I have had varying success over the years with dealing with my social anxiety in the workplace. I have had difficulty with concentration, the ability to remember conversations with colleagues and even forgetting actions and deadlines. Meetings with clients and colleagues have also historically been a challenge, which is why for the past few years I have been hunting for the right strategies for me. 

Since the COVID lockdown, it has been difficult for me to measure how I have coped with my anxiety. We aren’t seeing anyone face to face, but we are constantly in video meetings for work, socialising and catching up with family. 

In the ‘normal’ world, the workplace was a struggle, but after getting help from a professional and striving to find the best workflow to help me be productive, I feel like  I am making some headway. In this article, I will be diving into some hacks that I have found useful, particularly when living in an unpredictable time, and not knowing what to expect.  

By no means am I an expert in this field, but the below is merely tips on how I have mind-hacked myself into being as productive as possible and feeling like I have more control.

1. Ask to record meetings

When I have a presentation, or I am meeting with a client or any other meeting where there is added pressure, concentrating and ingesting what others are saying can be difficult. Recording meetings is a great way to not only have a way to go back and confirm what someone said, but also to show your client or colleague how important the conversation or presentation is.

Sometimes the anxiety of the situation can get to the best of us and not allow our minds to think and ingest information under these types of situations.

Once a meeting has finished and I have gone back to re-listen to it, I will often send an email or IM to confirm any actions, reiterating that I know what is expected of me.

Please ensure you ask all meeting participants for permission before pressing the record button.

2. Utilise the Pomodoro technique to break down daily tasks

Having a long list of tasks to complete can be overwhelming and make it difficult to think clearly and make strong decisions. I found that breaking up the day into smaller tasks and adopting the Pomodoro technique allowed me breathing space to see what will get completed that day.

Being able to visually see what the plan is for the day removed the feeling of there weren’t enough hours in the day.

In short, Pomodoro breaks up tasks into 30-minute allotments, where 25 minutes is used to focus on one task, and a 5-minute break is taken.  Once four Pomodoro sessions have been completed, a long break is taken (usually 15-20 minutes).

It is important to utilise the 5-minute break to do something mentally healthy, like going for a short walk, doing some stretches or making a tea. I had a bad habit of picking up my phone during this time and I do not recommend it as you need some time away from your screen.

If you are not familiar with the Pomodoro technique, I suggest reading Develop Good HabitsTo manage the timer, I use an iPhone/Mac app called Flow.

3. Book 5-10 minutes before pressure-filled events to mentally prepare

Meetings can often be stressful for those with anxiety – interacting with people that they may not know so well, talking about a topic they are not 100% comfortable with or the meeting agenda is unclear. 

It is imperative that you take 5-10 minutes for yourself before these stressful times to clear your head, concentrate on your breathing, get some fresh air or get some water/tea. Taking some time for yourself prior sets you up to be as mentally fresh as possible.

Conclusion

Having to live with anxiety and performing your job can be a tough task, especially when we are young in our careers and we are trying to find our path. For those who suffer with it, I encourage you to seek professional help and try some techniques to see what works for you. 

These tips simply come down to being as prepared as possible for events that you find particularly stressful and taking some control. After testing several apps, workflows and tips during these tough COVID times, I found the above help me to ensure I can do my job well.