What was I just doing? Writing this article? It’s hard to keep track, between the task at hand, office chat messages on Slack, a vague memory that I have children who require food, and a barrage of holiday-related text messages about everything from booking travel to whether Josh would like a sweater for Christmas. (He would not.)
In short, December can be taxing. Good habits disappear into the bustle, or perhaps more accurately, into this bag of miniature marshmallows. That’s why we’ve launched “12 Days of Sanity,” a different kind of advent calendar. Each weekday, we’re sending out a simple, achievable task, designed to help you take a break and reconnect with the world around you. We’ll be playing along.
To get a daily tip delivered directly to you, simply start a chat with Quartzy on Facebook Messenger. Here’s a starter pack to catch you up:
DAY 1: BREATHING
Though stopping work to get more work done sounds counterintuitive, a 2011 study in the journal Cognition finds just that: Taking even brief breaks from a longer task can improve focus and enhance productivity.
⭐ CHALLENGE: Set a ‘take a break’ alarm or a calendar event RIGHT NOW. When it’s time, take 10 minutes to breathe. Turn off all devices, step away from your desk, and breathe. Here’s a handy graphic to focus on if you’d like. And, hey, since you’re already here, why not take a few deep breaths right now?
DAY 2: LISTENING
Our modern world makes a ton of noise, and we ignore most of it with good evolutionary reason. But that passive listening can creep into conversation, and hurt our communication skills. For Day 2, try focusing on others.
True listening is an active process, says Julian Treasure, a sound and communication expert. His TED talk “5 Ways to Listen Better” asserts that better listening can build deeper, more positive relationships with those around us.
⭐ CHALLENGE: Practice active listening in one conversation today. Treasure suggests this acronym to remember the steps: RASA. Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, and Ask.
- Finally, ask questions to explore how that person is feeling, focusing on receiving their words without judgment or bias.
DAY 3: RELATIONSHIPS
Whether it’s with a friend, family member, or a local barista who knows your coffee order, on Day 3, tend to your connections with the people around you.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Shauna Shapiro’s work explores how an intentional awareness of our connection with others can cultivate compassion and deepen relationships. For Day 3, give it a go: think of someone you appreciate, and why.
⭐ CHALLENGE: Deliver that message. It can be as simple as a text—do it now!—or a better thank-you than you usually deliver, but take some time today to reach out to one person with a message of gratitude.
Want the full agenda? Quartzy’s bot is sending these tips out daily on Facebook Messenger—just start a chat with us here. Day 4’s challenge is available right now.