Why writing a values list changed everything

Episode 19 of Turbitt & Duck: The Library Podcast was a flipped episode. Clare Thorpe interviewed Amy Walduck and I about resilience, values, theme songs and perfectionism.. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and being interviewed and surprised myself by talking about my “values list” and why it has changed the way I feel about myself, my decision making, anxiety and confidence.

Defining my personal values was hard (who thought making a list of what’s important to you could be difficult? not me!) and as I mention in the episode, my first couple of drafts were completely off the mark and very focused on what I thought people wanted me to value or what they saw in me. Some of the values were superficial and on reflection, didn’t hold any meaning for me. However, once those twenty two values were on paper, it felt right, to see how I feel about myself reflected back at me. I had my “who and why”. I’ve kept the list with me for several years now and it has played a big part in becoming more resilient and self-aware.

What’s the point of a list?

For me, the purpose of the list was to identify the values I live by and then use it as a tool to navigate life. Mine is a list because the format works for me but I’m sure there are many ways of capturing your values.

How do I use it? When faced with a difficult decision, I use it to trigger a conversation with myself around “why I am finding it hard to decide?, what is making me uncomfortable? Does the project, opportunity, person reflect my values?”.

I use it when I am stressed, anxious or falling into perfectionist behaviour. That’s when I say to myself “Stop. Look at the list. What’s not in alignment with these values? Am I doing the opposite? Where am I pushing to fit when I don’t? How can I change that?”.

Are you wondering what my personal values are?

Authenticity. Integrity. Independence. Enjoyment. Empathy. Originality. Curiosity. Strength. Good Health. Honesty. Decisiveness. Fun. Generosity. Fairness. Belonging. Stability. Openness. Enthusiasm. Thoughtfulness. Happiness. Consistency. Self-Expression.

I can honestly say that having this list that I can open on my phone and ponder whenever I need to, has made me happier, more resilient and able to get to the root of unhappiness, anxiety and frustration quickly. I don’t need to ramble around in my head for weeks trying to figure out why I’m struggling or whether I should be doing something, or why I keep on avoiding a task, the answer is there for me. Even though I’ll do my best to ignore it sometimes, I’m there on the screen.

Have you got a list of personal values? Do you think it makes decision making easier? Do you feel more resilient and capable?

 

 

The post conference thud

APLIC finished a few weeks ago but I’m just coming out of the other side of “post conference thud”. That feeling of spending several days absorbing new ideas and trying to connect them to your work as well as save them for future reference, talking until you lose your voice, meeting new people, re-connecting with friends and colleagues, not sleeping very well due to being totally wired and awake until the wee hours of the morning and the exhaustion that goes with being “on” for a week.

THUD.

And then you return home and go back to work and spend the first week post-conference picking up all the threads, restarting conversations and projects, finding where all the socks went at home and who is enrolling in what electives for next year and finding your “non-conference life” groove again.

THUD.

A couple of weeks after APLIC I was more exhausted and mentally wrung out. The thud became complete overwhelm and I was full of doubt – did I really do a “good job” at the conference? Was I useful as a state manager? Did I connect with enough people? Did people who complimented on the podcast really mean it? Did I go to the right sessions? Yes. I spiralled. Exhaustion rolls out the welcome mat for these thoughts – every single time.

At least I recognised how being tired + negative had joined forces and that what I really needed to do was give myself a big pat on the back and a large exuberant high five. But how?

Ask Twitter of course…

And as always, the answers were generous and kind:

And this reply from Lyndelle helped me to feel less alone with these thoughts.

So what now? I listened to all this advice and felt really motivated to make the ones that appealed to me actually happen. I made a ta-da list, and an achievement board, scheduled quiet time, spoke to friends who make me feel good, spent time with family doing things we love and took some time away from screens and everything online. I’ve also read a bit more than usual and spent more time outside. These are all things I know I should do, but they end up at the bottom of the list when the THUD happens. It’s a work in progress and each time I hit that low bit, I get a bit better at taking action and recognising the signs.

What do you do when you’re overwhelmed? How do you cope with the post-conference thud? I’d love to hear what you do.

Stressed? I haven’t got time!

Time management and stress management was the theme of the first #auslibchat for 2018 and if you’re looking for a Twitter chat full of suggestions, puns, GIFs and support, jump over there immediately and bookmark/Pocket/Pinterest/print all the things. Seriously, if you need one reason to join Twitter, do it for this monthly chat. Instead of typing several long tweets with links to resources, it seemed like a nice idea to capture them here.

Here are some of my go-to stress and time management tools, in no particular order:

Learning how to live, work and get through the hard stuff

  1. Listening to stories and ideas about life (personal and professional) is my main stress management tool (particularly combined with point 3 on this list). Individual experiences, what went wrong and right, embracing change, developing new skills or becoming more resilient . . . it might not sound like stress management to you, but it definitely works for me. Listening and learning makes me feel more ok about myself and who I am. Try Discover Your Talent Do What You Love, How To Be Awesome At Your Job, Made of Human, Get Your Sh*t Together, Happier In Hollywood and By The Book.
  2. Cognitive behaviour therapy helped me change thought patterns and identify stressors before they take over. Sarah Edelman’s Change Your Thinking is an excellent introduction to CBT. My other favourite book to understand the mind and how to break free of negative self-talk is F*ck Feelings: Less Obsessing, More Living by Dr Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett.
  3. Going outside on a break or at lunch is hugely beneficial to your mental health. Look at the sky, find some grass and take your shoes off, or just sit. Whatever works, just go outside!

Time is of the essence but also hard to wrangle

  1. Pomodoro keeps me focused for short bursts and then gives me time to wander away for a few minutes to make tea, talk to the dogs, look out the window without feeling guilty.
  2. Putting everything in my calendar, blocking out time for each task on my to do list.
  3. Headphones with music that match what I’m doing is great for keeping focused. (Now I’m working from home, I can dance and work to my hearts content – win!) I’m a big fan of wearing headphones in the office, don’t worry about offending people, just do it if you think you will get more done or need to tune out office chat!

One final thought

Having a friend (work colleague, non-work colleague, partner, parent, neighbour etc) to debrief with when work becomes too much is so important. Find that safe person, they could be online or right in front of you. It’s good to just say all the things and hear “OMG that’s terrible/stressful/have you thought about…”. And if you see someone online who seems to be struggling, reach out and send them a friendly GIF or message, whatever works. It could make all the difference.

P.S. The cards in the image are Affirmators! (50 Affirmation Cards to Help You Help Yourself – without the Self-Helpy-Ness!) and the weekly planner is from Kmart ($3!!!)