Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Getting the balance right

The work-life balance that is. Or, to be more accurate, the work-sleep balance.

As many friends will know, I've never been particularly good at keeping my workload within sensible limits or my job within a reasonable boundary. I am renowned for putting my work first and the rest of my life second, and not without just cause. I've joked that swine flu wrecked my marriage, but the point at which I let a phone call about Scotland's first swine flu case disrupt the 'make or break' discussion I was having with my now ex-husband probably was a bit of a tipping point.

So, I guess it's been no surprise that after a busy few days, or rather week, or make that fortnight - Heck, busy time since I came back from holiday - I find myself absolutely exhausted, with that scarey sick feeling in my stomach when I think about all the things I need to do this week, and how little time there actually is to do any of them.

I'm frequently heard to say that the seat of my pants is wearing very thin from all the flying they get. One answer may be, as suggested by an online friend, to buy thicker pants. Alternatively, I could try to manage my workload more successfully - but that isn't going to happen any time soon. I've been trying for years and haven't found the solution yet. I could try saying No to a few things, and I manage for a while but then my conscience and sense of responsibility get the better of me and I cave to the next request for 'just a little help'.

I could try changing my job for something less pressured, and believe me I seriously think about it on a regular basis. But I know that realistically I'm just likely to make my next job as full on as the one I have now - it's just in my nature.

So I'm left with me, and how I react to it all. Maybe I just need to try thinking myself calm and happy. Thinking myself not tired, enthused and energised instead. I tried it for a while today, and for a while it worked. I was able to see myself pleased with the challenges that lay ahead, excited about the important things we were doing. But keeping that going as I started the return 30 minute return journey home at 10pm, with my stomach thinking my throat had been cut and not an open fish and chip shop to be seen was more than I could manage.

I am dog tired. I have more work to do tomorrow than could reasonably be expected to be completed in a week. I have back to back meetings all day, including 2 off site and 30 minutes away from base. I will be shattered by the end of it, when I finish at 10 pm again tomorrow. And then I'll get up and do it all again on Thursday.

I need to learn how to pace myself, how to prioritise, how to say No, how to care less, how not to be the mug that always takes it on. Except, at the end of it all, I don't want to be that person. I care too much about what I do. It's important that it's done well and I'm not prepared to walk away with a job half done. So maybe my tactic of coping with it is the only realistic one. I just wish I could work out how...


Just Frances said...

Finding a balance can be so difficult. Before leaving my last job, I found my stress levels climbing higher and higher than they'd ever been before and I knew I needed to do something about it. But I also knew that in an economic climate that saw us laying off workers instead of hiring new ones, I would have a hard time delegating tasks. (On the contrary, I was taking on more and more work.)

A sense of duty and a large dose of guilt meant that I couldn't just 'not do' something, so I decided to find pockets of time to relax each day. I would take 2 minutes every day to just sit and do nothing. Really, I would just sit in my office and stare at the wall for a couple of minutes. It helped a bit. Also, I started taking lunch. Not every day, but 2-3 days a week. I would force myself out of the office to do something relaxing--often a trip to the museum or even out for a quick manicure.

Taking those moments didn't take away the stress, but they gave me some time to reflect and served as a reminder that I need to take time for me each day--or I would have ended up physically or mentally sick.

I hope you can find a balance soon!


Bex said...

Thanks for your wise words, Frances. I took your advice today and sneaked out at lunchtime for a visit to a quiet corner for half an hour or so.