is, chances are you write at least one email per day. Listening to the words you put down on paper will speed up and clarify your writing process.

This tip is adapted from “What Super Productive People Do Differently,” by Amantha Imber

regain a sense of control

leadership tip of the week #137 adapted from HBR

Between the health risks of the coronavirus, the economic stress of the recession, social distancing, and mandatory work-from-home arrangements, so much of our lives feel out of our control right now.

Research shows that anything you can do to restore your sense of autonomy — even in small ways — will help you be more resilient. Here are a few tips. Firstly if you’re working remotely, set up a comfortable and personal workspace.

You might define a clear boundary between “work” and “home” by telling yourself: When I’m in this room or wearing these headphones I’m “at work.”

Also, identify and embrace the perks of working at home. For example, if you no longer have a long commute, you can choose how you’ll spend that time — whether it’s getting an extra hour of sleep, being with your family or friends, or even delving into a new hobby. (Just try to resist the temptation to spend that time working.)

You can also reclaim control over your body and mind by prioritizing self-care. Investing time and attention in your own well-being is crucial during stressful times.

While the pandemic’s closures and restrictions may dictate many aspects of your life right now, how you customize your environment, spend your time and treat yourself is up to you.

This tip is adapted from “Restore Your Sense of Control — Despite the Pandemic,” by Eric M. Anicich et al.

Should it really be on your list?

leadership tip of the week #125 adapted from HBR

Not every project or task you take on requires your immediate attention.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself a few questions to help you prioritize your to-do list.

  1. why is this task necessary? If there’s no clear answer, it’s probably not urgent.
  2. what would happen a month from now if you don’t get this done? It’s tempting to barrel through your list for the sake of crossing things off, but before you spend time on a task, visualize its future impact on you, your stakeholders, and your business. If you don’t see a long-term impact, consider passing.
  3. are you the right person to do this task? If not, consider whether you can delegate to someone else.
  4. did you agree to take on this task for the right reasons? You may have told yourself, “People will think I’m rude if I say no,” or “My direct reports are too busy to do this.”If you said yes for the wrong reasons, chances are you’re the wrong person for the Job

Don’t do every task: we’ve learnt in the recent health crisis that if you focus on the important things, that’s what matters

This tip is adapted from If You’re Overworked, Learn Which Tasks to Hand Off,” by Sabina Nawaz

Don’t Let Video Calls Drain Your Energy

ZoomCatFinalShadow

Let’s face it, continuous video calls are exhausting.

But there are a few things you can do to conserve your time and energy.

1. avoid multitasking. It may be tempting to try to get other work done while you’re listening in, but switching between tasks can cost you as much as 40% of your productivity.

2. cut down on distractions. Close your browser tabs, put your phone away, and stay present. You can take short breaks during longer calls by minimizing the video, or just looking away from your computer now and then.

3. Do you really need a video meeting? take a step back and ask yourself whether you even need a video meeting. Check your calendar to see if there are any conversations that you could have over Slack or email instead. don’t feel obligated to make every conversation a video call. Especially when you’re talking to people outside your organization, a phone call is probably just fine.

Taking these steps may feel hard at first, but they will help prevent you from feeling drained at the end of another workday.

This tip is adapted from “How to Combat Zoom Fatigue,” by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

Make a promise.. keep a promise

leadership tip of the week #136 adapted from HBR

If a brand is a promise, then the expectations people have of the brand are created by the promises we make. Meeting expectations is about the alignment of words and deeds.

Disappointment occurs when we don’t do what we say we’re going to do.

When we promise more than we can deliver or pretend to be something we’re not.

Ironically, we are the ones who are most disappointed when we don’t meet the standards we set. We have the power to change this, by prioritising building trust over making an impression and only setting the expectations we’re willing to live up to.

Easy to say. Harder to do.

That’s why it’s worth the effort.

Make a promise…. keep a promise

stay cool in a conflict

stay cool in a conflict leadership tip of week #135

Only Express Emotions During a Conflict If They’ll Help You Resolve It

When a disagreement with a colleague gets heated, it’s normal to feel all sorts of emotions: disappointment, anger, or frustration, for example.

But should you express what you’re feeling?

It depends. If you’re experiencing what psychologists call a hot emotion — one that comes with an urgent sense of entitlement or even revenge (“I have to tell him exactly how I feel!”), it’s better to find a way to calm down first.

If the emotion is cold, meaning you can control it and use it to help the situation (“I want to tell him how I feel so that he’ll understand my perspective”), then it’s probably OK to express it.

But don’t just name the emotion; explain what’s causing it. Telling someone you’re angry is less helpful than sharing that you’re disappointed they didn’t follow through on their commitment to you.

Adapted from “Should You Share Your Feelings During a Work Conflict?,” by Susan David

we should disagree more

Leadership Tip of the week #134 adapted from HBR

The marmite campaign came out of conflict between the creative team at BMP: one loved it, one hated it and they spend a week disagreeing until they realised it was the idea.

Conflict is a normal, healthy part of working with other people.

And yet many of us avoid it at all costs — often because it feels personal.

To get more comfortable with disagreements, and to reap the benefits of productive conflict, let go of the idea that it’s all about you.

If you model that you’re comfortable with productive conflict, you’ll show your team that it’s OK to disagree, encouraging people to raise their ideas.

To move a work conflict away from the personal, think about the bigger picture and the business’s needs. Disagreements often arise over objectives and processes, for example.

When you and a colleague have different views about something, ask yourself two questions

1. Why is this difference of opinion an important debate to have?

2. How will it help the organization or the project you’re working on?

The more you can keep a conflict focused on the business, the better chance you have of resolving it in a way that benefits everyone.

Adapted from “Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work,” by Amy Gallo

are you taking self-care seriously ?

are you taking self-care seriously: now is the time to say It’s so busy at work, I can’t afford NOT to take care of myself

Leadership Tip of the week #133

You probably already know that sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, physical exercise, human connection, and time to relax are important — but do you actually carve out time for them?

When you consider caring for yourself as unrelated to work, you’re likely to let your business priorities come first. But your resilience is a high-priority business issue, especially when you’re leading a team through the stress of our fast-paced world.

Research shows that our decision-making dramatically suffers when we neglect to properly rest and refuel, so make self-care a daily priority. You don’t need to dedicate hours a day though. You can boost your short-term resiliency by taking a short walk or reaching out to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while just to check in. Investing in yourself isn’t indulgent — it’s mission critical.

It’s time to tell yourself, “It’s so busy at work right now, I can’t afford NOT to take care of myself!

This tip is adapted from “Reframe How You Think About Self-Care,” by Liane Davey

culture ripple effect

culture ripple effect: leadership tip of week #132

By the age of six months, a baby begins to understand that his actions can affect his environment.

It’s amazing how as adults we quickly unlearn this.

As business leaders when we talk about shaping or changing company culture we sometimes forget to own the fact that we are the culture. Culture is not something that is laid down in a strategy document, or changed in the blink of an eye at an offsite event designed to rally the troops. Culture is how we act every day. It’s impacted by how we as individuals choose to behave and evidenced in the ripple effect that our actions catalyse.

When we seek change we often start by looking to see what we can change in others, forgetting that the ripples begin right where we are.

We must walk the walk and Talk the talk

daydreaming (with a purpose) can recharge your mind

day dreaming with a purpose can recharge your mind: leadership tip of week #132

Resisting distractions seems like an intuitive way to be more productive, yet research shows that excessive focus exhausts your brain.

To tap into your “default mode network” — an unfocused state in which your brain activates old memories, enhances self-awareness, and imagines creative solutions — use positive constructive daydreaming.

  1. I begin a low-key activity, like cycling or gardening , and allow my mind to wander.
  2. But don’t simply slip into a daydream or rehash old worries. Instead, imagine something playful, like running through the woods.
  3. Hold the wishful image in your mind while continuing the low-key activity. In this unfocused state, your mind will recharge, connect ideas, and even find long-lost memories.

The associations your mind makes during positive constructive daydreaming should enhance your sense of self, making you a more confident leader.

So when I’m out on the Pennine hills cycling with Alastair & Mark , or digging my garden I’m really working hard recharging my mind.

Adapted from “Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus,” by Srini Pillay

Deliberately encourage & reward collaboration

deliberately encourage and reward collaboration: leadership tip of week #131

There are a lot of reasons why someone might refuse help from a colleague.

Some employees prefer to be self-reliant, others don’t want to feel obligated to return the favor, and still others don’t trust their coworkers’ motives. But these attitudes can increase employees’ risk of burnout and hinder social connections at work.

As a leader, you can encourage and recognize collaborative efforts by calling attention to them and explaining how they contribute to the organization’s goals and mission. Be sure to demonstrate your willingness to accept help when you need it; colleaguess are more likely to do it if they see their leaders doing it.

And be careful not to send mixed messages: If employees who go it alone advance more quickly than those who give and receive support, people will pick up on that discrepancy — and they’ll go back to looking out for number one.

Adapted from “Why We Don’t Let Coworkers Help Us, Even When We Need It,” by Mark C. Bolino and Phillip S. Thompson

Maintain focus during back to back Zoom meetings

maintain focus during back to back Zoom meetings:
leadership tip of the week 130

When you’re in a virtual meeting, it’s easy to find your mind drifting away — especially if it’s your fifth one of the day.

  1. To make sure you’re as engaged as possible, take a few moments beforehand to understand the meeting’s purpose and what value you can add.
  2. What is the most critical information you have, and what do you want to contribute? Jot down these points.
  3. If you don’t have a critical role to play, identify exactly what you hope to learn from the call.
  4. Coming prepared with specific questions will prime you to listen carefully.
  5. If you speak during the meeting, acknowledge previous statements so people feel heard, but don’t spend a lot of time re hashing earlier points.
  6. Add something new to move the conversation forward.
  7. And don’t worry if you do zone out: Gently notice what distracted you, and return your attention to the call. If you missed something, don’t be afraid to ask a clarifying question.

This tip is adapted from Stop Zoning Out in Zoom Meetings,” by Sarah Gershman

how to get buy-in

5 fingers5 Steps to Get Buy-in for Your Next Innovation

Leadership Tip of week #129

adapted from HBR

Everyone wants innovation in their organisation, but getting a new idea implemented can be a challenge, especially when office politics are in play. When you’re trying to get approval for your latest innovation, follow these four steps.

1. be clear on the problem you are trying to solve: really understand the internal and customer problem you are trying to solve. this is 80% of the challenge

2. anticipate resistance. If you know what people might object to, you can plan how you’ll address those concerns.

3. understand what objections are truly about. For example, someone might say they object because of a publicly acceptable reason — say, the project is too costly — when their real concern is political, like they’re afraid their team will lose influence.

4. find a champion for the project. This should be a senior executive whose clout and expertise can help you move the project forward.

5. gather a critical mass of supporters. If you have a group of people who believe in the innovation enough to try it, you’ll have social proof that the idea is a good one.

Adapted from “How to Navigate the Politics of an Innovation Project,” by Brian Uzzi

Try Silence During Your Next Remote Brainstorm

brainstorm ideas 2

Try Silence During Your Next Remote Brainstorm

Leadership tip of the week #128

adapted from HBR

Research shows that embracing silence during a brainstorm helps teams produce significantly more — and higher-quality — ideas. Silent brainstorming can be particularly useful in remote meetings.

So what does it look like in practice?

  1. Starting with the meeting invite, make sure everyone understands the goals of the brainstorming session.
  2. At the beginning of your meeting, share a working document (such as a Google Doc or use Teams ) with key questions that need to be answered.
  3. Encourage all participants to contribute to the document for 10 to 20 minutes without talking. During this time, attendees can actively ideate and respond to each other in the document.
  4. The leader can also participate, providing direction and asking attendees to elaborate on specific ideas as they’re being formed.
  5. Once the silent phase of the brainstorm is complete, you can begin a discussion if your group is relatively small. If the group is large, you can end the meeting, review the document, and follow up with an email that shares conclusions and next steps. Or, you might consider sending out a quick survey where participants can react or vote on options to move forward.

A different approach to working on ideas but one that creates the workshop capability from before lock down and stops Zoom overload.

This tip is adapted from Break Up Your Big Virtual Meetings,” by Liana Kreamer and Steven G. Rogelberg

How to increase your versatility

darwin survival of fittest

How to increase your versatility

– the best leaders are versatile ones

Leadership tip of the week #127

adapted from HBR

Versatility is a key leadership trait.

Managers must have the capacity to read and respond to change with a wide repertoire of skills and behaviors.

So how can you actually build this ability?

  1. Start by soliciting feedback from trusted colleagues. Ask a simple question like, “What should I start doing, stop doing, or continue doing to be a more effective teammate?”
  2. You might also take a more systematic approach and complete a personality assessment to gauge your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Follow up by asking colleagues if they agree with the results.
  4. Finally, learn some new habits from people you respect. Set up a meeting with a colleague who has different strengths than you to pick their brain. Your goal is to learn to see things from their perspective, so come with an open mind. You might even ask what they are reading, how they learn, or what their day-to-day routine is.

Try to adopt some elements from their approach — it just might make you a more flexible worker and versatile leader, and more adaptable to change.

Keep listening keep learning

This tip is adapted from “The Best Leaders Are Versatile Ones,” by Robert B. (Rob) Kaiser

 

Use curiosity to break a bad habit

curiosity

Use Curiosity to Break a Bad Habit

Leadership Tip of Week #124

adapted from HBR

Why is breaking a habit so difficult?

It’s because habits are made up of three components:

  1. a trigger (for example, feeling stressed),
  2. a behavior (browsing the Internet),
  3. a reward (feeling sated).

Each time you reinforce the reward, you become more likely to repeat the behavior. The key to breaking this cycle is to become more aware of the “reward” reinforcing your behavior.

First, figure out your triggers. If the habit is procrastination, for example, pay attention to the circumstances surrounding you when you put things off. Do you have a big project you’re trying to avoid? Do you have too much on your plate? Then, try to identify the behaviors you engage in when you procrastinate. Do you check social media instead of working? Do you take on unimportant tasks instead of what you should be doing?

The next step is to clearly link action to outcome. Ask yourself what you get from surfing the internet for pictures of cute puppies. How rewarding is it in the moment, especially when you realize that it isn’t helping you get your work done?

Lastly, replace the reward with curiosity. Being curious helps you acknowledge the sensations you’re feeling — boredom, distraction — without acting on them.

Working parents, help each other recharge

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Working parents, help each other recharge

Leadership tip of the week #123

adapted from HBR

It’s been a blast for working parents in last weeks of lockdown. They have spent more time with their children, and many admit to quite liking them !

But it’s not always easy for working parents to communicate their own needs, but it’s worth discussing with your partner how you can each make time for self-care.

Before having the conversation, take a few minutes to make a list of what would most benefit you.

  • Is it taking 15 minutes after work to decompress before jumping into child care responsibilities?
  • Maybe it’s enjoying a couple of hours on a weeknight to read a novel. Choose one or two things that are feasible and would truly recharge you.

When it’s time for you and your partner to talk, make sure you’re both free of distractions, relatively calm, and not overtired. During the conversation, remember that you’re playing for the same team. Use “I feel” statements that focus on your own experience instead of accusatory “You always” statements. Listen to your partner’s needs, and be willing to make concessions.

You’ll both benefit if you approach the conversation with empathy and an open mind.

This tip is adapted from How to Communicate Your Self-Care Needs to Your Partner,” by Jackie Coleman

Reach out to people you miss

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Reach Out to Those Casual Friends You Miss

Leadership Tip of the week #122

adapted from HBR

On an average day, we interact between 11 and 16 times with casual acquaintances — Meeting new people at work or catching up with acquaintances casually for a coffee.

Now that we live in an era of social distancing, these once-common interactions have disappeared, and we no longer have physical reminders that we are part of a wider social network. Reaching out to show someone that you’re thinking of them will make you both feel a bit closer during this challenging time.

  1. First, think of the right way to reach out — is it a text, a phone call, an email, a Facebook message? What will put the least amount of pressure on the recipient?
  2. If you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. Think about this interaction as similar to smiling at a colleague in the hallway: Sometimes you might stop and chat, and sometimes you might not.
  3. Instead of expecting a reply, enjoy the knowledge that your message is likely to deliver a little hit of happiness for the recipient.
  4. Set an expectation for a short and simple conversation — it will help avoid the feeling that socializing is another item on your to-do list.
  5. And if you do end up talking, share something about yourself — maybe a photo of your pet or child doing something funny — to help build positive rapport.

It may feel awkward at first, but reaching out to an acquaintance will create a spark of joy for both of you while you’re out of each other’s sight.

Let’s all reach out to one extra person a day for the next week?

This tip is adapted from Why You Miss Those Casual Friends So Much,” by Gillian Sandstrom and Ashley Whillans

adapt your leadership style

Apple Developers Conference

adapt your leadership style to your situation

Leadership tip of the week #115

adapted from HBR

There’s not one leadership style that works for all contexts. Steve Jobs was not just a great leader he was a situational leader, with flexibility in his leadership styles.

For example, in some situations, it’ll make sense to tell people what to do, whereas asking open-ended questions will work better in others.

You might need to adjust goals as new information emerges, or, under certain circumstances, stick exactly to the plan.

You should adjust your style based on the people you’re managing, the context in which you’re leading, and the outside pressures you’re under.

To navigate tensions like these, you need a good deal of self-awareness. So understand your natural tendencies. What’s your default position? Do you tend to be more of a traditional leader, or do you align with a more adaptive, fluid style?

If you’re not sure, get feedback from others.

Then learn, adapt, practice.

The goal is to develop a portfolio of micro-behaviors you can employ when the situation demands you use a different style. And look to your employees for signals on when it’s appropriate to favor one approach over another

This tip is adapted from Every Leader Needs to Navigate These 7 Tensions,” by Jennifer Jordan, Michael Wade, and Elizabeth Teracino

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

ernest-hemingway-trust-quotes

Trust Is Even More Important When You’re Working Remotely

Leadership Tip of the Week # 120

adapted from HBR

Leaders who suddenly have found themselves managing a fully remote team may be wondering how to measure employee productivity and quality of work from a distance.

The key ingredient is trust.

You may not be able to see what people are doing, but you can still equip them with the information they need, assign them tasks, and check on them like you always have.

  1. give them the right equipment
  2. give them rituals for the day
  3. find new ways to keep the coffee machine conversations
  4. be open in conversations ( the easy and the difficult ones)

Since you can’t monitor process in the same way, your review will have to be based on outcomes.

Of course, there’s no reason to believe that, in this new environment, people won’t do the work they’ve been assigned. Remote work has been around for a very long time, and today we have been learning to use that technology to not only do our own work but also to successfully collaborate.

So as a manager, your main job is to heed Ernest Hemingway’s advice: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

This tip is adapted from 15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered,” by Tsedal Neeley

Protect your non-work time

smiley post it note on corkboard happiness versus depression concept
smiley cartoon face expression on yellow post it note surrounded by sad and depressed faces on cork message board in happiness versus depression and smile against adversity concept

Protect your non-work time

Leadership tip of the week #113

adapted from HBR

As more people are adapting to working from home, we are all learning to adapt:  jobs used to have very clear lines between when you’re “on” and when you’re “off.” But when you working from home — it’s important to protect your non-work time.

  • If you feel like work is taking over most of your waking hours, start by clearly defining what “after hours” means for you.
  • Take into account the number of hours you’re expected to work each week, as well as personal commitments like homeschooling kids , exercise, family and some me-time
  • When do you need to start and stop to put in the appropriate amount of work time?
  • Then, develop mental clarity about what needs to get done and when you will do it.
  • Keep track of your tasks and plan them out.
  • Make sure you block off time for an end-of-workday wrap-up, where you review and make sure you did everything you needed to do for the day. Even have a collective end of week drink with colleagues on a zoom call.
  • Lastly, communicate with your colleagues about how (or if) you want to be contacted during your off hours.

Really guard your time. If you don’t, you won’t get the mental break that everyone needs