The end of the year is a perfect time to pause and reflect on what has transpired — the impacts made and the insights discovered. You may find you pivoted from the original plan by experimenting with hybrid work environments, wrestling with uncertainties, or just trying to create a “new normal.”
As we wound down 2021, there seemed to be a collective need to take a deep breath, get grounded in what matters, and focus on what we can control, rather than become consumed by what we cannot. Many of us hoped in 2021 we would see a turning of the pandemic corner, only to be discouraged by the heavy lifting still needed.
Before we jump into what we want in the year ahead, I suggest we find ways to give ourselves the gift of space right now. In honor of the season, I offer you 12 things you can do to add value in mere five-minute increments. You may be skeptical about what can be created in such a short amount of time. I assure you that these practices can get you focused, reduce drama and build relationships. Consider it a gift of time, one of life’s most precious commodities.
Start your day intentionally — While our days don’t always go as planned, they hold more potential if we bring some clarity about what we want to make happen. What would make for a satisfying day? What is nagging at you? Write down your top three priorities for the day.
Create pre-meeting space — Many of my clients are living in a world of back-to-back virtual meetings, with little to no space to shift gears. When possible, keep meetings to 45-50 minutes to allow for a buffer. Take five minutes before a meeting to review the agenda, think about the audience, consider what would make the meeting worthwhile, and determine how you will contribute.
Engage in post-meeting capture — Taking time to anchor decisions that were made, next steps to be taken and tasks you agreed to do will help you stay on top of your commitments and build forward momentum. However you capture your “to-dos,” be disciplined and do so immediately after a meeting. When we track accountabilities, we feel more confident in our ability to execute.
Communicate status — In our fast-paced environments we sometimes fail to share decisions made, milestones met, or the status of a task or initiative. When you keep people in the loop, they feel more connected, and you set the tone for accountability. What can you share and with whom?
Acknowledge someone’s contributions — If someone has offered a creative perspective, stepped up to troubleshoot a problem, made your job easier, or delivered outstanding results, take a moment to acknowledge the specific attitude and behavior they exhibited that you value.
Appreciate someone’s strengths — Take a moment to show appreciation for a specific quality you admire in a colleague. Perhaps that person is a master of organization, a constant learner, a sharp and strategic mind, an empathetic listener, or an Excel wizard. Give a gift of confidence by appreciating the strengths of your team members.
Respond to an outstanding email — While we don’t want to be held prisoner to our emails, most of us want to be responsive in our communications. Which email have you ignored that you could address? Even if you don’t have an answer right now, at least acknowledge the inquiry and provide insight to your current thinking.
Move and meditate — Check your posture. Get out of your chair and walk or stretch. Take a few deep breaths. I find taking mini-breaks gives me more sustenance, focus and creative energy.
Pay attention — It is easy to lose focus, become distracted by emails and notifications, or find yourself chasing squirrels! Try giving your undivided attention to someone for five minutes. Hold eye contact. Listen deeply. Be curious. Let go of everything else in that space of time. There’s immense power and respect in that kind of presence.
Inquire about workload — With burnout and stress rates high, it is helpful to understand how people are feeling about their workload. It also helps you reallocate resources so that the load is shared. While this entire conversation may be longer than five minutes, taking a moment to inquire can pay dividends and demonstrate that you care and are committed to real work/life balance.
Check for understanding — Communication breakdowns happen frequently, with various degrees of grief. Left unattended, they can create frustration and even lingering resentment. Yet taking five minutes after a significant conversation to check for mutual understanding can go a long way in investing in the relationship and in bringing alignment and organizational efficiencies. After your next important exchange, ask, “Just so we are on the same page, can you tell me what you’re taking away from our conversation today?” Don’t ask, “All good?” or “Does that make sense?” People will say yes. That’s not checking for understanding. Ask an open-ended question. Hear what they heard. If you are not aligned, you will know immediately and be able to continue the dialogue until there is truly a meeting of the minds.
Take inventory of your day — What went well? What kind of insights did you gain? Oftentimes our default thinking is on what didn’t happen or what went wrong. While there’s value in understanding the “hiccups” for continued learning, you may be surprised at how much energy and possibility-thinking you gain by focusing on progress made. Taking five minutes at the close of a business day is not only good to recap what happened, but also to transition between work and life.
By taking five minutes to slow a frenetic pace and bring intentionality to the moment you can increase effectiveness and peace of mind. Practicing any of these actions will certainly give you more presence — perhaps a more valuable gift than any other you might receive this holiday season!
Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations. Contact her at 503-806-4361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.