I like to be the best at everything! To do my best at everything. To know that when I walk away I ‘left it all on the field’ (as we tell our 8-year-old son for his soccer games). Being a mom, a wife, a daughter, an employee, and a volunteer at many things is hard sometimes.
I get to the end of the night or the week and look back and feel like I just tried to make it through instead of giving it my best. Usually on days or weeks like this I have lost my focus. There are three things I try to do to keep this in perspective… but as I stated above… ‘the struggle is real’ and I’m not always great at it. Hopefully this post can help us all to remember and keep perspective more often.
First – It’s okay to not be the best at everything.
This is so hard for me. I’m a very competitive person. I had someone tell me one time that “if you are a working mother it is a work/life sacrifice. Something has to give in one direction or the other.”
I remember this statement really upsetting me. I don’t want to think my kids or my employer is suffering because of the other tasks I have in my life. I want to be my best at everything! While I respect the person that said this to me, I respectfully disagree. It is a work/life integration. Each part can make the other better than if you didn’t have each part. The part to work on is to manage the integration.
I recently went through a leadership training as an employee of GE where we worked on a number of things that had us thinking about our work/life integration. One of the exercises that stands out to me was where we made a list of our priorities. We made a pie chart and labeled each slice as a piece of our lives (family, faith, work, money, health, etc.).
Then we charted in each pie slice how important it was to us and then how much we have anxiety about each piece. Mine was really out of whack. I was spending more time concerned and worried for the least important pieces. I was spending a lot more time and effort on the less important priorities.
While all pieces are important this type of practice can really make you realize how to manage the work/life integration and keep in focus on the things that matter. It’s okay to not be the best at everything but you can be the best at managing the integration.
Second – Be smart in how you use technology and your ‘need’ information.
Information overload—trying to take in and respond to too much information—can cause forgetfulness, fatigue, and difficulty with focus, says psychologist and attention expert Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD, author of Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload.
FastCompany recently ran an article, Information overload is Killing Your Attention Span and Here’s How To Fix It, that had these seven key points. I’ll let you read the article to find out more but I will add my own take on some of these and practices I have put in place to help.
- Adjust Your Focus – use news sources that are helpful and not a distraction. Try to find tools that dynamically generate content based on ‘who’ you are instead of ALL information. Social media can be great for this however you have to do ‘clean up’ every once in a while, or it becomes overload. For example, in Facebook… I can lose myself for hours… if I find a post is distracting and not helpful (or a ‘friend’) I choose to hide it from my timeline. Filters like this exist more and more… we need to take charge and take steps to clean up what we see and help keep our focus.
- Be Your Own Gatekeeper – another tip I learned from Hank is to have ‘bookends’. I don’t look at my phone (or a screen for that matter) 40 minutes before bed and when I get up in the morning I delay it as long as possible. Stretch, go through my ‘thank you’ list, go for a run… and then look. At first this does not seem like a good idea. I had the worst sleep ever…. I was addicted. After 4 pretty restless nights I made it and now am able to sleep so much better and turn it off.
- Vet Your Sources – we all know not to trust everything we read.
- Retrain Your Contacts – we do not have to answer instantly. I actually had to retrain my mom…. Once she got her smartphone she would worry if I didn’t respond instantly. I started a practice where I only pick up my phone to text, check social 4 times a day. After my morning jog, lunch, dinner, and 45 min before bedtime (refer to #2 on how this can only be for 5 minutes).
- Limit Unnecessary Interruptions – Again like #1. Really try to structure your sources to be specific to you and what you should be spending time on.
- Stop Multitasking – most of the time we are not great at this and it does not help.
- Take Breaks – It is good to have some ‘me time’. Like I said earlier I run most days. I don’t LOVE running but it is the only time where I can clear my thoughts, no one needs anything from me during this time, and I can readjust my focus and priorities. Which leads me to my final ‘help’.
Lastly – Remember there is something bigger than you.
As mentioned… more times than not when I go for a run I am able to step outside of the day-to-day and remember that life is so much bigger than this one worry or one moment in time. It might be your family… it might be your faith…. It might be your ‘cause in life’. Whatever it is that is your top priority or top couple of priorities…. these are what matters.
Most of the time our worry and anxiety or frustration do not come from these top priorities. In fact, when we look at these top priorities in the light of being frustrated it can change things instantly! I wrote a blog recently on ‘what is your passion?’. I truly think that if we do a self-check on this question and we are able to really come up with our inner core answer…. the ‘why’ we do everything we do; we would see things in a whole new light. Find your ‘me’ time everyday so you can self-assess and do this.
The struggle is real… we can get so caught up in the little things. We can feel so much pressure from having to do it all these days… we forget about the bigger, top priorities in our lives. Hopefully I was able to share some steps I take in my own life and something resonated to help you. Feel empowered… we can help ourselves. Our lives are amazing! We are in charge of implementing practices and taking the right steps to ensure we enjoy the wonderful lives we truly do have.
If loved this article, come meet me in person in Toronto at the 2017 Top Talent Summit on May 24-25 where I’ll open my book to share all my employer branding secrets with you in my keynote titled “The Story of Employment Brand at GE… We have no idea how we got here?!“