Tag Archive for burnout

Finding Balance When You Want to Wear Flip-Flops

Successfully balancing work and life are always challenging, yet finding your equilibrium in high heels can be even more challenging as attitudes shift during the summer months.  The entire work world seems to redirect a certain amount of focus toward summer life style and vacation, and you might find you want to swap your high heels for your flip-flops.

There are unique circumstances to consider in the summer as you plan to take vacation, do more at work while someone else is on vacation and possibly juggle out-of-school children while maintaining your normal work schedule.  Let’s dig our toes into the sand and ponder how you can take advantage of this time to improve your work-life balance.

It’s summer, so the pace at work will likely slow down a bit.  At the same time, there will likely be fewer people pulling the weight at the office.  You and your co-workers will renegotiate the office work load to be sure everything is covered and your client needs are being met.

Nothing is more frustrating for a customer or client to find out that a deliverable is on hold while their primary contact is on vacation.  With planning, a team can cover for each other and allow everyone to go on vacation with peace of mind to enjoy a complete break from the office.

As the pace slows, take this time to assess how well you are balancing your busy work and home life.  Seriously take stock and ask yourself if you tend to overschedule, find it hard to ask for help or let go of control at work and at home.  Self-awareness will go a long way toward helping you find your work-life balance.

As the pace slows, you can also time to assess your own schedule, everything you do and why, and start to dream about the life design you want.  Life is too short to do something just because you were asked or you have a hard time saying no.  If everything seems important, you need to learn how to identify the real priorities and be satisfied with your achievements.

Your day-to-day mental health is paramount.  If you begin experiencing increased fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, anxiety, anger or insomnia, it’s time to make yourself the highest priority.  When it comes to taking care of yourself, you need to take time to connect with others.  Ask yourself if you’re spending time with people and doing the activities that provide support or that undermine support, then do what’s needed to invest in yourself and create more relationships and situations that support you.

To take more time for yourself, you will need to take something off your plate.  Realistically, ask yourself what would you be willing to take off your plate?  If you took that thing off your plate, what would you be willing to do for yourself?  This is the only way to take actionable steps toward assessing your work-life balance and creating change.

Finding equilibrium and knowing when to take off your high heels and put on your flip-flops is best achieved when you avoid being the martyr or sacrificing yourself when you need to be delegating and asking for help.  When you do for others that which they can rightly do for themselves, you rob them of opportunities to raise their self-esteem and sense of competence.

In addition to your colleagues at work, use this strategy at home with the kids.  Think about having a summer chore list – having a family plan for everyday household tasks will teach your children a great life lesson.  We all need to feel needed – even kids need to know that they are contributing.  By not doing everything for them and having them contribute in age appropriate ways, your children will have their own sense of accomplishment.

The regular school/academic year calendar has a faster pace for everyone, whether you have children at home or not, so take advantage of this opportunity to slow down your pace.  If you do have children at home, it’s beneficial for you to slow down the pace with them.  Remember work will always be there tomorrow.  In the meantime, life is waiting.  Whether you’re wearing your high heels or your flip-flops, take time to enjoy the summer — reflect, vacation and spend time with the people and doing the activities that give you pleasure.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at kay@highheeledsuccess.com, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

Time Wasters – What’s Behind the Problem?

How long is your ‘To Do’ list?  More importantly, how long do the items on your ‘To Do’ list remain incomplete?  That’s a pretty tough question to answer honestly.  Our lists are only as useful as our ability to use them as an effective tool.  When we continue to add items to our list, rewrite them, categorize and recategorize them, but never accomplish our goals, it’s a problem.  As our list grows, stress and pressure tend to show up and take over; often unannounced and uninvited.  And that’s never a good thing.  As the tension mounts, we can become master procrastinators who have a very large chest of creative time wasters to avoid facing the stress.

If we dissect the actual word procrastinate, ‘pro’ means forward, and ‘crastinate’ means tomorrow.  It literally means favoring tomorrow as a better time for doing something.  When procrastinating getting to important responsibilities and tasks, we often fill our time with doing busy work.  An endless array of seemingly ‘urgent’ things need to ‘get done’ before we get to the work at hand.  Have you ever justified that something must be urgently done before beginning your ‘real’ work?  Things like cleaning a filing cabinet, desk drawers, running an important errand, going through email, or if you work from home, the endless call of housework can all produce the illusion of productivity.  We are deluded into thinking we are getting so much done because we are busy.  We try to convince ourselves that mindless activities and being busy equate to being industrious.  But, who are we kidding?  We can be very busy checking social media, but it is by no means productive.  So what keeps us ‘busy’ and procrastinating, instead of being truly productive?  There are some very strong underlying issues behind putting things off, and it’s important to identify and understand them in order to move beyond them.  In working with women who face procrastination issues, I’ve identified four recurring themes:  fear, indecision, boundary issues and feeling overwhelmed.  Let’s explore.

Fear is the most aggressive promoter of procrastination.  When a sizeable or high-profile project, presentation or campaign lies ahead, it can be daunting.  Fear creeps in our heads in the form of ‘what if’s’.  What if I don’t know how to do a certain part of the project and get stuck?  Some women fear that asking for help may be a sign of weakness, and poorly reflect on her leadership skills.  Fear also rears its ugly head when we can’t completely envision the finished product.  When the end game is out of focus, sometimes we fear we will miss something important, or make a lot of mistakes getting to the finish line.  The ultimate ‘what if’ fear is, ‘what if the job I do isn’t good enough?’  This is a fear of being ‘found out’ that we are really a fraud, or not quite the talented individual others believed us to be.

Together, these fears grip our psyche and can crush our spirit.  If we allow fear to overtake our thinking, the daunting feeling can paralyze us into oppressive procrastination.  The only thing that seems to shake people into action is a looming deadline or a worse fear of being perceived as incompetent.  However, these are negative motivators, and while they may force action, they also cause enormous stress.  Over time, that type of repetitive cycle can be harmful to our health, careers, and mental well-being.

Indecision often goes hand in hand with fear as an underlying reason for procrastination.  Every facet of our lives requires so many decisions, often on a daily basis, like ‘what am I going to make for dinner?’   Financial choices; spouse, family and children issues; health care; how we will spend our free time; and of course work and career decisions continually present themselves.  If the decision has potential life-changing implications, it can be a complex process to think through.  For example, if deciding between a career change, going back to school, or starting your own business; the decision factors and possible outcomes are almost innumerable. You could almost ‘what if’ yourself to death under the weight of the decision.  The ultimate ‘what if’ many people fear is ‘what if I make the wrong choice, and the outcome is less than perfect.  Then what?’  Some people think the wrong choice is almost worse than not making any change at all.  When the pain of our current only slightly uncomfortable, we can become complacent and rather than taking a risk, we remain indecisive.  The problem with indecision is that it can be a perpetual or very long term form of procrastination, and typically results in a fairly mediocre existence.  When you are inactive or stuck in an indecisive mode, you remain stagnant due to a lack of opportunities to grow.

Boundary issues can also really compound procrastination.  When we allow others to impose tasks upon us, or we feel obligated to help (when it’s not our job, or because we are a people pleaser), or we have trouble saying ‘no’; our to-do list can grow much bigger than our capacity.  Taking on others’ work is different from pushing ourselves to accomplish our own goals in that an outside force is now creating additional pressure.  Our own pressure, we can control to some degree.  However; when we take on the responsibility of others because of our own doormat-like behavior, the stress of it decreases both our capacity and our self-dignity.  Instead of holding our own, and owning our outcomes, not maintaining boundaries makes us beholding to others.  Being beholding is different than reporting to or answering to your manager, which is a relationship of give and take.  No, in a boundary-less situation where we are beholding to another, we give and give, but receive no benefit in return.  On the contrary, we receive only negatives; no affirmation, no formalized recognition, a decreased sense of self-worth, and less time for the things we need to accomplish.  This cycle lends itself perfectly to procrastinating doing the things on our own to do list or desk.

Lastly, the problem of feeling overwhelmed triggers one of two responses.  People either leap into action when their plate is full or feel paralyzed because they don’t know where to begin.  You’ve probably sat on each side of this table at one point or another.  People with organization or motivation issues frequently struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed.  The messages in their mind say “I don’t know where to begin,” or “I’m so far behind, I’ll never catch up. Why bother?”  This type of procrastination is one of the most difficult to overcome because it breeds anxiety.  The cycle can then become vicious; feeling overwhelmed – anxiety – depression – inaction and procrastination.

And to bring it full circle, when we procrastinate, we engage in time wasting activities that make us feel productive or busy, but which ultimately do not help us achieve our goals.  Granted many procrastination activities are not bad in and of themselves; it’s just that when they consistently take over as a top priority, it becomes a time waster and a problem.

In this issue of the newsletter, Kay’s Corner offers some actionable steps to assist in combating procrastination.  I have worked with many women on this issue.  If you feel you need to dig deeper on this issue, I’d be happy to work through it with you as well.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288  or connect with me via email at Kay@highheeledsuccess.com so we can make a plan to move from procrastination to productivity together!

The Art of Self-Care; Lessons from Michelangelo and Painting the Sistine Chapel

How fast, how much, how high? From an early age we are measured by our achievements. From first words as a baby and sporting accomplishments as an adolescent and teen, to top grades in high school and college and how high the salary at the coveted job – we are measured, judged and evaluated. Messages from social media, management, self-improvement books, and prominent business people or publications encourage raising the bar, achieving your greatest potential, and place ‘best in class’ on a pedestal.

Goal setting and accomplishments are important, but we need to balance and evaluate the toll they take on our personal life and health. Letting ‘how many’ or ‘how high’ define and rule our lives can lead to significant, and sometimes life-altering burnout. When we feel over-worked, stressed out or trapped, it’s time to see what we can let go, and take steps toward self-care. Over the years, I’ve discovered three behaviors that pose the greatest risk to self-care for my clients; 1) being prone to perfectionism, 2) taking on too much and 3) have difficulty relinquishing control (lest someone else doesn’t do it as well, or worse, does it better!) This is nothing new for humans, nor is it unique to women. Let’s explore a lesson in history to learn how detrimental these behaviors can be when taken to the extreme.

It took four years for Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Although completed centuries ago, he exhibited the same self-sabotaging behaviors enumerated above in his approach. They are fairly easy to identify.

Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint a fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1508; a vaulted structure almost half the length of a football field and 15 feet wide. Michelangelo had never painted anything in his life; sculpture was his primary art form. After reluctantly agreeing the task, and reviewing the ceiling, he sketched a composition that was to include 300 figures in the finished fresco. Never working with this medium, he recruited other accomplished fresco artists to demonstrate the technique on the ceiling, but not liking their procedure, he sent them away and decided to do it his own way. He constructed a scaffolding of his own after not liking the one provided, and painted in a standing position with his head continually bent backwards. He worked hard, and slept little.

After completing the first section, he took the scaffolding down and reviewed it from below. Upon finding it was too small, he reproduced the entire work. Although he did take a significant break in 1510, he over scrutinized his completed work during that time. (Note: the break was due to a disagreement with the Pope, not for relaxation or self-care). Finding numerous areas to improve upon, he set about finishing his work to correct any perceived imperfections in the first section. Even after finishing the masterpiece, he never considered himself a painter. Michelangelo developed significant health issues as a result of painting the massive fresco, which included a goiter, going half blind, significant back issues, and arthritis.

In this extreme example, it is very easy to identify Michelangelo’s perfectionist tendencies; building his own scaffolding, not using proven fresco techniques or the help of accomplished artists, complete reproduction of a finished work and nitpicking his own skills. Let’s compare his behavior with some common modern world example in the workplace:

  1. Creating a new work procedure without input from others, which equates to the “I know best” syndrome.
  2. Scrapping our work and effort or that of a co-worker because it’s not ‘good enough’ and going back to a blank canvas.
  3. Going through every detail with a scrutinizing mentality to find fault.
  4. Dismissing anyone who doesn’t measure up or meet your standards.

Perfectionism is one of the most detrimental and common roadblocks not only to self-care, but ironically to success as well. Perfectionist tendencies not only deplete our own energy; they are exhausting for the people around us because they take up a considerable amount of time and effort. A manager with perfectionist tendencies has the potential to breed a culture of fear in an organization, create a ‘watch-your-back’ mentality, and completely demotivate a team; none of which lead to success. In addition to physical fatigue, it can be mentally draining as well. Consumed with getting it right or presenting flawless work detracts from things that bring joy, the mental capacity to focus on things we like, and true accomplishment.

It’s plain to see that Michelangelo took on too much, the second most common factor contributing to burn out and not taking care of ourselves. Can you imagine saying ‘sure I’ll paint a 5,00 square feet vaulted ceiling’? While we don’t sabotage ourselves to that degree, our own ‘taking-on-too-much’ tendencies show up in over-scheduling our families and ourselves at work and in our personal lives. Going from one thing to the next makes us feel like a mouse in a maze, and sorry is the poor soul that gets in our way. We can begin to think we should be able to do everything well, and paint others into a box when we expect the same of them, or get angry when they are inefficient or not quick enough.

The problem with taking on too much is that we are so focused on what and when we have things to do, that we can’t see beyond our calendars and to-do lists. It’s all too easy to see how taking on too much impacted Michelangelo. He slept little, suffered much discomfort during the process, and ended up with horrible physical ailments as a result of his work. In modern-day society, our over committing creates a continuous sense of urgency and stress for ourselves, our families and co-workers; and health hazards which can include physical reactions to stress like numbness, stroke, or a heart attack.

Lastly, not relinquishing control can be the final brush stroke of self-sabotage. During the initial work, Michelangelo hired assistants to help him paint, but became frustrated with their efforts and fired them all for not meeting his standards. To his credit, he did keep some of them on to mix paints and plaster. Perhaps he could have taken a month or two to mentor one of them, and ultimately cut his worktime down significantly. Instead, he took all work upon himself and encountered intense disagreements with the Pope Julius II about the finish date; suffered the setback of recreating a huge portion of the mold-damaged work (alone); and put other projects on hold.

When we refuse to ask for help, delegate tasks, and keep everything under our direct government, we will eventually run out of creativity, patience and sanity. Our rationales for not delegating are similar to the plague of perfectionism; we think we are the only one capable of the work, and of doing it just right. While it can be hard to let go of control at work and home, in the end, delegating contributes to working strategically and intelligently. We also provide the opportunity for others to grow and shine.

Delegating, letting go of perfectionism, and not taking on too much requires us to slow down a bit. It necessitates taking stock of the people in our professional and personal lives, and appreciating the palettes of qualities and skills they bring to the big picture. Further, when we delegate it not only reduces stress, it builds relationships and allows us to show our true colors to people; to be real with them. When we are our true selves, and allow people to bring their abilities to the forefront it is easier to let go of perfectionism. When we delegate, we appreciate. Taking things off our plate allows us margin for taking care of ourselves, and the opportunity to be thankful for the gifts and efforts of others.

After doing the hard work of letting go in some areas, you will also have more time to rest and rejuvenate. Read Kay’s Corner to discover three ways you can begin positive habits of self-care.