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Viewpoint: Dan Atkinson

18 February 2021

Dan Atkinson, head of Technical at Paradigm Norton, considers four interconnected elements of a daily renewal process that can help us destress, stay safe and thrive in 2021.

I remember my head teacher at secondary school sharing this quote from St Jerome (patron saint of librarians). “Good, better, best; never let it rest till your good is better and your better is best”.

Recently at Paradigm Norton we’ve been thinking about the need to have regular times of renewal and investing in ourselves. In our book club we’ve just finished off 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and he advocates taking an hour a day to invest in ourselves.

There are four interconnected dimensions to this daily renewal which Stephen Covey picks out. With lockdown upon us again I thought it might be helpful to highlight them and how I’m intending on incorporating them in my daily practices. Hopefully this will give you a few ideas for yourself.

Physical

It’s important to eat properly despite the temptation to munch away at the chocolate/biscuits you got for Christmas (who am I kidding – you’ve eaten them all by now!). Without the walk around/to the office it’s quite easy to roll out of bed and straight to your desk. Make sure you are getting some exercise – your mind will be sharper. It’s harder in the cold and dark but be disciplined. Don’t forget to switch off and rest properly.

  • My plan is to continue with my morning walk. I slacked off a bit when it got dark, but I’m going to be more consistent. I’ve avoided snacking reasonably well though! Switching off is a challenge and I’m going to be more disciplined with finishing work, getting to bed on time, and reducing phone usage before bed.

Mental

It’s easy to find your mind dulling. Keep yourself sharp by finding engaging ways to learn new things. This might be attending a CPD workshop, studying for an exam, listening to a podcast or reading a book. HINT: It doesn’t have to just be work related.

As paraplanners we regularly need to explain things to clients. In order to explain something you have to understand it well and if you have to teach it to someone you will also become more confident in your knowledge. How about writing up a short note on a relevant subject to share with a colleague?

  • I enjoy listening to podcasts on my morning walk and will keep this up. I’ve got a pile of books to work through too. I enjoy writing and that’s definitely going to continue! Completing the CFP is on my list and I’m sure many of you have exams planned too.

Spiritual

We work in a very rewarding profession, but it’s unlikely that our core values/purpose is fully expressed here. We need to take time to ensure that we are clear on what is important to us (our core values) and realign ourselves. This is where we draw our direction and strength from. You might do this through meditation, prayer, music, art, serving others. Many people find that spending time in nature helps as we switch off from the hustle and bustle of digital life.

  • It can be hard to get the space to do this. Lockdown with children around will increase the challenge! Often spending time in this dimension is done alone, but at this time perhaps our children need it too.
    I incorporate this into my daily walk, but we also spend time in other aspects as a family. Sometimes it might just be a moment in a break from the screen – I like to look out of my office window and watch the birds (or the Amazon man arriving!).

Social

Whilst the previous three dimensions are ones you can work on yourself, this one needs other people. It’s also one of the biggest challenges in Lockdown. We have been instructed to stay at home so the only people we are likely to see in person outside of our household are people delivering post/parcels/shopping and people at the supermarket.

So, we need to make an effort to connect in other ways. That might be a regular call with your team or just a quick chat with someone you haven’t spoken to recently. It’s not just about work, but maintaining relationships, sharing burdens, and developing trust. We might normally do this when making the tea round, across desks, or over lunch. Doing this remotely requires some perseverance and a bit more effort. We need to be intentional and follow through.

  • I don’t know about you, but the thought of another video call can be quite off-putting. But building and maintaining relationships needs an investment of time. So, we need to either think creatively (why not use the old-fashioned phone instead!) or suck it up! In our London team we have a twice weekly coffee and chat session. This year I have committed to being there at least once a week. As I work with a number of teams I try to work my way around them every month or so.

Commit to daily renewal

My challenge to myself and to you for 2021 is to commit to having a daily time slot for renewing these dimensions. I often think of the quote from Wayne’s World 2 “If you book them they will come” – put it in your diary and you will make it happen!

The more stressed or pressured you feel – the more you need this daily renewal. I hope this helps you not just ‘survive’ lockdown, but ‘thrive’.

This article was first published in the February 2021 issue of Professional Paraplanner.

Professional Paraplanner