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Are you giving everything at work? Perhaps you shouldn't...

I wonder if the culture surrounding giving everything at work is changing. We read about the quiet quitting phenomenon (read Are you or your team quiet quitting?) and the post covid work fatigue, and yet amongst my clients it seems that the more familiar place remains - working super hard, being flat out, crazy busy, giving it their all, giving it 110%, leaving nothing in the changing room, on the table - itappears to reign large in corporations around the world.

I, for one, worked so so hard in my corporate career. I felt it was my duty, my responsibility and exactly what was expected of me, and what I signed up for. I wore my dogged dedication and my tiredness as a badge of honour, along with the long hours, late nights, stress, worry and overthinking.

I find it interesting to now reflect that actually my company never asked these things of me. They asked for my skills, my time within reason, my commitment and some specific results. I figured that out only in my latter years with them – and yes, I thrived in a way that had been alien to me until then.

How is it that my company, my team, colleagues and all my professional relationships benefitted from me not giving them everything of me?

Let’s start with a simple fact.

You are a finite resource.

As humans we cannot make time, we cannot extend or stretch it. Our bodies and our minds are not able to excel, or even function effectively, under consistent poor conditions. Ultimately, if those poor circumstances continue unchecked, we will all falter.

The container analogy is similar to that of the aeroplane oxygen mask (which you know is one of my favourites). The container was shared with me by lovely Steve Hoblyn as I attended one of his sessions on mental health. It resonated and therefore it stuck, and I share it now with clients. You are the container – life and work make demands of you, of your resources, and energy is therefore expended. This part we all seem rather good at… the striving, the going the extra mile. And that’s all great, provided we are taking note and addressing the levels in our barrel.

So frequently we do not assign any importance to replenishing. Our container contents is, however, finite – just as a water dispenser at the end of a bar, it will run dry if left unattended. Perhaps one of the complications is our uniqueness – were we all carbon copies of each other, there would be a standard formula on how and when we replenish. We could perhaps, better understand each other and our collective needs and as such be better at keeping our containers nice and topped up.

However, we all need different things – introverts need fewer people to recharge, extroverts need the group, as just one example. We so often delay and downplay the importance of the replenish – I can get to it later, I’m fine, I can cope; and so often it is the career that we use as the reason – we simply are too busy, and of course we are so needed and instrumental…

If you are going to be your best in a demanding job, if you are going to be effective and energised, you have to invest some time in taking care of you. If you neglect you, everything else will drop away. Dr. Bill Mitchell

Ultimately if you are not willing to draw your own red lines, your boundaries, about what is and is not conducive for your effectiveness in the workplace - your company will lose out. You cannot be effective, efficient, creative, innovative, rational, agile, willing to experiment, communicative, strategic, empathetic, fully present, effectively vulnerable, and insert anything else you deem important as a leader or expert contributor, if your cup runneth dry.

If you don't make time for your wellness, you'll be forced to make time for your illness. Anonymous

How then can we help ourselves? Here’s some ideas for action:

Stake in the ground.

Be honest about what the reality is right now.

Are you in overload or overwhelm?

“Overload – having too much to do but still feeling in control. The best response is to reprioritise your work.” [1]

“Overwhelm – feeling a loss of control and reacting emotionally. The best response is to reflect on your reactions and what you could do differently.” [2]

Understand what works for you.

My toolbox may be different to yours, so start by reflecting on how and when you best replenish. What actions contribute? Is it through rest? Activity? Exercise? Connection with others? With nature? Alone with a book?

Spend some actual time defining where you find joy.

Next reflect on how you make these a priority. Where does your boundary line need to be?

Connection and communication.

When you have defined where you are, and you have reflected what tools and strategies work for you, you enter the tough zone. Doing something different and making it stick.

Practice is the only way we form new habits and behaviours. It’s tediously true. And it’s so incredibly hard and so much easier not to bother and to stick with what we have always done.

It’s at this point involving others can make a huge difference. A loved one or friend, a coach, a trusted colleague, or group of colleagues. There is power in accountability, shared stories and shared purpose. Find that person or people who will support you.

Continue in the good times.

Brilliant, so you have done all of this, and things have improved. This is danger zone number 2, because it is here that so many of us then stop – because it’s sorted, right?

And of course, I am that person too, not perfect in any way! I ease up on the all the good stuff when I am flying high, thinking I am nailing it… and it takes a choppy few days to remind me that my toolbox needs regular attention and works best with routine maintenance rather than an emergency call out at 2am.

So please consider the question: are you giving everything at work? Or are you creating and holding boundaries that ensure when you are at work you are alert, energised, present and fully engaged? It’s one of those rare win-win situations. For you personally, and for those in your personal life, it’s obvious benefits; perhaps less acknowledged is how your employer would benefit in how you show up, how you lead and contribute, in who you become.

If you are curious about how I can work with you , you can speak to me directly, you can book a free initial 30 minute coaching session with me here and there's no hassling from me if it's a no thanks after that.

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[1] & [2] Squiggly Careers Podcast Episode 252 and 253

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