Time to chill, even for a minute is so important to be quiet and get in touch with you and with your inner peace and calm, or, let’s be honest, even your inner crazy. The world of chores, business, expectations, take us literally up and away from so many delighter opportunities if we let that happen.
I was laid off after 26 years at my telecom company where I was a high functioning Project Manager over Implementation of large Voice and Data networks for strategic companies. I loved my work, I loved most of my customers, I loved putting out fires and calming nerves, getting everybody to play nice in the sandbox. I loved making it fun, business should always have some fun in it. I especially loved pulling rabbits out of hats and numerous times making the near impossible actually happen for my customer. But I did not enjoy the long hours at all. I only rarely had times where I could take a break. And my health suffered after 2 straight years of working 16+ hour days, 7 days a week, including every holiday too. Ironically, even being so very sick as I was, I had too much work to stop and take sick leave so I kept on working, but gained a full appreciation for cutting it way down wherever that was possible and focusing way more on me time.
While I (thankfully) did not have someone standing over me demanding those hours out of me, as some of us do, I was, nevertheless ‘overemployed’ as I have named it.
It is a very tricky place to be. So here is what I see, the nut of it. If you work for a large corporation, as I did, they will use you up, just keep squeezing that tube of paste until it all comes out. Regardless of how your direct manager feels about you, he can only protect you so long. Once you hit 50 your days are numbered. You need a back up plan. But way ahead of this, you need to spend some time on a daily/weekly basis, just focusing on yourself and personal items and pleasures. Getting in touch with who you are and finding your passions is paramount. Many lead you to new revenue streams which diversify those eggs that may all be sitting in one corporate employer basket. We go around once and our life should be about life and living not working for the man, no matter how rewarding it may be.
I was exemplary at my job, had perhaps 4 sick days since 2000, was a team player, got along with everybody, my customers loved me and although we had a health plan, I personally had not ever used anything other than dental cleaning twice annually, a few pairs of glasses and a checkup every 8-10 years. That’s it. Cheap! When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I located a volunteer organization to shuttle her to most of her daily radiation appointments, thus maintaining my presence and my focus on work. When my brother was sick with Cancer I did a similar thing to remain focused on the workload.
My mother and brother are now dead and I was just laid off in February. Nope, nothing is permanent, particularly our time with loved ones.
So what I am saying is that, no matter who you are, how young and vibrant you feel, how dedicated and loyal you are or how reasonably paid you are or how little you cost the company in healthcare etc, or how greatly motivated and stellar at working autonomously with little to no need for a manager to, well, manage you, your days are indeed numbered. Most importantly, your time on earth is. So why not stop, smell those flowers and get some me time in?
The issues is that so many of us find ourselves being paid for an 8 hour day but feel stuck doing way more because this has become an accepted expectation. If a man beats his wife and his wife goes along with that, guess what? That man now believes that beating his wife is accepted behaviour because that behaviour is being allowed when it should not be. The beat down is still there, just in a different form. Each one of us has our limits, our line in the sand. I am asking that you find yours and then do what you can personally do to assure that line stops getting rubbed out. Only you have the power to do this, to enforce your line.
Depending upon the company, I have seen folks mandated to work a set amount of non paid overtime hours. I find even the idea of this expectation rude. My husband works for such a company. While they love him, and that’s all great, he is exceedingly over worked. To my mind, we want to be productive at work, get the job done and well. That stated, if we have a rare opportunity to cut out early one day out of the month then why the heck not do that?
For my personal situation, I had no help, I was knee deep in my clients kimchi, and was brilliantly stuck sideways doing the hours if I wanted to assure that what was on my plate didn’t blow up for my customer and, ultimately me. To stop work would mean failure and nobody was going to ultimately realize the truth of it, that it was enough work for 3 people so 3 should have been hired. No, rather, it would have become a black eye for me.
I know a lot of you are in this camp, on this mission, paddling this same boat. While we may rarely feel like it, in these moments, I am telling you right now that we are in control of our choices. If enough of us scale our work back, we win more personal time in our day. Frankly, if we are doing the job of 2 people, another person should be hired and that is a mismanagement issue not an underachieving employee one. For each employee who routinely works a 12 or 16 hour day, that is the same as taking one full time job away from someone who needs work.
Work to life balance has been a buzzword for years. But so much of what I see is just the words spoken with no real meat of intention behind them. I see open door policies that really aren’t open at all, because they are not really open for change. I once reported (anonymous) an issue to our ethics hotline. They were zero help, they told me to contact HR. HR was zero help, they wanted me to discuss the concern with my director and offered to set a meeting up. I was also advised that I should go back to my manager even though the concern wasn’t about me, not even about a member of my direct team and was not about anybody that rolled up under my new director. It was about policy being flagrantly ignored that could lead to a lawsuit! Two people that I knew of had been recently denied their bereavement time. My suggestion to HR, was for the company to send out a refresher to all management on policies. Don’t single anybody out, just mandate that all managers refresh themselves on the policies in place and then refresh their teams too. Everybody on the same level playing field knowing what the rules are. Those in violation of said rules would be educated and further transgressions minimized but this refresher would absolutely open a logical door up to single those folks out the next time they denied their staff bereavement or comp time etc.
Sometimes you are purely in a situation where, regardless of intentions, you are not going to fix what is broken. You are, however, always in control of how you think, feel and act. I will always look out for justice being done to people and animals but for those individuals, my advise was to brush up their resume’s and move on because nobody cared to listen.
If you feel stuck, just look for ways to create space in your day for you, even if it is just a ten minute break with a cup of tea and a book. Scheduling times you check email and times you do other work really helps too. We don’t have to be engaged in email all day long. Pick and choose your battles, what must happen today and what could wait until tomorrow, so that you can locate some kind of stopping point for your day and finally rest. Feed yourself healthy food, drink water, get up from your desk and move around every few hours. Deep leg thrombosis IS a thing and it can kill.
When all is said and done, you take yourself with you wherever you go, so it is vital that you and your health come first. Whatever company you work for, I can pretty much guarantee the corp is putting itself first. Copy that and put yourself as priority #1! If you have poor management, where things are broken and nobody cares to fix that, don’t stress over it. Bring it up the once. If you don’t gain an ear take that as your clue to move on. Try not to take it personally if you get no place with some advise. Be thankful for the paycheck and do your best but get your resume updated and out the door as you continue to still work there. Try hard not to put yourself in a situation where you may end up bitter. If you are going to be bitter at working 12+ hour days, then just don’t do it. Leave instead if you must. Our lives are insane enough without adding bitter to the flavor. And be patient, things can take time, but persevere. Take a long look at your skills and how those translate to other opportunities. Sometimes we feel stuck when really, we only need to look at ourselves (and our situation) with fresh eyes.