CAREERS AND JOB OPPORTUNITIES Back-to-work BLUES
Make a plan to balance work, home life
SUMMER is quickly winding down. The smell of fall is in the air. Every day there are more and more geese flying overhead anxious to get on their journey. Leaves are beginning to turn and crops have been harvested. Children and families are once again busy with the annual back to school activities. Yet, while summer vacation was enjoyable and gave you peace of mind, you seem to be waking up with a gnawing sensation in the pit of your stomach. What is it? What’s bothering you?
Let me suggest that the trepidation you’re feeling might stem from fear. Specifically, fear of once again being overwhelmed with a multitude of tasks at work. Being overwhelmed in turn leads to a sense of being out of balance and exhausted. In fact, you probably didn’t realize how exhausted you were until a few days into your vacation when you suddenly experienced a new sense of revitalization.
Now, upon returning from vacation, you vow not to let work become your life. You vow to focus on family, personal balance, personal effectiveness. At the same time, you know the pressures are strong. There is no way to avoid it, there’s work to be done, there are bosses to please and goals to achieve. So, that’s the challenge: how does one achieve success at work while staying focused on the goal to retain work/life balance?
Work/life balance is something I know is hard to achieve and so I offer the following tips that might help in your struggle.
Reaffirm your concept of success. Everyone lives by their own definition of success; what’s yours? How has this impacted your work life? What goals are you seeking: power, prestige, position, pleasure or prosperity? Are you truly focused on the right things? Where does work/life balance fit in?
Maintain your self-esteem. Feeling overwhelmed saps your energy and drags you down. Developing and maintaining a continuous positive attitude every single day is important to avoiding the anxiety trap. Stamp out those negative thoughts and replace them with positive thinking.
Take personal responsibility. Your career success is your responsibility and yours alone. If you are struggling and not feeling a sense of success, it is your responsibility to define your challenges and put steps in place to overcome them. Be proactive and disciplined.
Examine personal habits. Success is the result of specific behaviour that in turn becomes a habit. What habits or behaviours do you need to change and/or develop in order to be successful and avoid being overwhelmed at work? Habits are hard to change. Develop a plan and monitor your growth and progress.
Pay yourself first. Financial advisers tell people to “pay yourself first.” In other words, deposit money into a savings account before paying anyone else. The same can apply to you personally. Pay yourself first in terms of time. Make private time for yourself at the beginning and/ or end of each day. Read, write, exercise or simply take a nap.
Do the hard tasks first. I suggest tackling the hard tasks first. These are the ones you typically leave to the last and/or they simply don’t get done. Do the hard tasks first and imagine the sense of accomplishment. Not only that, you’ll probably find the tasks weren’t so hard after all.
Prioritize on a daily basis. Prioritizing lets you focus your attention and energy on those items that are more important in the large scheme of things. Prioritizing creates a schedule and a time frame that helps to reduce the tendency to worry. When given new assignments, be sure to ask your boss how he or she wishes to reprioritize your work. Focus on prioritizing for length of time required, for value, for importance and/or for level of difficulty.
Take a break. Many people work feverishly all day and don’t take any time for breaks. How many times have you had lunch at your work station this week? Call time out and take at least a periodic five-minute break during the day. Close your eyes, reflect a bit, get up and walk around and/or sketch and doodle — do something different. You’ll be surprised to see how relaxing this can be.
Leave work at work. How many of you are carrying work home night after night but leaving it untouched? Is this the only way you get some exercise? Pay attention to how many times you do this. Stop and evaluate. If you aren’t working at the tasks in the evening, then don’t take the work home. Set clear work/home boundaries, then leave work at work and take time for your family.
Confirm your area of control. Many times when people feel overwhelmed they not only focus too much on the problem versus the solution, often times they are worrying about things beyond their control. Focus on your own work not the work of your boss or anyone else. Focus on your own work, not the state of the organization. Focus on you and your family rather than that of your neighbour. Keep a proper perspective.
Know your limits. Some people don’t have the word no in their vocabulary and so they get overwhelmed because they take on too much. They simply have too much to do. In spite of the fact they have a heavy workload, they sign for a study class and a sports activity, they put their children in two activities each and promise their mother a twice weekly visit. Who are they kidding? You don’t have the time. Know your limits!
Reward yourself. You can’t expect a reward from your manager for every task you complete. But you can reward yourself. Review each project and/or work product. Hold it up to the light. Look at what you’ve learned and how you’ve contributed to your organization. Pat yourself on the back. Smile!
Feeling overwhelmed is a common experience especially when you’ve been away from work and are preparing for those first few days back. However, don’t let this awful feeling get the best of you. The strategies I’ve listed can help to turn things around and bring you back into control. Keep focus on the goal of work/life balance.