I was working with a client today, and she said something that really stuck with me: “What is 100% Effort?” She was talking about work, of course, rather than say, training for a marathon, although I suppose the same conversation could be had about any of it.
What she was driving at was the notion that she doesn’t know when to stop. She’s looking to drastically change her career, but just because she’s made that decision doesn’t mean she immediately stops caring about her current company, company mission or her professional reputation.
I grappled with this when I left my job and life as a financial services event professional at the end of 2011. I had been with the company for nearly 6 years and essentially ‘grew up’ there. I worked hard, earned some great opportunities and learned a ton. So just because I decided that wasn’t the life for me didn’t mean I stopped caring overnight! And given my more central role in the company/division, I wasn’t about to leave anyone high and dry.
Me as a Financial Services event planner back in 2009 at our pension fund football event. Yes, really.
So what my client said this morning to me really took me back and put me back in those shoes- of caring for many reasons but wanting to move on. How do you go at a pace that allows you to straddle current responsibilities and frankly caring about something with moving on to a better opportunity for where you are in your life now?
Obviously everyone’s blueprint to work through this will differ based on company culture, function in the organization, etc, but the point is that all of ya’ll working through this- this notion of ‘what is 100%? and where do I stop?” should be thought of in a way that supports both your long terms goals (MOVE ON!) and short term goals (DO THE TEAM A SOLID!) And the other point I’ll make is that coming up with a plan – and WRITING IT DOWN- will be key. A lot of times we just ‘think about it vaguely’ or don’t put intention behind it and then we walk into the office and get railroaded by requests or demands, leaving us drained and unable to focus on our next move or next phase once the workday ends.
Here are some approaches – a combo of ideas I used in my transition and things my clients have used in theirs:
1. Boundaries & Mindset: This is huge, and is absolutely the place where everyone must start when considering a plan like this. Questions like:
- When does my workday begin and end?
- What will I do if there’s yet another firedrill ‘demanding’ I stay longer or log in at night?
- Which meetings are absolutely necessary and which am I invited to but have no real impact? (That happens SO much!)
- How will I communicate I will not attend in those ‘unnecessary meetings’ situations?
- If I work in an environment where everything is urgent, how will I prioritize and most importantly, communicate to the person bringing the urgency my plan for addressing the urgency? (e.g. delegate, give a time when you’ll get back to them, etc)
- Can I work from home or remotely one day per week to cut out commute time?
- If I feel overwhelmed by requests or uncertainty, what practice will I put in place to right myself? (e.g. go for a walk, use a meditation app, get out of the office, go to the nearby coffee shop and get a cookie (that’s what I used to do!))
- What is my intention for the beginning of the day? Can I write that down in a notebook and review it each day?
- How can I set myself up for success for the next work day? (e.g. physical space cleaned up, to-do list set, etc?)
2. Priorities: List out the various projects you’re on or the various things you’re responsible for. Keep it broad buckets/broad brushstrokes. Now pick the top 3 and put a proverbial stake in the ground or line in the sand. An example would be, “I’m going to spend 90% of my time and energy on the top 3 priorities.” Then, you have some time left over for the rest of the lesser important things. If you have a boss or manager who is constantly moving the needle, try and have a frank talk with them about this. Don’t make it about you and your time, though, but instead think about it in terms of the impact you’ll have if you’re able to focus on x, y and z rather than a,b,c,d,z,y,x. Put it in terms of the biz when you talk to your manager and come to the table with solutions for how the remainder of the lesser important stuff will be handled.
3. Track It. So just because you’d spend 90% of your time on those TPS reports doesn’t mean it magically happens You gotta put the intention out there and the work toward it. But if you don’t have a stopwatch in your head, use something like Toggl that will help you easily track your time.
4. Weekly (or Bi-weekly) Check Ins. Look at your tracking reports (maybe from Toggl if you choose) and how you’ve done getting the top x priorities handled. Did it work? What needs to be recalibrated? How did you feel doing it this way?
5. Openness: This one depends on your work environment. I’m not about to tell you to march in somewhere and let them know the real deal. The client I mentioned at the beginning has a very open environment where they encourage open dialogue about moving on and finding new opportunities- and they mean it. If this sounds like your company, you can always approach your manager and give ’em the skinny. Then come up with an exit plan or a racheting down plan that works for you AND them.
Bottom line: whatever you take from the above perspective, know that having any plan at all is the key point I want you to take away from this. When you just go into the workday or work week willy nilly, you can tend be eaten up by the tidal wave that is the workday at many companies and in many industries. Having the right mindset and setting boundaries and checking in on your plan can go a long way to keeping you sane while you straddle the two worlds of keeping up with your current work while finding work that feeds your soul long term.