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Is the time you spend, well spent?

Sweaters are on and little kids are leaving our building to walk up the hill to school. Last week, my husband Roberto packed up the car and left for his school up north. We have resumed our routine of weekdays apart and weekends together. So far, this year is easier than last, because as with most change, it is easier when you know what to expect.

Last month, I wrote to you about my full plate and the need to decide what to set down and what to pick up. I have been reflecting on this idea and talking to people about it, including a few conversations that came out of my last email letter.

When you are busy – don’t you find it is a bit more complicated than just re-evaluating your life and your time and saying no to a few things in order to make room for more? The advice we all get is to learn to just say no. It has been the advice I have followed and given plenty of times. I tell myself every time I overschedule and I tell my stretched thin clients – “Just take something off your plate.”

Is it really that easy? I don’t think it is. Yes, I should say no to a few more things. But there is a bigger question that wants to be asked, “Why does it seem like my packed calendar does not match what I want from my life or I thought I wanted from this season of my life?”

Before you say “yes” or say “no”, you need to know why. What do you value? What do you want from your life and your time?

Have you ever had a moment where you are not sure if your time matches your priorities, values or dreams? Maybe it is happening right now.

When reflecting on this for myself I came up with a different answer than I expected.

As this busy summer ended I felt like my time had been packed to the gills and I had an uneasy feeling that I was missing something. I had spent my time doing more work with clients than ever before. And more time with my husband and immediate family.

I checked in with myself and asked “Is how I am using my time matching with my priorities and values?”

The knee-jerk reflection was NO! I “should” have had more time this summer swimming in lakes. I missed seeing friends!

Then I reflected further and realized that something else had shifted. Normally, being outside and with friends is what is important to me during the summer. I love my friends! Yet I was delivered two amazing gifts this summer – my business is growing and my husband, who usually does not live in the same town as me, was home all summer. My priorities have changed for the time being. I put my husband, close family and business first. My calendar reflects a change in priorities.

My mind did not catch up and felt like something was left behind. And it was. When your priorities shift, even momentarily, you do have to say good bye to other things. You have to make hard choices.

Maybe this is true for you too. Maybe something in your life has shifted. External circumstances beyond your control can completely change what you need to focus your time on. It can take a while for our brain to catch up with the change.

When you feel like what you spend your time doing is not in line your priorities and values you may begin to feel sick – physically or emotionally. Your body knows when you aren’t living in a way that is true to your core needs or when you have not acknowledged a shift that is happening or needs to happen in your life.

Perhaps, right now you are feeling great about what you do with your days. For the most part, what you spend your time doing matches what you care about and what you want to move forward in your life.  If this is the case in your life right now, reflect on that and then CELEBRATE the HECK out of it!

However if, like me, you find that your time is not being spent in a way that matches your values and priorities. The first trick is to notice this. Maybe your priorities have changed. Maybe your time has been overtaken by outside forces.

 

Here are a few reflection questions to help you figure out if your calendar does not match with your priorities or values and WHY:

Has something in your external world changed?

Has this change brought about a change in your priorities or how you need to spend your time?

Have you changed?

 

What are you craving from your life now? In the future?

What are the most important things to you right now? The people? The things you want to support?

Does your calendar reflect your priorities, hopes and values?

 

AND does your calendar have breathing room for you?

 

It can be hard to look at how we spend our time against what we care about and what our goals are. If we look closely it could mean a major life shift is happening or needs to happen. It could also mean we will need to change behaviors.  The tricky thing is if you do not take a look at your priorities and your time, that disconnect can lead to continuous stress and even worse, illness.

 

If your calendar does not reflect your priorities and values, what are the small changes you can make?

What might be the bigger changes you could examine?

 

Be gentle and take a look. See if your priorities and time align. What has to shift?

By |September 30th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on Is the time you spend, well spent?|
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    “I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART TWO

“I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART TWO

Here are a few more ideas to carry with you whenever the work is hard and you’re “TIRED OF IT”. And here is the first half of the checklist of ideas if you missed it.

Reach out for support

We often struggle with asking for help or reaching out when things get tough at work. I am one of those people. I do not like asking for help. I want to be strong and take care of others but I don’t want to be seen needing support. Look at the line of work I am in!

Here’s the deal: People want to help and support us. This is what connects and brings us together. If you are truly tired, exhausted and thinking about throwing in the towel on that project… then that is THE SIGN you need help! You probably need two kinds of help. You need help actually doing the work AND you need some human contact.

First, ask for help with the workload. Talk with a few people you trust. Tell them about what is hard for you right now. Hang out with the humans you love and have fun. If it’s helpful, ask for check-ins and accountability. (Remember, we almost always CAN ask for help, but we usually DON’T!)
 

Remember a time when you got through it

We have all worked hard, pushed through and accomplished things we did not think were possible at the time. Find some examples in your past. Make a list — on paper or in your mind — of five times you have worked through something very hard. Be mindful of these times. What did you do? How did you feel? You are capable of working through this tough time. Remind yourself.
 

Work differently

There is always a new way to work. You can do things differently now. Once we have been working on something for a while, we begin to only see one way for things to happen. This is one of the most dangerous traits we have as humans: Our inability to see that there is a different way to do what we have been doing. If something is not working or if it is incredibly tiresome, try doing it a different way.

Sometimes we are stuck and we need others to help unstick us. Get together with a group of people and talk through fresh options. Pick people you want to talk with, people who will listen. And remember to let them know you are looking for ideas, not answers. You still get to decide what you are going to do. Imagine a change. Get creative. Build a plan.
 

Get “gritty”

Remember, as human beings we have the ability to do a lot more than we think we can. We see examples of this all the time in sports stories or survival stories. People can get through a lot when they need to. You can, too.

Dig in a little deeper. When you think you have reached your limit and you cannot do any more, try stretching even further. That is when you’ll begin to find out what you are made of. You have guts and abilities you never even knew about.

Take good care of yourself. Get support. And then put your back into it! Tell yourself you can do this. Then keep doing it. You are much stronger than you think.

You’ve got this. And when the work is done, you are going to feel good!

By |May 12th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on “I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART TWO|
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    “I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART ONE

“I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART ONE

In this series (check out Part 1 and Part 2), we have been thinking about what to do when you want and need to continue working and creating, but you’re exhausted, tired and frustrated. How do you keep going?

Here is a checklist of helpful tips that work for my clients — and for me!

Ritualize the hard work

You may have heard people say, “Do the hard work first.” I totally agree. Sometimes when we are tired of the project or exhausted from the work we avoid the hardest parts. Those hard bits and pieces keep lurking around, getting bigger, and wearing us out. The more we avoid them, the harder they are to accomplish.

What I like to say is this: “Do the hard work first AND build consistent rituals that make work easier to get in to.”

What does ritualizing the hard work look like?

Create a time, a place and a method for getting the work done.

In my business I have a few pieces of work I avoid. I love my business. I just do not love bookkeeping! Bookkeeping — actually, AVOIDING the bookkeeping — can make my whole business feel like a chore. But I am learning that if I make this task a ritual, it eliminates the stress and strain caused by avoiding it. I do my bookkeeping the same time of the week and month, in the same place. I give myself a treat (tea and music). And I put on my “Get it done” attitude.

Do you have a task or two that are making you dislike your whole job? Figure out the pieces you really do not like. Do not put off those tasks. Create a ritual for getting them done. (Or if you are lucky, maybe you can hand those tasks to someone who would enjoy them.)

 

Take a break

Take a break! Take a break! Take a break!

Walk away from the desk. Walk away from the work. Walk away from the project.

Do this for a short time every day. Do it every week for a longer period of time. And please take a real break. Do something nourishing and DO NOT talk about work.

For more about the benefits of taking breaks, check out this post [link] AND this post [link]. Really, taking breaks is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself.

 

Know why

If you’re going to keep going when the work is tiresome, you need to know why you are doing the work in the first place. Then when the work gets hard, you have to remind yourself of the reason you are doing it.

Ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” Write it down. Put that note somewhere you can see it.

(Oh, and check in with yourself about that “Why…” If your answer is about guilt, obligation, and pride you may want to examine if you really want to keep going.)

 

Exercise

Move your body. It will reduce stress. It will give you new perspective. It will increase your creative problem-solving ability. It’s fun.

You don’t need a big new routine. You don’t have to join a gym or buy an exercise outfit. Walk around the block. Stretch in the mornings. Put a happy song on your iPod and take a dance break.

Trust me, getting in touch with your physical self really helps when times are tough.

 

Sleep

Sleep will… well… make you less exhausted! If you are tired of the work and you are not sleeping, it is hard to keep going. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier for starters. Create a cozy ritual around bedtime. Don’t take your phone or your tablet to bed.

If you are having trouble falling asleep it could be the stress from work. First increase your exercise during the day. If that doesn’t help you fall asleep more easily, talk to a health care professional.

 

Meditate

Meditating for just five to 10 minutes a few times a week will give you a different perspective. Meditation does not always bring immediate relief, but you will discover that it does help throughout the day. Meditation reminds us of our breath, of our connection to each other and nature. It helps us take things a little less seriously.

Stay tuned to my next post to see four more tips in the checklist.

By |May 5th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on “I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART ONE|

“I’m tired of it!” Now what? PART TWO

You’re doing your work. You’re involved in a project. You want to keep going… you need to keep going… you must keep going… but you’re TIRED OF IT!

What do you do now?

In my last post I suggested taking the time and space to think things through. I suggested asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now the right thing for me? Am I doing it the right way?”

Which answer did you hear?

Answer #1. “Stop doing the work because it is no longer good for you.”

Answer #2. “The work is good! Keep going and do things a different way.”

Answer #3. “This work is important and you need to do it! Keep going and don’t stop even if you are tired.”

Answer #4. “Wow, am I confused! I’m unclear about whether to keep going forward or change direction.”

 

Let’s take a look at each of those scenarios, because each one requires a different strategy.

Scenario #1. Stop doing the work.

Just for you, I have a series of posts about this! Check out my three-part series “When things aren’t working at work.”
 

Scenario #2. Keep going but do things a different way.

This scenario requires two strategies.

First and most important: Take good care of yourself while you’re still working. This means getting good sleep, taking breaks from work, and getting physical exercise. Start with a few little changes. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Take a walk during the workday. Stop eating lunch at your desk. Or start your day with five minutes of stretching.

Second: Reflect on the ways that you could do your work differently. Create space to reflect with trusted friends and coworkers. Ask yourself and your colleagues, “What if there was another way to do this work? What could we change?” Get curious and creative. Problem-solve with your team. Make a new plan and get help implementing it. Notice what works.
 

Scenario #3. This is the work that must be done and you know you must keep going.

This scenario requires a few additional strategies.

Just as in Scenario #2, practice self-care techniques while you’re still working. Get some sleep. Taking breaks. Move your body. (I’ll share a lot more about this in my next post.)

Then, do the work. Really tell yourself you can keep doing it. And do it.

Next, put a time limit on how long you will keep working with your head down before you check in and think about how it’s going. It is helpful to set up a check-in with someone. Tell a friend, a coach or a trusted co-worker, “I am working really hard on this. But in two weeks, if it’s just as hard and I’m not making progress, I’d like to check in with you and reflect on a different way to do the work.”

And most important, rally the troops. Get support doing the work. Ask co-workers and colleagues for more help. Delegate! And get connected with loved ones outside the work. They can provide a sounding board and an escape valve.
 

Scenario #4. You are confused about whether you should keep working or quit.

For now, do not stop doing the work. BUT slow down. Put in a little less effort and time. Make some breathing room. Back off the throttle as much as you can without losing momentum.

As in all the other scenarios, practice techniques that allow you to take good care of yourself while still working: get good sleep, take breaks, and move your body.

Then build in more time for reflection. Find time to get quiet. Take a walk to get coffee during the workday. Take a moment in the driveway before you go into the house. Gently ask yourself, “Do I want to keep doing this the same way?” Talk with only a few trusted confidantes about your struggle to understand whether you can “keep going.”

And be gentle. Give yourself time to figure out the direction you want to go. A new direction may come to you in a flash or it may dawn as slow awareness. Or you may just finish the work you are struggling with. And when you’re finished, your reflection time could lead you in a new direction.

Are you still craving a more techniques for revitalizing the work you are tired of? Stay tuned for a checklist that can help you keep going when exhaustion and frustration set in.

By |April 21st, 2015|Be Present, Make Change|Comments Off on “I’m tired of it!” Now what? PART TWO|

“I’m tired of it!” Now what? PART ONE

What can you do when you’re tired of the work, but you know you need to keep going?

You know what I mean by TIRED OF IT?

You might be feeling this way about your job, a project, or a personal commitment. (You could also be feeling this way about a relationship, but we’re not going to get into that!)

It could be that you are completely exhausted. It could be that you have spent all the energy you can muster and there is still more to do. Or maybe you’re just fed up and sick of the whole thing.

You want to be done.
And there is more to do.
Now what?

Before we get in the nuts and bolts of “not giving up,” let me remind you that I am not a proponent of blindly pushing forward. There are times when we need to stop and choose a different path. For more about when it is time to quit, check out my three-part series: “When things aren’t working at work.”

Let’s talk about what to do if you have to keep going — and you’re TIRED OF IT!

First things first. Stop.

Do not keep going without knowing why you are pushing forward. If you keep pushing forward without looking up, you could miss an important part of your journey. You may look back with disappointment when you realize there was a different path to take. You will almost certainly end up feeling empty and exhausted.

Allow yourself time and space to figure out if you are going to keep going and why. Step away from the work that is exhausting you. You may need a few hours in a quiet café, or you may need to retreat for a day or two and listen to your own quiet thoughts.

Spend time in reflection. Write in your journal. Take a stroll. Sit quietly and meditate. Ask yourself:

“Is what I’m doing right now the right thing for me? Am I doing it in the right way?”

Then listen.

What does your gut say? Here are four possible responses.

Answer #1: “Stop doing this work! It is not the best thing for you anymore.”

Answer #2: “The work is good, and it’s right for you. But let’s do some things in a different way.”

Answer #3: “This work is important. Keep going, and don’t stop, even if you are tired of it.”

Answer #4: “Good question. I have no idea. I’m confused. Let me get back to you.”

 

If you’re getting Answer #4, and you feel confused and unclear about what you should do, keep working and moving forward, but set a slower pace and continue taking time for reflection.

If you’re getting one of the first three answers, you’ll find helpful tips in my next post. I’ll help you understand how to work with Answer #4, too. And then in my final post in this series I will share my “Go To” tips for not giving up.

In the meantime, I don’t want to leave you hanging! It is important for you to get enough sleep, take breaks, and move your body. I know these little things feel like clichés, but they really work. Pick one tiny thing you can do to take care of yourself, and do it every day. I promise it will help you keep going.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

By |April 15th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on “I’m tired of it!” Now what? PART ONE|

When things aren’t working at work (Part Three)

We’ve been thinking about what happens when things are simply NOT working at work.

In Part One of this series, I acknowledged that there are times when we’ve tried everything and it has become clear that it’s simply time to move on. In Part Two, we looked at a four reasons why it may be time to quit — and examined some actions we could take.

But what if the ONLY answer is to leave?

You’ve done good work! You have done your best. It’s time to get out and get a different job.

My language may seem flippant. The job market can be hard, I know. It may have taken you a long time to get this job. If you cannot leave or cannot find another job right now — go back to my last post and look at all the other ways you can survive and make the best out of the crappy situation in the job you have.

BUT just because finding another job is hard and scary DOES NOT mean you should not explore the idea. You may find that a new and better job is actually right around the corner.

You do not know if you do not try. Really. Preschool teachers say this all the time because it is TRUE. You do not know if you do not try.

Think about it…

WHAT IF you could leave? What else would you do? Where could you go?

The first step is small. It is not quitting or even pulling out an old resume. Start by talking to a few folks you trust. Have coffee with a friend and chat about finding a different job. Then have a tea date with a friend of a friend. Begin to think about different options. You got this.

Decide. Do you want to leave this job? Decide to leave. You do not have to leave yet. But if you do not make the decision to leave, time will just keep passing. And you will still be right where you are.

Once you decide it is time to leave, you will need to explore other possibilities for work. This is not a quick process. Continue to chat with trusted friends and network with their friends. Think about all the possible fields you could work in. What jobs use your skills? Consider the amount of money you need to earn. Make sure to give yourself plenty time and space alone as you explore what you are good at doing and what you enjoy doing.

Once you get clear about what you want and you begin looking around, people and resources will begin to show up and show you how to get out of there. I’ve seen this happen time and again.

The process is not going to be easy. It may take a while. But isn’t making a new choice better than staying stuck forever, feeling physically and emotionally spent, and dreading work?

You can find something better.

Work doesn’t have to suck. Really. Lots of people have jobs they do not mind going to — jobs that are pretty okay most days, and some days are even FUN. You can have this too. Figure out what you want and need from a job and what you have to offer. Then take action — and take care of yourself.

Are fear and overwhelm creeping in and overpowering your sense of possibility? If you are overwhelmed, please find a friend who will listen to you and support your plans. Consider talking to a professional about this. Reach out to people for support outside of your work space.

By |March 25th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on When things aren’t working at work (Part Three)|

When things aren’t working at work (Part Two)

This post is a bit longer than usual. But it’s super important. I’m writing this for all of you who are experiencing struggles at work and trying to find a way out.

In my last post I acknowledged that there are times when we need to quit. We’ve given it all we’ve got. We’ve really tried to make things work. But we’re hitting the wall.

If that sounds like what you’re feeling, it’s probably time for a change. There are four reasons that work may not be working. (This also applies to other major areas of your life.)

Let’s take a look at these four possible scenarios:

SCENARIO #1: Your work is really hard right now

If you used to enjoy the work you’re doing and you can clearly define why it feels hard right now, the “thing” that is making it hard may be finite. If so, this tough situation may soon be over.
The tricky thing about “really hard right now” is that sometimes things are hard for so long that you get exhausted. From there, you can easily turn the corner into full burnout.

We don’t always see burnout coming. If we are in a rough patch and we think we can see the end, we may just tell ourselves, “Keep going, work harder, this will be over soon.” But if you JUST push through it without slowing down, you may end up exhausted and spent, with all your perspective gone. Then you WILL hate what you’re doing and want to leave.

The key here is to do things that help you avoid burnout WHILE you are going through a big push at work.

1. Take breaks.
2. Define your sense of purpose beyond your work.
3. Ask for support at home and at work.

And remember that this period of work or pressure has an end.
(If no end comes — or if there’s no end in sight — you may have entered burnout.)

SCENARIO #2: Your work is no longer the right fit

Once upon a time, your job was pretty good — even great! — but now you feel something is shifting. Something is pulling you in a new direction. That feeling is exciting and scary. You are beginning to think about leaving and doing something different. Perhaps you can see how someone else could do your job now.

Congratulations: Your work here is done!

Listen to this voice. Begin to explore other options and talk to people you trust. Talk about that little voice telling you it’s time to move on. Build a plan and exit the job.

New beginnings are good for everyone — for you, for the person who could step into your job, and for the organization you work for. New beginnings create new possibilities. You can create a ripple of good things by leaving when the time is right.

SCENARIO #3: You could be burned out

If you used to enjoy what you did and now find little to no fulfillment in your work, you are probably burned out. When you reach burnout, you get exhausted, then depressed and possibly very distant. You begin to feel despair. You feel that things can never change or get better.

Burnout is no good because it leads to all the ways we don’t want to feel as human beings: sadness, anger, exhaustion. We lose insight. We feel our lives lack purpose. Like I said — no good!

If you are burned out, you probably remember enjoying and taking great pleasure in your work. You were proud of it. Then more and more was added to your plate. You felt an ever-growing expectation to do well. And you kept going. Perhaps something very difficult occurred with a project or a person in your workplace. And you kept going. You wanted to do your best no matter what. You kept going. And going. And going.

If you are experiencing burnout and you can admit it (which is actually very difficult), you have three options:

1. Keep working at your current job, but acknowledge the burnout AND do something about it.
Take some serious breaks (breaks during the day, days off, AND a longer break). Get support from family and friends. Make a plan to take some work off your plate. Celebrate your successes AND separate your sense of self from the work that you do.

2. Seek other employment.
Ideally you will take a BREAK between jobs. You need time to regain strength and find a new sense of self OUTSIDE of your work. Request some time off before you start your new job. Or plan ahead for a break between your current job and your search for the next one. This time will help you figure out what limits to set with yourself in your new position so you do not burn out again. (More about leaving your job in Part Three of this series.)

3. Just keep working.
You can keep working and ignore what is happening to your body and mind. If you stay at your job and do not make any changes, your burnout will increase in severity. Your physical and emotional health will decline. Your relationships will suffer. You will continue to feel less fulfilled.

I DO NOT suggest this option. You CAN choose option 1 or 2. People escape from burnout by taking action and making changes. You can regain joy and avoid a full collapse.

SCENARIO #4: Your workplace is toxic and bad for you

Are you constantly walking on egg shells, waiting for the other shoe to drop? Do you try to get your work done without interacting with most of the folks in your office? Do you find yourself feeling bad about yourself and your work?

If you have answered YES to one or more of these questions, you may be in a toxic workplace.

A workplace can feel rough and rocky — and yucky! — for periods of time, during a time of change or during difficult work projects. And organizations CAN change the way they work together and shift the workplace environment for the better.

It is also possible that the entire workplace feels toxic when it’s just one or two people who are bringing everyone down. Perhaps they are burned out or tired of their work. Perhaps they are going through personal struggles. Figure out if you are dealing with an organizational culture issue or a personal one.

Once you have figured out the source or sources of the stress and toxicity:

1. Talk to someone.
Start by talking privately with someone in a position of authority. Someone you TRUST. Someone you think can help. Prepare and have an honest conversation about what is going on. This can help. It may take a while and it may be a hard journey.

This could be a good starting place if you are still committed to the work and not in burnout.

2. Set up strong boundaries and outside supports.
Remind yourself who you are as a person, what you have set out to accomplish, and what you wish to achieve at your work. Then DO your work. Ignore and avoid the folks who are toxic and just DO your work. Cultivate a full, fruitful life outside of your job.

This works best if the work you’re doing is not deeply entangled with the folks who make you feel bad about yourself. This solution may work only for a short period of time — perhaps enough time to look for different work.

3. Leave the job.
That’s right — LEAVE! You have done good work. Pat yourself on your back. You did your best. Now go out and get a different job.

I know this is not quick and easy. I know it’s scary.

That’s why I’m devoting Part Three of this series to discussing what to do when you know you have to leave. Stay tuned!

If you are feeling stuck and overwhelmed and you do not know where to start, I provide practices for moving out of overwhelm and into action. Sign up for my monthly newsletter for tips and to receive updates about upcoming workshops – like The Room Next Door – where you’ll develop practices to help reduce your stress and find your joy.

By |March 19th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on When things aren’t working at work (Part Two)|

When things aren’t working at work (Part One)

What if you really, really don’t like where you work and it just isn’t getting better?

I have written quite a few posts on “making it work at work.” I’ve written about not defining yourself by your work, how to take breaks, how to ask for what you need, and how to survive in the job you have.

But what if all of those suggestions just aren’t enough?

What if everything in you is telling you to leave? Or perhaps a tiny voice is whispering… This is not good for you… not good.

Now, maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “But Annie, I love my job.” Or you like your job. Or perhaps you think your job is just fine. There is still something in this post for you. In life there are things we need to quit or stop doing because they are no longer good for us. So even if you love your job, read on.

If you’re reading this and you are stuck in a job you hate — this is a reminder that it is possible to enjoy your work!

There are four overarching reasons you may feel like quitting your job (or ending something major in your life):

1. It is really hard right now.

2. It was the right fit at some point, but now it’s not.

3. You are burned out.

4. Your workplace is toxic and bad for your heart, mind and body.

Does something on that list sound familiar? The first step is identifying that something is wrong. And then you can begin to look at why you feel like quitting. Maybe you’re not sure. Maybe you’re sure but you don’t know what to do about it. Stay tuned for Part Two of this series! We’ll unpack each of those reasons — and some possible solutions — in my next post. Because there ARE things you can do.

For now, here’s a good place to start:  Talk to someone outside of your job — someone you trust. Tell them how you are feeling. Figure out how to take more breaks during your workday. Perhaps you can even take a long weekend and spend some time enjoying nature. This will help for now.

And don’t forget to breathe.

Stay tuned for the next two posts in this series.

By |March 4th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on When things aren’t working at work (Part One)|

You are not your work

In the next few weeks I will be writing about making things “work at work.” I will give you thoughts and tips for coping and thriving in an intense workplace. In these blogs, I will be thinking about my amazing clients who work for non-profits and for-profits. Both are high stress jobs. Most places people work are stressful environments nowadays.

The basic equation looks like this:

Less money to hire employees + more work to be done = fewer employees doing more.

A lot of what happens in an organization is not in our control. However, we do play a role in team dynamics, our work product, our outlook, and our own stress management. In this series I will focus on the things we can control.

When your work is really hard…

projects stacking up all around you…
demands to do more with less…
unhappy clients and customers…
a gossipy, complaining co-worker…
a boss that does not understand your workload…
…these are the days you feel like you need to put your head down and just plow through.

These are the days you are heading toward burnout. Too many of these days in a row and it may be really hard to find anything good about your work.

This is a critical time. It is when you need a BIG reminder that you are NOT your work.

Say it out loud. Get in your car after work and declare:

I AM NOT MY WORK!

Even if you do work that does real good in this world — like growing food or teaching children:

I AM NOT MY WORK!

Even if you are really good at your work — like delivering the best service to grumpy customers or perfectly stitching up someone’s wound:

I AM NOT MY WORK!

Even if your primary work is raising your own children. They are very close to your own identity, but your children are not you.

I AM NOT MY PARENTING!

So then what?

Well, when the work is really tough (or even when it is peachy) a great way to stay sane is to do things outside your work and your family — things that will remind you of your “you-ness”.
Put the work down and do something for yourself. Something that makes you feel like you.

What if you don’t know what that is?

Start by spending a little time alone. Perhaps write about things you enjoy. What makes you feel cozy and content? What restores and energizes you? You’ll start to see the best ways to get in touch with you.

Here are a few activities that will help you remember you are more than your work:

  • A walk or bike ride by yourself
  • Time out for coffee or tea (without work, electronic devices, or media)
  • Lunch alone, away from your desk
  • A few extra minutes in bed in the morning to say hi to yourself
  • A quick chat with yourself in the mirror
  • Writing about anything that is not your work
  • A creative project you can work on for few moments each day — something just for you. (Knit a few rows, work on your bike, cook something yummy.)

Why do this?

Because taking a little bit of time away from the work and reconnecting to yourself reminds you that you are not your work.

Then, when you are at work and stuff is hitting the fan you can think:

“I am going to do my best with this, but you know what? How I do this work right now is not all there is and not all of who I am.”

That sense of separation from the work will increase your ability to actually do the work.

Wild? I know.

Now take yourself for a walk.

By |January 29th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on You are not your work|

Re-entry: Getting back to real life

Each New Year is full of opportunity. People breathe a sign of relief and say, “Thank goodness it’s the New Year!” At the same time we all talk about how quickly the last year went by. We feel a sense of excitement and anxiety as the year begins again.

When we come back to earth after the holidays, we must re-engage with our work. We also may be trying to re-establish a daily schedule or cut back on our sweets intake.
(Okay, I am trying to! AND I am trying to go for a few more walks…maybe even a run?)

The first weeks of a new year can deliver downtrodden feelings: “Oh well, here we go again.” Or: “Man, I am going to go back to this work?”  Or: “What am I doing with my life?”

But the beginning of a new year can also hold feelings of renewal and anticipation. We all have an opportunity to push the reset button. We may be thinking, “I can do this differently this time.”

I am finding it is important to pay attention to both of these tendencies in myself. Although I am deeply grateful for my daily work, it can be hard to go back after taking a break. At the same time, I am thankful for the reminder that we exist in cycles. I like that the end of each year brings a new year, just as every night holds the promise of a new day.

So how do we go back into the old work while holding on to a sense of the new?

I have two big thoughts and a quick checklist for you.

Give yourself more time

Re-entry takes more time than we allow ourselves — so does change. As you enter back into your routines, pay attention to your feelings. If you feel sluggish and find yourself asking, “Can I do this work again? This routine again?” and the answer is YES I can, then go slowly. Take it one step at a time.

Remember, even if the answer is YES you do not have to do things exactly the same way. (In later posts, I will revisit what to do when the answer is NO, I can’t keep doing this work.)

 

Choose something new, let go of something old

This re-entry period is a powerful time to clear out the old and usher in the new. Perhaps not in a full “New Year’s Resolution” sort of way (although if that works for you – go for it). No I am thinking about the big, big picture way of letting go of what no longer works well, and embracing new ways of being and doing.

Ask yourself what you want to change this year:
“How do I want to feel and act differently?  What do I want to let go of?
What do I want to embrace?”

This year I am letting go of other people’s expectations. (Okay, I am really going to work on this over time.)  And I am embracing the exquisite feeling of being cared for by people who love me.

Now for the practical advice!

How do you get back into work and life in this New Year?

Review your calendar

Clean up that calendar! I mean it. Clear out the clutter. Delete. Delete. Delete. Then add something that is in line with what you want to embrace.

Mine: Deleting most of my weekend “to do’s” and adding time with my partner on Saturday mornings, JUST US. (See how I did that… my letting go and embracing pieces are all up in my calendar!)
 

Pick ONE — and only one — new habit or routine.

Got lots of ideas for the New Year? Awesome! Capture them. Right them down.
Now pick one, ONLY one that is super duper doable. Tell some people about it. Do that. Start there.

Mine: Longer meditation in the morning four times a week. This is already something I do – I’m just adding 5 minutes to my meditation time. Doable.
 

Figure out one thing you love in your working life.

What is one thing you love about your work? Even if work is grimy and tough right now, what is one twinkle in the midst of it?  Write that down. Make it a mantra. Take it to work with you. Remember it on Monday mornings.

Mine: My clients. Really! I love working with my clients.
 

Indulge

Find one sweet lovely thing you already do that feeds your spirit, and keep on doing it! Some good probably came from those holiday indulgences. If so, keep it up. (Maybe in moderation… maybe not).

Mine: Some serious sleeping in on the weekends. (Sorry for those of you with kiddos, you may have to pick something different).
 

Take a few moments right now and ask yourself:

What do I want to let go of this year?

What do I want to embrace?

Choose one or two things and get started. Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. Take baby steps. You can do this.
Write an answer in the comments below or jump on over to my Facebook page and comment.

P.S. If you love to dig into process and self-help books and want a new way to work toward living out your goals, check out The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. It’s a great tool for your New Year reset.

Psst… For the next few months, I will be writing about how to deal with a work environment you do not love — or at least one that is exhausting and trying at times.

By |January 14th, 2015|Less Stress More Joy, Make Change|Comments Off on Re-entry: Getting back to real life|