As I sit here today, with the kids at school for the first time in six months and me ready to 100% focus on work in what feels like forever, I am reflecting on just how crazy these past few months have been.
The guilt of using video games as a surrogate parent so I could get that elusive “one more thing” done . . . kids banging on my office door as I met with clients by Zoom. . . negotiating duties with my husband (and trying hard not to resent him when I wound up shouldering more of the load).
Clients, colleagues, and friends trying to figure out how to juggle work, downsizing, kids’ school and all the uncertainty.
All of us wanting to continue to excel in our work, but also feeling torn between that and being there for our family and what’s best for them.
Lots of craziness, when you think about it. The “new normal”. There’s much to appreciate as well, don’t get me wrong.
I am a leadership and resilience coach. I know all the things to do to take care of yourself, remain calm and positive, and manage your time wisely.
Still, these past few months threw me off-centre. It’s been many ups and downs figuring out how to navigate business and kids at home.
But I have the beauty of contrast between “struggling and thriving” today versus my old ways of “struggling and just barely getting by” . . . or my old favorite saying “I’m fine” (but not really).
A few years ago, I worked all the time. When I was not working, I was thinking about work. It was negatively affecting my relationship with my husband and three kids.
So, in the busiest time in my corporate career, I stopped working outside of business hours, learned how to say no, and focused my time. And since then, I have discovered how to quiet my mind and actually be present.
One stressor I had not overcome (and just avoided with my excellent boundaries) was working and kids AT THE SAME TIME. This stressed me out. I felt like I did a crappy job at both. So I just avoided it.
WELL, that all changed (like it did for you) when boundaries between work and home became seriously blurred. I had to be more intentional to remain balanced, not fall into old bad habits, and continue to run my business.
What did I not do? I did NOT start working evenings and weekends again to fit it all in. Because I know better now.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that when you make your well-being and a sense of balance the priority (even when things feel chaotic), you perform at a whole new, higher level.
When you take time to recharge and meet your needs, you are more productive, more patient, think more clearly, make better decisions, have more energy . . . every single outcome improves.
So, do these next few weeks and months have to be a grind?
The simple answer is no. Life is a choice and you have more choice than you might realize.
Focusing on yourself and making well-being a priority is a game-changer. And counterintuitive. It can save a lot of unnecessary stress for you, your team and your family.
It’s often the small changes in your mindset and actions that make the biggest difference.
Here are six ways that can help you be calm and still perform even with all the uncertainty.
1. Honor your values.
What’s important to you? Where are you steering your ship in the storm? The more you align your actions with your values, the more fulfilled and energy you’ll feel – it will literally pull you forward even in hard times and makes those tough decisions where to spend your time and energy easier.
2. Set hard boundaries between your work and home time.
Plan to stick to them, no matter what. You’ll make better decisions where you do spend your time during the workday and give yourself space to recharge and enjoy your family time. There will always be exceptions, but what’s your norm?
3. Manage your energy, not your time.
Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, so if you need a walk to clear your head or time to meditate or need a breather, take it. Give yourself permission to do the things that make you feel good and you’ll be more productive and calm.
4. Focus on making the best use of your time and say no to everything else.
You can’t possibly do it all, so accept reduced output in exchange for greater impact on the things that move the needle. Ask yourself, “if I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?” Instead of feeling guilty for saying no, think of it as you are saying yes to the things that really matter, at work and at home.
5. Leave some buffer and breathing space.
I can’t stress this enough! You don’t know when your kids will be home or what will change, so give yourself some breathing room. You will likely need more space for time to catch-up or the unexpected events . . . because they will happen.
6. Cut yourself some slack.
Be kind to yourself and stop beating yourself up for what you did or didn’t do. You’re doing your best, appreciate what is good and tomorrow is a new day. Besides, being hard on yourself just wastes your precious energy that could be used for something else!
Finally, as Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind”. With all of this, how do you want to show up? How do you want to feel? What do you need to do to make that happen? Let that guide your choices.
Every single day I’ll ask myself these questions. And, most days, I do show up in the way I want.
And those days or moments when I am definitely not showing up as my best (like when I, for the first time, flipped my kid the bird because he was yelling at me while I was on the phone) . . . I let it go and move on ?
Working parents – we’ve got this!
Stacey L. Olson is a leadership coach, working with busy leaders who want to slow down, be more balanced and stress less so they can perform even better, lead even stronger and enjoy life a whole lot more. You can sign up for Stacey’s free workshop series to discover how to focus your time and balance your life (without sacrificing performance) here.