May 20, 2021


Welcome to issue No. 27 of Work Different — a weekly summary of the top articles focused on workplace culture and career development.

Last week, I (Victor) made my first Thanksgiving meal. It turned out well. At one point, I was rushing around the kitchen treating the feast-prep like a project that needed to be done. My partner stopped everything, gave me a hug, and reminded me why we were doing this. We went back to cooking, but more slowly and intentionally. It changed the tone of the rest of the night. Some of your colleagues, students, and friends may need that shift too. Especially as we head into the final weeks of a long year. What can you do to press pause, reset, and then reenergize? Today’s reads will spark a few ideas of what to say or try.

Keep going and know that we’re rooting for you,

- Victor, Stella, and The Experience Institute Team

On Reenergizing Organizations

75 percent of employees in the United States report symptoms of burnout — feeling anxious, stressed, lonely, and overwhelmed. As leaders, who can we help our team overcome these feelings of disillusionment and exhaustion? 1. Lead with bounded optimism. This means to “display inspiration, hope, and optimism that’s tempered by reality.” It means successfully communicating hopeful messages that are less about returning to normal and more about acceptance. 2. Listen for signs of exhaustion. Leaders need to be able to manage the energy and mood of their teams and organizations, and that begins with regular, active listening. 3. Focus on care, connection, and well-being. This can be done through direct reports to help team members “clarify priorities and pursue more short-term, achievable goals. Some organizations are encouraging employees to take a zero-based-budgeting approach to meetings, an exercise that will empower them to choose which meetings to attend.” 4. Connect to purpose. Bring each member of your team into the organization’s larger mission. “Spending more time on activities that directly deliver on an organization’s purpose and strategic value agenda, and less time on things that are peripheral to what creates value and enables that purpose.” Mckinsey.

On Making Time for “Slow Work”

Many of us have been living with sustained stress over the past year, both at work and in our personal lives. Adopting the “Slow work” mindset might be able to help us balance downtime while maintaining productivity. “Slow work prioritizes meaningful and measured productivity, alongside dedicated time for breaks. Hopping from assignment to assignment is not part of the slow work philosophy.” Cultivating a new hobby is a great way to incorporate slow work into your life. Here are a few suggestions of hands-on projects you can embark on. 1. Bake or cook something new. If you’re not already a regular cook/baker, give it a go and you might enjoy the process of creating something delicious with your hands. This past week I (Stella) made this Basque Burnt Cheesecake that was very much worth the effort. 2. Make art or music. I (Victor) started playing the piano recently and I’m really enjoying the daily coordination exercise. 3. Declutter your workspace. Freeing up your workspace may just improve your mood and productivity while you’re at work. Try these out and let me know what you think. Fast Company.

On the Untold Life Skills

In this piece, Mark Manson shares a few underrated life skills that you might benefit from. 1. Stop taking things personally. We all do it. “We tend to have an inherent bias towards assuming that pretty much everything that happens to us is actually about us.” While in reality, they often are not. When someone criticizes or rejects us, we should take a step back to understand that it may have more to do with their values and life situation than it has to do with us. 2. It’s ok to change your mind. We all tend to have huge egos and are resistant to admitting we were wrong. “You’re going to be wrong a lot in life. In fact, you’re going to be wrong pretty much all of the time. And in many ways, your ability to succeed and learn over the long-term is directly proportional to your ability to change what you believe in response to your ignorance and mistakes.” 3. Learn to act without knowing the result. We are creatures of habit and tend to stick to what we know. This inertia also prevents growth and creativity. “Add some chaos to your life. A certain amount is healthy. It stimulates growth and change and passion and excitement.” Try something new today. Mark Manson.

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