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Is this sustainable for me?

When you work in Comms, you know the mastery of editing.

When you are vying for people's time and engagement, there is no room for waste. Being thrifty and economical with words so as not to turn people off or fail to get the message across. To condense, to purify is an artform and internal communication professionals are experts in it.

But this concept of 'editing' is taking on a broader definition, with people now applying the principles of editing to their personal lives.

Whether it's sparking joy and decluttering with Marie Kondo or saying goodbye to things with Fumio Sasaki whilst learning there are limits to the capacity of your brain, your energy, and your time. Maybe you have been 'Hinching' yourself happy by cleaning and tidying your way to a soothed soul? Perhaps you only own 10 possessions after being inspired by The Minimalists. And now Anna Newton's book An Edited Life teaches us that organised, tidy, calm is all about editing.

But why? Why are we editing? Because, it's all too much! This over consumption, noise, volume and indulgence is making our lives busier than we can manage and complicated. Excess is in opposition to our clarity of thought and mental health.

If there's happiness, de-stress and wellbeing benefits to be had, let's really think about the application of these principles of minimalism and use of our own limited personal resources and think seriously about the overconsumption and overuse of ourselves.

Whilst refilling my own personal resources at a local National Trust green space (one of my absolute best friends for wellbeing and mental health – the benefits of nature well documented by Mind) I spotted this sign; "Sustainable Living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce a person's use of the earth's natural resources to protect the environment".

It spoke to me! A-ha! I wanted to re-frame this with a new lens:

"Sustainable living at work is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce a person's over-use of their own personal natural resources to protect themselves"

I think we all agree that looking after the earth's resources and sustainable living is a powerful and important concept. But what about looking after our own personal resources? Surely the concept of sustainable living can be applied to our human selves. Running efficiently. Not burning out. Only using the resources that are needed and available to us. Being sparing. Being mindful of damage. Being economical with our energy and un-wasteful with our efforts.

This is sustainable living but for the world of wellbeing at work and we need to become more ardent about preservation; thriving with room to grow not cramped, contained, over-stretched and under-nourished.

If we spend 40-50 hours of living every week at work, what change would we all see if we all start approaching wellbeing at work with the same responsibility and solemnity as we try to do for being environmentally friendly?

Could you apply reduce, reuse, recycle to your email? Do all your Wednesday back-to-back meetings spark joy? Could you declutter your work streams to a tidy and calm mind? Are you economical with your energy consumption throughout the week? Is this easily renewable energy you are using or something more damaging?

Now, as much as we might like to cancel all our deadlines and meetings next week citing 'minimalism', 'sustainable living' and a need to 'edit' as the reason and then enjoy the mental health benefits of a quieter more leisurely week, that might be extreme!

I propose instead that we start judging things more by the measure of 'is this sustainable for me?' 

Just like I'm getting used to using the new food waste bin in my kitchen at home and valuing the small contribution I am making to the cause; I've started exploring how to reduce waste of my own energies and of those around me in my working day. Sending that email at midnight? It's sending more than one message to the recipient, right?

'Is this sustainable for me?' also accommodates a frequent barrier to sustaining oneself which is the common misconception that 'everyone else is coping so I should be able to'. Think of yourself as your own species existing in an ecosystem, there is only one of you and you are great and precious and rare. But your sensitivities and strengths against different environments and hostile terrain will vary greatly from another species. You can't be compared to anyone else when it comes to sustaining yourself, because they are not the same species as you. Asking 'is this sustainable for me?', talking it through with others, taking steps to edit, making good personal choices and identifying boundaries that you need are the basal blocks here.

I've put together a take-away of tips on this new view of 'sustainable living' at work, to give you some ideas and share with others for debate and discussion. Find it below and online at Elementful's Grey Matters journal.

Internal communication professionals already lead the way as masters of editing and clarity, so let's share our editing prowess for sustainable living at work because together #WeMatterAtWork.

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