SHOW DATE: JULY 3, 2013
It’s easy to tell yourself to slow down when you’re overloaded with work. You know that if you don’t take a deep breath and relax, you might get so overwhelmed that you’ll shut down, or explode, or (worse yet) dramatically decrease your level of productivity. But slowing down is easier said than done, and most of the time, the advice is dismissed. So let’s try something more drastic: slow down, or you will lose everything. Your job, your co-workers, your family, your friends. All gone. Did that catch your attention? Good, now let’s move on.
So you’re one of those people who wears their busyness as a badge of courage. When a friend approaches you and asks you to join them on a night out, a little martyr in your head jumps for joy as you say, “I’m too busy, I’ve got too much work tonight.” You’re proud to be constantly busy. After all, it’s a natural stamp of success. But what you’re not aware of is that you’re close to a tipping point where being very busy can quickly topple over into being overwhelmed.
Remember those times when your life job rapidly transformed from being pleasantly full of things to do, to engulfing you in its hideous jaws of anxiety and exhaustion? It’s those moments when you are neck-deep not only in your own work, but other people’s work, their problems, your problems, approaching deadlines, unhappy family and friends etc. It’s at those moments when you get awfully close to cashing in your chips, getting on a plane and flying off to Rio to teach island kids some English. But some time passes, urgent issues get resolved and in a day or two you’re back to your busy, buzzing self.
What you don’t realize here is that you’re in denial. You sit on your emotions until they blow like a volcano—you burn out. And that’s damaging (unproductive) to everybody around you, as well as your health. You are alienating those around you who can actually help you achieve balance. But here’s some good news: you can be busy, successful and calm. You don’t have to burn out. Here are a few pointers to get you on your way:
1) Avoid bad advice: quit your job. Get a new career. Change your environment. Anyone who says this, IGNORE THEM. You love what you do, why should you give it up? This is not a geography problem, it’s a you problem.
2) Acknowledge your problem and get organized: ok, who let the psychotherapist in? Seriously, though, accept that you have a problem—you don’t know when (or how) to relax. Organize your thoughts and write them down. Why can’t you take a break every once in a while? Why do you leave it up to fate to decide when that tipping point occurs? Why aren’t you preparing for the busy season? And now that your thoughts are organized, why aren’t you asking for help?
3) Ask for help, don’t be afraid to be a cog: go ahead, ask. If you’re emotionally and physically drained from work and you’re having a meltdown, ask your friends and family for help—a fun night out, a family get-together, a simple dinner. That’s why they’re there. At work, allocate some tasks to your co-workers. You don’t have to be a one-man show. Are you afraid that if you don’t do everything yourself you will be a simple cog in the wheel? That you won’t be Superman? Let’s try taking out a small cog from a mechanical watch. What do you think will happen? Shift your perspective—without you, things will stop working. But that cog can’t function alone. Asking for help is the key to giving yourself time to cool down and move ahead.
4) Moving ahead: you dream of being big like Gates. But what you have to keep in mind is that things will only get busier and more stressful as you grow, and time and stress management are only going to get more important. Ask for help, know your function (and when to go outside of it) and take a breather every now and then—you’re not Superman, but you can definitely perform at his level once you know that you have to slow down and take a deep breathe once in a while. (Try this as well.)
By Aleksandr Smechov