Time to go – those words rang through my head when I caught up with a work-friend I hadn’t seen in years, when she told me about her job.
It all came back to me, the dreadful soul-sucking heaviness when my old job became absolute drudgery.
Looking back, I knew in my heart it was time to go but I continued to persevere, pushing myself to do work that wasn’t ‘me’. I told myself that it was a good job with good pay so I’d be crazy to think about leaving …it even had a pension, and who leaves that at my age!
That is her situation too; she is suffering in a job that no longer serves her and she feels so stuck.
What About You?
It seemed so obvious to me as I saw my friend pushing herself to continue. I saw how weary she was that day, even though she just took a vacation.
Others can see it, even when you can’t. Your family, your friends – they know you are not OK and they worry, especially as we’ve all heard what stress can do.
The thing is, when you are doing unbearable work, a job that doesn’t make you feel valued or are working for a bad boss you shut down after awhile.
So let me be clear if this is happening to you….It. Is. Time. For. You. To. GO!!!
Plan to Get Out!
You may be thinking, easy for you to say Elaine, you don’t have three kids going through private school, one needing braces, a mortgage coming up for renewal [enter all of the other ‘what gets in the way of you making a change’].
I get it, timing will never seem right, but let me tell you something – you are no good to anyone else when you are miserable.
In fact, if you don’t make a change for the better, your body has this way of forcing you to slow down or taking time off, whether you like it or not –and yes it shows up as illnesses and injuries!
Pay close attention to the warning signs of stress to avoid becoming one of those heart attack statistics; this is no joking matter.
So, let’s look at what you can do right now to begin your exit strategy!
1. What If?
Remember when you were a kid; you were filled with limitless possibilities. Children naturally dream of all the things they CAN DO, it never occurs to them to squash those ideas and dreams! Yet as an adult we seem to shut down dreams so often that they just stop coming.
I tell my clients to set aside a few minutes every day where you allow yourself unfiltered imagination and take time just to dream. How you spend that time is up to you. It could be writing in a journal, sipping a perfect cappuccino or it might be walking on the treadmill – doesn’t matter how. This was a game changer for me – I took up painting and did a little each day and my mind exploded with possibilities!
What is important, is to allow your mind to be future-focused without filters. Ask yourself what if I did this, or that, and what else is possible? No bashing down any ideas, don’t try to justify them, just let them flow, no matter how elaborate or crazy they may seem. Just let your imagination of ‘what if’s’ open up again.
2. Give Me A Fricken Break, I’m Worth It!
When work became really stress filled for me, I knuckled down. I put my shoulder into it and pushed harder, believing that I could make it better by hard work. WRONG!
It may be how I was raised; you know...don’t give up! The old adage when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Yah no, please don’t be like me! That is total BS.
Instead I want you to do the exact opposite! You see, you can’t consider options if you don’t allow yourself to take a break from the grind. Slow down, book coffees and lunches with people who ‘get you’ – by booking them, you will force yourself to make the time and build some support.
Talk to them candidly that you are taking some breaks because work is really getting to you. Remember, they likely already know, and chances are they will be happy to encourage you to take back some time for yourself.
3. What Are My Super Powers
I’ve mentioned this before. I received the greatest renewed perspective of myself, by asking people (some I had worked with long ago) ‘What did they remember most about working with me?’ I deliberately sought out people who I knew would be candid and truthful.
WOW! It was that very insightful feedback became a huge impetus to taking my next step!
What I learned, was that the impressions I left with others – like years ago - were actually consistent themes over many years. This wasn’t fluffy feedback! It was deep and meaningful context for how I made an impact and what I was known for (my brand…aka my super powers).
So reach out to people who will candidly share their recollections about YOU. The themes will emerge and you’ll discover the attributes that make you unique!
4. What Else Can I Be Good At?
If you’re like I was, then the job you are stuck in is not playing to your greatest strengths. In fact, it is likely much the opposite.
Take stock here, what would you rather be doing? I want you to think really practically here. This can be tough to do on your own, consider talking it out with a friend or confidante (or a coach).
What are you extraordinary at – what do you do better than many other people? What work/job or company uses or needs that very strength?
Hint: check for clues in the super power feedback.
5. Does My Resume Truly Reflect The Real Me?
Not everybody will be able to start their own business but everyone can use the same process I did for reimagining what the next gig should be.
Armed with the information you revealed through the steps above (1-4) I am confident the right options and/or roles, or even company for a better fit, will become clearer.
Now, consider what changes you need to make to your resume to ensure it reflects the capabilities you have for THAT right fit!
First, reflect on the most ideal job, then:
6. Who Can I Connect With In My Network?
So now you have inklings of the kind of work you really want. You’ve acknowledged that you are not the right place. You’ve begun taking breaks to release the stress. You’ve learned that you are pretty damn awesome BUT you definitely need to make a change that fits you better. You’ve also got a great start on a new resume and a renewed sense of direction.
The next step is to get out and start telling others what you are looking for!! Don’t narrow it to a job title, instead share a list of the kind of work you are great at and love to do.
When I say ‘network’, I mean everyone. It’s not to peddle your resume to, instead it is to connect personally, talk about the skills you want to use and ask others for ideas on jobs and companies they know you’d be a good fit for.
It still amazes me how connecting with people starts a cascade of serendipitous opportunities.
YOU Are Worth Making A Change!
You may find your next move doesn’t need to be drastic, it may be just a different position in the same company that will suit you better. It might be returning to something you did before!
Decide that you are worth making a change! Getting out of that work environment will lighten your life; improve not only your own quality of life but the lives of everyone who cares about you as well!
As I told my friend, the things you’ve been telling yourself about persevering and putting up with this job, is just fear of change. Fear is what holds us back to make a move.
It is times like this that a coach can be hugely valuable. Someone to be a sounding board, who can remain objective but also hold you accountable to be true to yourself!
Taking steps to re-imagine your future will unlock all sorts of opportunities. You just have to start. Drop me a note if you need a coach to get over the fear of change or need someone to guide you on the road to success!
Photo Credit - CC0 Pixabay
Change can be a dirty word in many work environments today. Lets face it “Transformation” is the buzzword de jour! Almost everyone is feeling the affect of increased workload and the speed of change in their job.
It may be brought on from process improvement, new-fangled technologies to learn, added responsibility, regulatory scrutiny, or the most-feared-change of all…downsizing!
Constantly having to adapt, even for the best leaders, takes quite a toll. As a leader not only do you have to continually reframe and communicate the gist of the changes to your team, but you are also expected to be ‘on’ and supportive of whatever is thrown your way. This can be downright exhausting!
So how IS change affecting you? Are you coping? Or are you nearing burnout?
Take this simple assessment to find out:
Pump Your Brake Assessment © (Answer Y/N):
Here’s the thing, change is hard when it is imposed on you, yet, making your own change can be immensely exhilarating when it is something you want to do.
When you find yourself in a constant state of change, inflicted beyond your control, you will eventually shut down if you don’t find good coping strategies. Your health may be adversely affected, your family life may be impacted and for sure, your work performance will suffer when you burnout.
Fear not! You CAN find balance again. First step is recognizing the issue. Just like slowing a car down on a slippery road you can 'pump the brake' to prevent burnout.
The trick is finding ways to regain control over changes that affect YOU. Here are 5 action steps you can begin right now…today!
1. Book Yourself a Break – NOW!
I strongly believe in taking time back from work when you begin to feel frustrated and stressed. If you don’t make time for yourself, no one else will give it to you!
If you are a nose-to-the-grindstone type then taking time back may seem tough for you… initially. But taking back time for yourself is a game-changer to regaining balance.
Action Step: Start with small steps – book an hour into your calendar a few times through the week. RIGHT NOW – look at your calendar and book it…..yep, right now, it will only take a moment.
If you are already at the ‘burnout point’ then take a much bigger step - book a two-week break. Yes TWO! Detach completely – no phones/computer or email. You need the extra time to properly let go and become refreshed.
Why do this? Because pushing yourself harder and harder will not make you accomplish anything faster or better. In fact, it is when you pause, step back, reflect, giving yourself a break that you will become most effective, more able to make sense of the various changes and give yourself greater perspective to move forward.
2. Bust Your Paradigm
Paradigms are patterns you have adopted or think to be true. A paradigm can also be the way you approach your day. Often a paradigm is something we adopted based on what we think others expect of us.
Take crisis management at work for instance. If you are the Olivia Pope in your business that fixes every crisis, then you become the one everyone brings the crisis to.
Action Step: Hand off crisis tasks. In leadership roles it is true, the buck stops with you. But handing off crisis tasks to the right people on your team versus being the one who ‘does’ it provides big growth opportunity to others.
Delegation of important tasks takes leadership courage. It takes great trust. It means giving your team the confidence in handling very important work, with you as their safety net. You remain involved yet you set high expectations, selecting the right people for the right tasks. Watch how they rise to the challenge!
This is not an easy shift when you are known for being ‘the fixer’, yet once you master this hand-off, you will achieve far greater results with far less stress in the future.
Why do this? It’s a win-win! Giving others the accountability to fix big fat meaty issues stimulate their capabilities to grow as well as improve overall team engagement because they see you have faith in them.
As an individual takes on work that stretches their thinking, it pushes them out of their comfort zone; in turn they build new skills and develop. This then frees you up to act as a guide/mentor versus the doer. The results are far more gratifying for both you and the team.
3. Share - Give Work Away
Similarly most leaders, who are hit by wave after wave of change, take on more work than they give away. Often under the assumption it is easier to do it himself or herself rather than ask someone else to.
Action Step: At the end of each day write down two things that you did that someone else could have done for you. They might be administrative tasks, attending a meeting or simply to-do items that someone else could have accomplished just as easily. The next day, delegate those items and begin to make this a daily practice.
Why do this? You may think that you’re a master delegator and that you’re maximizing your productivity every day, but this simple habit will help you measure your delegating skills each and every day.
4. First Things First
In Stephen Covey’s well-known book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he points out how important it is to ‘Put First Things First’ as Habit #3.
During changing times you can get bogged down with task work that doesn’t actually move you forward. When you practice choosing what you spend your time on, you will get the highest return on your investment.
Action Step: Refer to Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle that Covey talks about. Begin to organize tasks using these key principles focusing on the most important priorities.
Why do this? Get the biggest payoff for your time at work! Spend most of your time in the upper green zones. Avoid or eliminate time-wasting activities and ensure you delegate distracting work that doesn’t provide payback. By practicing these tried and true methods you maximize your time and you become a better leader.
5. Let Go of Perfection
According to Dr. Brené Brown, world renowned researcher and author:
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.”
Every leader I know who suffers because of today’s pace of change, has some degree of perfectionistic qualities. They have very high standards; they surround themselves with over achievers (just like themselves), which is great, however they can be very hard on themselves and others too. They tend to put in long gruelling hours to complete everything to their satisfaction and they struggle with handing off and delegating.
Action Steps: Become aware of your tendency for perfectionism. Be kind to yourself, review your goals and validate when you are being too hard on yourself – is what you want attainable or realistic? If not, cut yourself some slack!! Involve your team, be more choosey on what you personally take on.
Self-worth is at the core of perfectionism, take stock of all the great work you do well to help change your emphasis and perspective on being perfect.
Use a Lifeline When You Need One
When work pace and change is getting to you it is OK to seek assistance from a professional. Many people need extra help to ‘pump their brake’ until they develop new habits.
Some of the benefits working with a professional include:
Drop me a line when you’re getting frustrated or fear burnout. I will help you find a path to take back control, refocus your time and energy into work that makes you want to get up and go in the morning again!
How many times have you heard that your friends and colleagues are tired and stressed out with work? These days everyone is putting in longer hours, but not feeling as fulfilled as they would like to. It’s almost as if you’re on a treadmill that is increasing in speed with no destination!
“Work” – according to the Oxford Dictionary is the activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result; as a means of earning income. So we know that effort of any type can tire you out, but when you lack balance in that effort it can lead to chronic stress and tension. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic stress lowers your immune; it also lowers your digestive and reproductive systems. It affects your ability to sleep and is said to be a silent killer.
So how do you regain personal balance to prevent burnout and chronic stress? Here are 5 ways to take back your life:
1. Get Quiet & Clever
Step back from the crazy day that consumes you from morning, noon to night. Steal an hour to yourself on a weekly basis – book it in your calendar, just like you do for a meeting. Turn off all devices for that hour. Use that time to take stock of all the things that you have to accomplish this week. Make a thorough list and prioritize it. I have heard from many people that just taking time to get everything out of their head, gives them peace of mind.
2. Book Some ‘Me’ Time
I know many people who don’t even give this a second thought – they just automatically take time for themselves. But chances are, they are not the people who are struggling with stress. I love this infographic all about ‘me’ time and why it’s important to your happiness. You see, giving yourself permission to do whatever the heck you want is not only good for your own well-being but it is good for your family and those around you too. It will feel like you are stealing time from work at first, but eventually you’ll see that taking a break will refresh you and you’ll actually come back more productive.
3. Get Moving
Yes you’ve heard this one before – exercise!! So lets break this one down a bit because chances are you’re not likely to run out and hit the gym every day if you’ve never done that before. When I say get moving I mean just that ……MOVE!! That means get up and out of your office chair, out of your car or off the couch – make a commitment to do a walk around the block, or around a mall or even around the office at least once a day. Take the stairs, or park further from the mall – deliberately! Exercise will clear your mind of the work clutter; it will help to balance those dangerous stress hormones. The very act of any exercise increases the oxygen in your body and stimulates brain chemicals that should make you feel happier and more relaxed. Lets face it, most of us can improve the amount we move.
4. Draw the line
When was the last time you said no, declined to work late, or let people know you will not be available? Regain control by setting some boundaries with colleagues and other stakeholders, including your boss – what hours are you available for work-related meetings, what constitutes an emergency and what should they do in that event? When you book vacation, ensure you have someone who can be your back up and handle the majority of issues in your absence. It is important to carve out family time as well as downtime to recharge. Make a personal commitment to turn off your computer(s) and work phones at specific times. Many of us don’t want to let people down so check out this article by The Muse.com, which talks about setting boundaries without creating resentment at work.
5. Manage Yourself – Not Time
According to TED Talk by Rory Vaden who wrote the book Procrastinate on Purpose (pdf version avail), you can’t solve today’s time-management challenges with yesterday’s time management strategies. In this TED talk he explains why procrastinating on purpose is the key to being able to multiply your time. Spend time on things today that will give you more time tomorrow. He provides techniques in triaging your to do list, finding ways to save yourself time, and he helps you deal with the guilt of your decisions. Give thought to what influences you into using your precious time and set out a plan to be more strategic in how you review all of your “to do’s”.
You owe it to yourself, as well as to those who care about you, to find strategies for work life balance, reducing the work stress and taking back control of your time!
As an executive in these busy work environments, you may need help in planning how to take back some control over your life and regain personal balance. At Dots Leadership Solutions we provide you with one on one coaching to help you get organized and make a plan! Call us today for all of your leadership dilemmas. Check back time to time to check out features in our blog to help you be an effective leader.
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.