Mandy Collins: The 3 Ps that help me make it through the day

Is it only June? With the pace of life these days, especially in the workplace or the work-from-home place, every day can feel like an insurmountable challenge. But there are ways to make to through, and to keep marching on.

By Mandy Collins*

I’ve had a tough couple of years. Tough enough so that I struggle to decide sometimes whether I had three or four separate bouts of burnout, or just an extended bout, one where every so often I lifted my head above the parapet, spotted the blue sky beyond and then was yanked back down into the mud by the ankles.

There’s been change and upheaval and stress and turmoil, and it’s only recently that I’ve started feeling like myself again. Like I can cope. Like I can actually do this.

This is not to say that this year has been a breeze. Perish the thought. By January 2 I was thinking, sheesh, what a year! And now March has almost marched past and I’ve still not had the break I was planning over Christmas.

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For the past three, almost four weeks, I’ve had one day that was entirely, blissfully work free, so I’m tired to the marrow, and I’d really like to win the Lotto, please, so I can take a month or two off to rest properly.

Before you take out your tiny violin to accompany my tale of woe, I’m really not telling you this to complain, I promise. I’m telling you this to say that life has been a bit rough, but I’m still standing. And I’m still marching on, sometimes to my detriment, but I am. Here’s how.

I use my three Ps. (Okay, I admit just coined that phrase, but I’m a writer who loves alliteration. Cut me some slack.)

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The first P is purpose, which I find in my daughters. On those days when I am tempted to pull the duvet over my head, curl into the foetal position and do the ugly cry to the theme music from the Oprah Winfrey show, all I have to do is look at those beautiful faces.

Keeping their wellbeing front and centre has helped me to be brave in the face of a variety of slings and arrows. Making sure they grow up to be well-rounded, stable, responsible citizens is important to me. That means modelling values I hold dear: integrity, hard work, respect, kindness, and vulnerability. I don’t always get it right, but no one’s perfect, right? And so far, they’ve done nothing but make me proud.

Purpose gets me up, though. Purpose gives me a reason to put one foot in front of the other, to meet that deadline, take that call, fight that fight. Purpose underlies everything I do.

Read also: Mandy Collins: The life-lessons I’ve learned from my burnout

The second P is doing things in piecemeal fashion. It’s eating the elephant one bite at a time, taking the first step of a thousand-mile journey. It may seem clichéd, because you’ve heard it so often, but you’ve heard it so often because it actually does work.

Sometimes, you have to break the elephant or the journey down into the smallest possible bite or step. Make it just big enough to be doable. Because sometimes it feels like you have to make the journey with a whole damn herd of elephants on your shoulders. I know. I’ve been there.

On those days, make a list of what you have to do, and break each task into small increments. Then do just one thing. And then another. And then another.

Progress is better than perfection (some more Ps for you). Moving towards the goal, even if you don’t get as far as you’d hoped, is better than staying exactly where you are.

Often when you start with those jobs you can do in five minutes – a quick phone call or email, a pencilled mind map of where a project should go – you find the energy to do the next small piece of work.

The final P is persistence. It’s the key to everything. Small actions, repeated consistently, can lead to big results. Just ask someone who was told they would never walk again, but who practised tiny movements in rehab for months or years, until they finally found their feet again. The key is not to give up.

You can make a journey of a thousand miles. It is as simple as taking one step at a time. But you do need to keep going.

Oh, and there’s a fourth P that just occurred to me – people. Surrounding yourself with the right people – people who will cheer you on, give you a hug, walk next to you, and prop you up when your knees are buckling – those are your people. Keep them close.

  • Mandy Collins has worked as a journalist for more than two decades. She has a passion for good business writing and communication, with a particular focus on plain language use.
  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.
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