Operating in Excellence
In my “What I've Learned from a Year of Podcasting” blog post, I talked about the importance of practicing excellence in all things. This isn’t just a lesson in podcasting but also a lesson in life, and a principle I truly live by. It’s hard work and I often fall short of its glory, but here, it’s about practice not perfection. This practice flows throughout my life and repeatedly during my day, challenging me to know better, do better and school life
5 Guiding Principles of Practicing Excellence Daily
I avoid morning routines.
I know, I know...everybody tells you that morning routines start your day and serve as a groundwork for how the day will go, blah, blah, blah. But my life is far from routine and restricting myself to a rigid list of to-do’s before the day starts would leave me defeated before I even left the bed. Instead, I try to let my body wake up naturally in the morning. I avoid alarm clocks, (unless I have an early morning flight) and instead, just feel myself wake up. This allows me to focus my energies inward in the morning and let my first conscious thoughts be about gratitude - thanking the Creator for waking me up, for my family and for a new day. This practice grounds me and allows my body (and me) to wake up grateful and ready to tackle the day.
I don’t check my email when I arrive to the office.
On average, 60 emails wait in my inbox each morning. They are a mix of reminders about assignments I need to grade, newsletters; messages from students, my administrative assistant, and colleagues requesting more meetings. It can be crazy-overwhelming to prepare for so I don't check email first thing. Instead I start with a to-do list. Armed with mechanical pencil, over-sized post-its and my thoughts is usually how I start. I prioritize what I need, want, and what my admin tells me I must do before I dive into the fires that are likely simmering. Email is often full of requests from others about what they want you to do, and that’s fine because that’s work, but practicing excellence is about knowing your own priorities and managing them accordingly.
I don’t multitask.
Trying to do everything at once is a sure-fire way not to get anything done in excellence. Hopping from phone call, to personal text, to email, to Twitter, and then off to a meeting with my boss ensures that I am not prepped for said meeting and that I’m in there, distracted by the last thing I did. To avoid this and focus on the task at hand, I try to break my day into micro-chunks using the famous Pomodoro Technique. This time-management method uses a timer to break down work into intervals, separated by short breaks. As I worked to complete my dissertation, this was my tried-and-true method and I use it still. It ensures that even the little chunks receive my best, because I’m focused on each contributing factor instead of the outcome.
I operate within my values.
Values can seem like a nebulous concept used by companies completing their mission and vision statements, but having a values-based lifestyle drives my pursuit of excellence in key areas. For example, I value autonomy, exploration, and adventure. I love nothing more than jet setting to my favorite city for the weekend or to an exotic destination for an extended vacation to explore the culture and cuisine. I don’t like to be beholden to anyone and so I’m generally fine with doing these things on my own. With this value in mind, I tend to avoid people who see my autonomy as a threat or perceive my love for exploration and adventure as dangerous or risky. I recognize that we don’t value the same things so it's likely that things won’t end well. Operating within my values guides what I say 'yes' to and what I say 'no' to, and ensures that if I am engaging in something, I can actually practice excellence in it, because it’s aligned with my own values.
I’m mindful of my need to decompress.
I’m a busybody; always have been, hoping I always will be. I love being booked, having a full calendar, and being on the go. Couple this with my extroverted tendencies, and I’m a ball of energy. However, as I get older, I’m more aware of my need to decompress. I get my energy from being out, about, and among people, but because I’m an empath, I often carry the weight of the day on my shoulders. When I get home, I have to release it somewhere and decompression helps me do that. Just sitting on the couch, relaxing my shoulders, arching my back, and doing some deep breathing can be the release I need in order to approach the next task positively. Sitting in silence, letting my mind wander, and staring at a blank wall gives me a bit of reprieve, helps me realign my values and focus on the excellence ahead.