‘I simply had no capacity left, overwhelmed with exhaustion being pulled in different directions, I knew something had to give and so I made the call’
Have you always had a history of being a strong performer? When you started out in your career it wasn't about how high you could get but rather about doing a good job and being recognised for it. However, over time your commitment and ability got noticed and consequently, your level of responsibility and role took an upward trajectory. And at times you’ve actively sought additional work, hungry for more variety, fresh challenges and new career opportunities.
And as your career grows, your personal life brings with it new experiences and demands, all of which come with their own ‘to do’ list. Getting married, raising a family, having pets, home renovations, looking after elderly family members. The ability to integrate all the different aspects of our life and keep all the plates spinning can become overwhelming and even take us to burnout.
Historically, we have been socialised to associate busyness with financial success. Farmers were more successful the greater their yields, field workers rewarded by the amount they picked. In the industrial era, people would be paid by piecemeal, by each piece they produced. We start to see the association of busyness with competence reinforced with famous quotes like this from Benjamin Franklin "if you want something done, ask a busy person." Moving forward with the rise of popular business models which encourage efficiency, low-cost income ratios and lean structure all indirectly have glorified busyness. We even have started to use it in our greetings, ’how are you today… I’m really busy, how about you?’
And so with this back context, it is not surprising that we struggle to ask for support, or to push back and say we can’t help with that unexpected project or accept that meeting request. We fear the consequence of saying no, how it will impact our reputation, our relationships our career possibilities. Instead, we say yes, we click accept, we stay up later, get up earlier and press pause on our self-care.
As we face growing and conflicting demands on our time in an ever-increasing pace of life, what do we need to do to adjust with these growing demands? What do we need to keep our battery charged? As a company grows we support it with more people, with automation and systems, but as we take on more as individuals what are we doing to strengthen our infrastructure? As a company evolves there are areas of the business that change or products that are discontinued. If we apply this to ourselves what are the things in our life that we no longer need to do or can outsource. Where can we ask for help?
However, do you struggle to ask for help? We have a tendency to think we have to figure out any problems on our own. Perhaps you consider asking for help as a sign of weakness or maybe you don’t reach out to others as we don’t want to be a burden and maybe you are finding it even harder to ask for help when everyone’s life has been turned upside down as we adjust to living with a global pandemic. But connecting with others and supporting one another is in our make-up we are after all pack animals.
What do we need to do to change this? Here are five ways in which I am learning to take back control
1. Take an internal focus and understand what we need to charge our battery to be able to cope with the ever-demanding pressures of life. Ask yourself what do you need to be able to function from a physical, emotional, relationship perspective. Take a proactive approach to manage your needs and yes this does mean putting yourself first and not at the end of the queue, because if you have nothing to give you can’t help those you love. The great analogy of putting your own oxygen mask on before you help your kids comes to mind.
2. Learn to recognize the signs when your battery is running low. Do you get snappy, do you withdrawal, do you turn into a control freak and try and do it all yourself. Learn to recognise the signs when you are struggling, this is your body's way of telling you it's time to recharge. Go back and ask yourself what are you not taking care of with your physical, emotional and relationship needs. What do you need to do to charge the battery?
3. Let go of things that are not yours. Are there things you are taking on, which either don’t sit with you or don’t serve any purpose? What is really causing you to retain these activities? Is this your comfort zone or is it a case that you don’t trust someone else to do it to the level you require? Ask you self how holding on to these activities are serving you.
4. Build a ‘no’ statement. Often our problem can be that we are caught off guard with a request to do something, which either isn’t, our responsibility and/or we don’t have the capacity and we aren’t prepared to push back. Think about the likely different scenarios and practice your no statements. A technique which works for me when I have been asked to do something it that I am clear of the implications, for example, “I am at full capacity at the moment, if you want me to pick this up, I will not be able to do xxxx or xxxx will be delayed by a week.” And then be silent! Let them digest and take on board the importance of the situation and let them come up with the solution. If you have tolerated something in the past and now need this to change, you need to start with the acknowledgement that you have contributed to the problem. Consider something along the lines of “I know I have been picking up xxxx for you but this is not something I am able or willing to do any longer as I do not have the capacity, but also this is something that falls within your role and you need to get comfortable doing.”
5. Develop your test question. We can often impose a sense of urgency on items that they have to be done today and that we can switch off until then. But in reality, that's simply not the case. Develop a test question that helps you apply reality, for example, mine is "what's the worst that can happen if this doesn't get done today?" Start to become aware of when it is you that is putting the pressure on.
Through understanding what you need to charge your battery you are taking a preventive approach, by being aware of how you react when you are nearing empty and using these tools to deal with in the moment pressures on our time we can start to bring about changes and uncover how we are contributing to our own busyness. What is one thing you can do that will help you take control?
If you are finding work is consuming your life and you have no work, personal life integration, maybe it is time to ask for help. Acknowledgement is the first step to change. If you would like to no more about how I can help you, then I invite you to book in for a free introductory call.
If you found this useful you may enjoy the following blogs.