When it comes to my work-life, I’ve not always had the motivation and drive that I do now. In fact, a few years ago, I used to dread most of my everyday work: the daily commute, sitting in one chair all day, the mundane nature of some tasks, and sometimes, the feeling of being underappreciated by colleagues. But as time has gone on in my career, the negative approach and relationship I had to my work-life have shifted to a much more positive, uplifting and encouraging one — with much thanks to Glennon Doyle.
Glennon Doyle, the New York Times best-selling author of Untamed, Founder of 501(c)(3) non-profit organization Together Rising, and more recently, the host of her podcast “We Can Do Hard Things” has helped shift the way I think and feel, through her work, raw honesty and devotion to talking about the very-human hard things that we must endure.
Reading her book — and admittedly, gifting it to several women in my life over the past year — coupled with listening to her podcast religiously, I’ve not only become familiar with discussing and thinking about the hard things in life, but also the hard things at work.
These are the three ways in which my work-life has shifted to be more peaceful and productive, since adopting Doyle’s mantra: “We can do hard things.”
1. Be still and listen.
Meditation is a powerful tool that can transform lives. And I know, that can sound whoo-whoo. But it’s true. Both in Untamed and the “We Can Do Hard Things” podcast, Doyle discusses meditation in all its glory: the true power of being still, while listening to the knowing. The knowing is just your inner self. Over the years, I’ve heard meditation touted time and time again, but I never took it seriously until I read these words in her book.
“I checked my phone every few moments, planned my grocery lists, and mentally redecorated my living room. The only things I seemed to “know” on that floor [her closet floor] were that I was hungry and itchy and suddenly desperate to fold laundry and reorganize my pantry. I was an input junkie thrown into detox,” she writes, “I was tempted to quit every second, but I was stern with myself: Ten minutes a day is not too long to spend finding yourself, Glennon. For God’s sake, you spend eighty minutes a day finding your keys.”
This. I could relate to this. She goes on to explain her everyday battle with sitting on her closet floor, in silence with eyes closed, to finally reach a place of seeing what all the hype was about: knowing the knowing. Or rather, the inner parts of yourself that guide you, and show you what feels right and wrong, and what to do next. I wanted to know this feeling too and to let myself be the guide in all things, including my work-life.
“I sink beneath the swirling surf of words, fear, expectations, conditioning, and advice — and feel for the Knowing. I sink a hundred times a day. I have to, because the Knowing never reveals a five-year plan,” Doyle goes on to write “It feels to me like a loving, playful guide, like the reason it will only reveal the next right thing is that it wants me to come back again and again, because it wants to do life together. After many years, I’m developing a relationship with this Knowing: We are learning to trust each other.”
In 2020, I decided to listen to Doyle and find my own relationship with the knowing. I personally downloaded HeadSpace — a meditation app that can help guide you along your own meditation journey – and sat on my couch with my legs crossed, and eyes closed, every day for a year. At first, I found, much like Doyle, that it was difficult to sit still and I struggled with the idea that I was supposed to turn my brain off. But, in fact, that’s not what meditation is about. We are not supposed to turn our brains off. Instead, I learned the importance of acknowledging inner thoughts and not trying to silence them completely. Through being still, paying attention to my breathing, and acknowledging my thoughts as they come without judgment, I can know myself deeper, trust myself more and find stillness in the middle of stressful or hard days.
Now, if I need a moment of reprieve from my workday, or I need to make a big decision about a project or goal, I know that I can rely on the knowing. I can rely on being still with myself and trusting my gut. Before this, I found myself often getting lost in big ideas, decisions or goals, and I didn’t know where to begin or end. But now, my first step is always in meditation. This special moment of silence with myself can help relieve any stress, tension or anxiety that I might experience, and brings me back to my center, where I can make better decisions and experience a greater feeling of purpose in my daily tasks.
And you can feel this too — after all, everything we need to guide us down our life and career paths is inside of us. If only we just need to listen.
2. Preparation, preparation, preparation.
Everyone has different preparation styles. For Doyle, who does all the things, she is a person who overly prepares. In her podcast episode, “Unexpected Joy: How do we redefine success so we can find joy?” she discusses her own preparation style.
“I write what I need to say over and over again, then I record it, then I speak it into a phone, then I spend hours listening back to myself on the phone with my dogs! I have a specific vision and thread and I get very nervous about it.”
Not everyone works this way. But the episode and her words got me thinking: how do I prepare for the work that I do? I made a list of the things I do to prepare at work, and even made a list of how I could better prepare, too:
What I do to prepare
- Make a list, in my notebook, in order of the most important tasks to be done.
- Research any additional information I need.
- Write down what comes to mind immediately.
- Run with it — whatever it is.
What I could add to my list to prepare
- Add each preparation task to my calendar.
- Set a timeline for each step of preparation.
- Ask my co-workers for help when I need it.
I found making these lists to be extremely helpful in understanding my own process, and how I could best improve it, moving forward. For example, I saw that I could manage my time better, and see all of my tasks in one place, rather than tasks getting lost on sticky notes or in random notebooks on my desk. Instead of thinking of a large project or task and getting overwhelmed, I could also set expectations for myself in bite-sized pieces, that help projects seem more manageable. It is my way of working smarter and being more productive overall.
Preparation is key — even if it’s a little hard.
3. Speak your truth through your work.
Everyone has a task or two that they have at their job that isn’t their favorite. It’s okay, I do too. I used to focus on the negative, mundane tasks for each day. And when each day came, I found myself dreading the negative, instead of focusing on the things I did enjoy about my role. When we have moments of our workday that we thoroughly enjoy and look forward to — like interacting with an audience on social media or writing a new blog post, for example — it has the power to break up the mundane tasks and give us something to be joyous about.
“The whole idea of doing more of what makes you feel good, it’s so simple, but every time I see it, I’m like ‘That is a mindblowing idea,'” Doyle explains.
Doyle emphasizes often, through her work, that being able to speak your truth is one of the most important aspects of living our lives fully. Even she falls to the idea of focusing on the negative because it’s only human, but she also reminds her readers and listeners of the power that doing more of what you love can have. When we feel we can speak our truth, in our work and in our life, we feel more appreciated, grounded and at ease.
In thinking about my own work-life, I began not only to focus on the positive aspects of my day-to-day, but I also communicated what I loved most with my manager and coworkers. This allowed me to do more of what I loved, and pass along some of the tasks that my coworkers enjoyed doing more, and vice versa. This mindset shift has completely transformed how I feel about work. Now, I don’t have to work, I get to go to work.
We all have moments of having to do things we don’t enjoy at work, but if we can also speak our truth and do what we love, we’ll all be better off for it.
You can do hard things, too.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload, or simply feeling burnt-out, know that you don’t have to suffer alone. You, too, can have a wonderful relationship with your work-life and become more productive and content. Through trying these mindset shifts, you can find ease at work, and in your everyday life — even in doing the hard things.