9. Set a quitting time
‘Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. ‘– Anne Lamott
This is probably the most important tip that will go a long way to assist with managing your stress and break the pattern of working around the clock. Even before lockdown, the narrative in most articles focused on work/life balance. Well it was a myth then and it’s a myth now plus that was when work and life were in two separate geographic locations.
When you came home from work, you were still checking mails after hours and ‘just quickly’ working on that proposal when you should have been with the family or allowing yourself some down time. So it is vital that you set a quitting time at home during this period and make it clear when it is your work time and when it is your down time.
Otherwise, the day becomes a monotonous cycle of work and trying to manage the family. Setting a quitting time is for you as well as them.
It was bad enough you had guilt when you weren’t home all day. You decide what your quitting time is and then give yourself permission to put the laptop and phone down. Do an activity you enjoy, play with the kids, get outside, read a book but give yourself the go-ahead to transition into your recovery time. Maybe you only have 15 minutes because you have to make dinner or get the kids ready for bed but remember to incorporate those daily acts of kindness.
Lockdown is challenging enough as it is but to feel shameful when you are not ‘being productive’ after hours, will drive you insane and make this period unbearable. Another consideration is that you are probably not achieving as much as you would in a typical day because you have to contend with family at home despite not having travel time. Accept it. Don’t start the internal narrative that you don’t deserve to switch off because it felt like you achieved nothing in the day.
Be realistic with your expectations of what can physically be tackled in a day.
The more you can set boundaries and set up your work time for maximum progress, the happier you will feel.
10. Define the output
“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” – Greg McKeon
Working around the clock has become a pandemic within the pandemic. People have adopted a ‘performance anxiety’ mind-set. This need to constantly be online and in front of their machines to ‘prove’ to their colleagues and the powers that be that they are in fact working. There is a massive fear of coming across as slacking off or not being productive because they didn’t respond to an email within 4 minutes or something ridiculous.
If you are nodding in agreement – it’s time to change your ways! I know it’s a very challenging time and there is huge fear about having to show commitment to the job and really prove how you are showing up during this time and that’s great. However it is possible to show your leadership abilities and manage your time in a more constructive way.
Set up a daily meeting with your team to define the priorities for the week and what specific actions need to happen daily and weekly. Once you are clear on your deliverables and outputs, then schedule into your calendar when you will work on those.
Being ‘always on’ and working around the clock does not necessarily mean you are being productive. Taking strategic time to work on what really matters and delivering on your commitments is what is going to get you noticed and recognised.
I would also suggest you reach out to your direct manager and discuss with them how you intend to manage your work. Let them know you are committed and you will ensure that the work happens. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your deliverables but honestly when you do them within the workday should not matter.
We are in new times and require new ways of being and doing. Also bear in mind the new circumstances of family at home including kid’s online lessons and schooling, etc.
So realistically, if you need to do your walk at 9am because it makes the house run smoothly then do that. Figure out what’s going to work for you in your unique structure and not hold yourself hostage to ‘This is how I should be doing it’. At this point, you still cannot have the mind-set that’s it’s the same, you are just working from home.
Once you have figured out what works for you, then set boundaries and explain to the people you work with – I am committed to the work and will show up and give 100% daily but you won’t get hold of me between 9am and 10am or whatever. You are entitled to have lunch somewhere besides your desk. You are allowed to go and do homework with your kids or speak to a family member as long as you are delivering what’s expected of you within the agreed time frame.
Now remember to act with kindness towards yourself and actually schedule these activities into your calendar. Once you have clarified expectations and can focus on your specific objectives, you can release yourself from the behaviours that are just not truly serving you – or anyone else for that matter.