How do you find time amidst the chaos?

Successful workaholics know exactly what company to keep on a hectic Tuesday afternoon…

Duncan at Home

Question to the workaholics out there –  how do you get back on track when you are completely consumed by work and personal commitments?

More to come on managing the chaos the Spring/Summer seems to bring…this workaholic fell off the balance bandwagon for about week and is hastily attempting to get back on track

Where did all the white space go?

After a couple of chaotic weeks, bouncing from one deliverable to the next – I sat back and thought to myself, “Where did all the white space go?”

Cry for Help and a Cliché
White Space AprilAre you one of those workaholic’s that is constantly fending off the constant borage of meetings, both meaningful and fruitless? How do you find time to get your actual job responsibilities accomplished? When do you take bio-breaks or even check emails?

It is a cliché these days, but we fundamentally lack essential white space on our calendars to get even the most basic of tasks completed—which inevitably takes more and more time away from non-work-related activities. As a seasoned workaholic, I sometimes drive home from work blurry-eyed only realize I hadn’t used the restroom all day or sometimes even have the urge to plop down on the elevator floor on my way out of the office—admittedly these are the days that should be labeled #cryforhelp

Taking Back the Space
I have read many articles, talked to trusted advisors and observed many experienced colleagues in action—and while company cultures vary and job responsibilities change, there are a few go-to tactics that I consistently utilize to take back my calendar.

Here are a few key tactics to try, so get your pen and paper out and be prepared to cut the proverbial cord with your Outlook, Google, or old school notebook calendar:

No Meeting Meetings – I have mastered the Calendarart of scheduling what I refer to as “no meeting” meetings on my calendar each morning.

These scheduled blocks of time often look like standard 1- to 2-hour meetings to anyone investigating my availability in Outlook. However, these are blocks of time I set aside for specific tasks, from checking emails to completing my own deliverables.

Don’t be a Pushover – being a “yes man” can make you feel like your organization’s knight in shining armor in the moment, but could ultimately suck you in like quick sand, quickly suffocating you and depriving you of free time. Again, another cliché, but you must learn to say “no”.

As a standard since my days in public accounting, I decline all meetings that do not contain a purpose or context into the “why” of the conversation. The intention is to compel colleagues to define the rationale behind the meeting, because all too often we are sucked into meetings that may be more an FYI, as opposed to actionable tasks—and in that case, it is best to utilize the power of an email.

Breaks by Design—one of the greatest pieces of advice I received in the way of time management came during my time at Amazon. This concept of taking 1-hour meetings and condensing them into 45 minutes and 30-minute meetings into 25 minutes—why? The answer: out of consideration your colleague’s Maslow needs, because who needs bio, email and sanity breaks in between a day littered with meetings?

Allowing yourself and your colleagues that 5 to 15 minute span of time to regroup between meetings allows for better prepared team members further downstream in the day. Why not give it a try and lead by example? Sure you’ll get a few awkward stares or even some raised eyebrows, but sometimes being a little peculiar is a good thing…it may just be the type of constructive disruption your organization needs.

We all have different learning styles and personalities, so if these do not resonate with you, hereBook are a few additional resources:
• Book—7 Habits of Highly Effective People – link to the book on Amazon (here)
• Article— 6 Things the most productive people do every day – Article Link Here 

At the end of the day, figuratively and literally, we all have to acknowledge and be sensitive to the fact that the most limited commodity in a work day is time.

When all else fails, get the heck out of dodge

“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you have been taking.” – Earl Wilson

 

What’s your last resort when you are in need of a break?  How about a little vacation–preferably somewhere sunny and warm after over 100 inches of snow in the last month

The miracle of this mini 5-day family-filled vacation for this workaholic is the fact that at this very moment, all real connections to work are approximately 2,000 miles north in my home office.  Goodbye laptop, goodbye daily status meetings, goodbye babysitting and hello freedom.

Sometimes no matter how you try and put a bandaid on the stresses of work, the only way to really hit the reset button–or sometimes feels like the panic button–is to pack your bags and get the heck out of dodge.  Out of sight, out of mind–out of luck unless you can truly unplug from the constant borage of emails, phone calls, meetings and multitasking.

Setting boundaries with bosses, coworkers and even loved ones may feel a little awkward for some workaholics and control freaks–like yours truly–but something as small as an out of office reply for your work email can help those needy worker bees self soothe in your absence but can also put your mind at rest.  I liken my out of office reply to a formal disclaimer—“expect delays” or even “I will return all emails upon my return” are glorious phrases that can send a clear signal to most professionals and while they may be envious, ultimately we all recognize the importance of a vacation.

The other key to cutting the cord with work–back up plans–while we all know we are entitled to utilize our allotted vacation time, sometimes it can be hard to imagine our team members providing guidance in our absence.  The truth- with so much red tape at work, the obvious fact you must realize: nothing will burn to the ground and people will survive.

My challenge over the last few months at a new company has been consistency and structure and somehow I felt this pit feeling in my stomach at the very thought of asking for time off, but the company survived pre-April and can certainly survive sans April for 3 working days. Luckily, I have a very supportive boss who recognizes that burn out is a real possibility without ample breaks from the organized chaos–and after working 80 hour weeks for several months while trying to balance a personal life, my burn out point was becoming visible on the near horizon.

If you are also a workaholic, do you have enough self awareness to identify the factors that contribute to or can see your burn out point?  A serious question you have to ask yourself before you come home one night from work and binge on ice cream, wine or chocolate and wake up feeling completely unrested and restless.

So you’re at the same juncture of being burnt out–now what?

Well luckily the Internet is full of wonderful outlets for vacation planning and deals, in addition to stay-cation ideas:

1. Cheap Carribean — yes I realize this sounds like an Internet scam, but after hearing stories from close friends who have taken the leap, I’m a believer (Website)

2. Trip Advisor– my vacation website staple for things from restaurants to the real scoop on hotels in every locale under the sun.  It may even be a great resource for stay-cation ideas in and around your area–new neighborhood gems pop up everyday

3. Why not try a blog for additional ideas?  Beats the office on WordPress is one of my favorites and why notj just take a look right? (Beats the Office website)

So let’s do this–I’m off to Florida for some family time and rest from my professional life–what are you waiting for?

In the words of Winnie the Pooh– TTFN

Junk in January

After watching an episode of Tiny House nation on FYI, I thought “I could certainly live that lifestyle” but after a glance in our upstairs closet–affectionately referred to as No Man’s Land in our house–I realized that we were fostering useless relics. Now I come from a long line of neat freaks and I can say that I’ve always been a fan of periodically purging but after 4 months of birthdays, Christmas, a new job and just no spare time, I thought it was only fitting to tackle No Man’s Land and several other sneaky hiding spots for all things clutter.

The timing wasn’t altogether coincidence, as part of my January no-spend challenge was to review and reassess. Why? As per several no-spend resources, it is helpful to go through your things, and I mean all your things, and determine what is needed, what makes you happy, and what items that had previously brought joy but had lost their luster. After 3 hours of going through the closet, every drawer, cabinet and bin, I had amassed a small pile of success on my dining room table. The scary truth of this expedition: I have plenty of personal items–further reinforcing the notion that mindless spending (pre no-spend challenge) was only adding to this mountain of purged household goods–otherwise known as a waste of money.

Part of the rebalancing act as a workaholic is to identify and conquer the crutches we all use to achieve temporary satisfaction that generally have no correlation to actual solution. Ever had a bad morning at work and decide you deserve a treat because the world has wronged you? (Hoping for honest internal monologues here) I am a guilty of this reward system and the result has been countless trips to Home Goods, Starbucks, Marshall’s and even Cupcake City (amazing cupcakes but not for this reason)–downstream impact: a house full of stuff–not meaningful, thoughtful tangible goods but rather visual confirmation that a rebalance is needed. My January no-spend challenge has forced me to find alternatives to sooth the sting of a hectic morning like taking a walk around the floor, or listening to classical music in our company’s sleep pods (amazing employee perk). It’s taken some getting used to but I’ve learned to appreciate just silence when it feels like the world is tumbling down. What a novel concept.

Next up- the miracle garment for every work out…

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