It was around 7 p.m. on a Thursday evening. I was mired in phone calls that needed to be returned, emails that still needed to be written, a meeting agenda that needed developed, and I felt like I was out of gas. I mean, I had done EVERYTHING that week…taken on a new project, added several meetings to my calendar, accepted a speaking engagement. I mean, I was doing all the things I loved about my job and engaging with business owners, so why did I feel so overwhelmed and like I had not accomplished anything that week? And, why wasn’t I finding more time to spend with me or with my friends and other colleagues? I had left my “best 40” on the table, and walked out feeling tired, unhappy, stressed, and that I had let others down.
But, what was the answer? I began this process by assessing my environment. What changes had occurred to put me in a position of not having enough time to be all that I can be in my organization and in my life? I quickly assessed that we had streamlined staff but our output had not decreased and, in fact, we were ramping up for something new and different. And me? Well, I had stepped up to accept some new projects and responsibilities, because, after all, I could do it!
Here is how I have managed to again find and refine my work-life balance. I have borrowed the tips from the Mayo Clinic, but the thoughts associated with each tip are my own.
1. Manage your time. I want to help others as much as possible but have found it can leave me not focused on what I need to do for me. I now try to spread tasks out during the week instead of trying to do everything at one time and shortchanging the most important person in this equation…ME!
2. Make a list. This is a big one! When I feel overwhelmed or immobile, I now realize it’s because I have too much in my head. I now know to make a list, sometimes it’s a very long list, but one that I can focus on, and when I cross my “to do’s” off, I can see what I’ve accomplished and I can feel better about WHY I might still have some things on the list. It is my plan, and because I have a plan, I can work that plan!
3. Leave work at work. This is another big ticket item. Because I can access email, text and phone messages on my mobile doesn’t mean that I need to address them after hours. A trusted confidant told me once that if I respond to those things during my time off, people would EXPECT me to do so…makes great sense and a lesson worth learning.
4. Reduce email access. The worst thing anyone ever did was to put that little mailbox on my computer where I could see the email coming in. Instead of looking at each email, I now check a few times per day; if I miss something deemed important, guess what? That person will walk over to my desk to talk to me about it.
I am very clear about leaving my “best 40” at the office now. At the end of the week, I can review my accomplishments of the week, prepare for the upcoming week and rest assured that I have true balance in my life. Uh oh…there goes the phone!
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