We’ve all been there. Whether you’re moving into a new house, preparing to have a child, getting married, supporting a sick family member, or going back to school, finding a practical strategy for managing your workload is crucial. Big life changes happen to everyone and take up a surprising amount of mental (and often physical) energy. This can lead to difficulty managing and balancing personal responsibilities with work responsibilities. Finding a good balance can be a real challenge, especially if you’re already feeling like you’re drowning under the pressure of managing it all.
If you respond to the change early and take steps to prepare yourself, you’ll be much better off in the long run. Below is a list of five things you can do to help you succeed at pulling off that big life change while staying on top of work.
1. Communicate with your team
So much of what creates a strong team is clear expectations. Be sure to communicate with them about what they can expect from you during this period of change. If you’re unsure, then communicate that—often. All they’ll need to know is that some things may be different for a while.
It can be tempting to keep life changes close to the chest. They’re personal and can take vulnerability to talk about—even if it’s something positive. But you don’t have to share everything with your team to get them on the same page. Sharing just enough to let them know you may have limited availability or might be slower to respond is all they need to adjust their expectations.
2. Set weekly priorities
Ever have a big task to get done and find yourself doing everything but that task? It’s a common experience. When we feel overwhelmed, many of us get sucked into busy work instead. Maybe it’s because we want to distract ourselves from the anxiety of the Big Task, or maybe it’s because we have a buildup of energy (excitement, anxiety, stress). You don’t want to find yourself cleaning out all the random files on your computer when you need to spend time on a big project with a deadline fast approaching.
At the start of the week, make a list of everything you want to get done. Then make a list of everything from your first list that you must get done. Breaking out your priorities in this way helps clarify what you should spend your time on each day. Make sure to spend a few minutes every day prioritizing what’s on your list so you can keep your eye on the target throughout the week.
3. Block out your time
Excellent time management is a huge part of successfully managing a life change in the workplace. Block out time on your calendar to protect your priorities from being encroached upon. Time blocking is a great practice for:
- Creating accountability
- Providing uninterrupted periods of highly focused time
- Communicating with your team about what you’re working on
- Protecting your time from filling up with meetings
At the beginning of every week, review your top priorities and add blocks of time into your calendar for each priority you’ve outlined. Doing this will allow you to relax into your week; knowing that you’ve set aside enough time to get everything done will help you focus on the task at hand.
4. Ask for support
Whether it’s from your boss, coworkers, or friends, asking for help during a time of change can make or break your success. The truth is most of us can’t do everything all the time. Admitting to yourself what your capabilities are and then asking your community for support can get you through the most challenging periods of change. At some time or another, we all need a little help. Big life changes take a lot of energy and time, so there’s no better, more qualified time to ask for help.
5. Lean on your boundaries
For people pleasers or those who have difficulty saying no, periods of big life changes can be especially hectic. If you are tempted to take on another project or offer up your time to a coworker or friend, ask yourself if it’s reasonable, given the context of your current life. It can be hard to make the mental switch between ‘this is my normal life’ and ‘this time in my life is especially difficult,’ even if you have a good reason.
We want to be able to function the same no matter what we’re going through. But you won’t thank yourself if you have that same mentality in the middle of a big transition. Even if you have the time, do you have the mental capacity to take on something new? Chances are, you don’t.
So, practice saying no until you can trust yourself to do so when it counts. You’ll thank yourself in the end.
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Photo by jankovoy