No matter the reason a client comes to coaching, it seems that the conversation eventually comes around to the topic of work-life balance. Clients say that their work assignments and to-do lists overwhelm their lives. The endless demands of their jobs drain their energy and creativity, leaving them little time for other life pursuits.
This is career clutter.
Like the TV show Hoarders, I was once a cluttered hoarder in my professional life. I couldn’t say no to anything and I said yes to everything. The nickname for my office was “grand central station,” because there was a constant stream of colleagues coming through. I worked 10 hours per day during the work week (with an hour commute each way), then I’d add another 8-10 hours of working at home on the weekends.
What happens to us when our careers are cluttered? It doesn’t take too long before we start to feel overwhelmed, disorganized, and in that state of mind where we fear there is more to do than can ever be done.
At some point, we make a conscious decision to get it under control. Just like cleaning your cluttered garage, attic or basement, career clutter cannot be resolved in one day. I started with a small step – working from home on Fridays, which immediately saved two hours a week in commuting time. Next I made a commitment to myself to stop working on the weekends and to turn off my work e-mail from my phone during weekends. That helped to de-clutter my brain so I could get some cognitive space from work-related stressors. I decided to delegate more to my subordinates, which often involved the difficult process of letting go of some projects in which I was deeply invested.
It was tough, but two years later I’m much less stressed, more organized, and more in touch with what my priorities and passions are for my career.
Recently a fellow coach, Dana Platin, co-facilitated a workshop with me. The goals of the workshop were to assist clients to de-clutter and organize professional commitments, and identify areas to regain balance, both at work and between work and personal life. Participants completed a worksheet: How Did You Spend Your Time? This worksheet is attached for anyone reading this blog who wants take the first step in de-cluttering their career. For one week, write down all of your career and professional activities, including meetings (scheduled and unscheduled), e-mails, administration, staff management, work on projects/budgets/writing, commuting, networking, trainings, etc.
Check the Foresight Blog in the coming weeks for the next step in the De-clutter Your Career series, where I’ll explain how the worksheet can be used to make decisions about your most valuable resource: your time.
Big Ideas in Small Bites
Have you ever been at a restaurant, casually reviewing the menu and chatting with your companion, when the waitress presents you with a complimentary, bite-sized appetizer? Known as an amuse-bouche, the chef provides this tasty sample as a preview of her talents and offerings as a practitioner.
One famous New York City chef describes the amuse-bouche as the best way to express "big ideas in small bites."
I came across this description of the amuse-bouche as I was mentally preparing to launch the Foresight Blog, and I felt it was the perfect analogy for this new creative undertaking. Certainly, I am under no pretense that brief, weekly thoughts and commentary are sufficient to make substantial change in our lives. If only it was that easy! Just as the chef sends out a bite-sized sample to provide a glimpse of her big ideas, so too can this blog be a place of sampling and exploring. The Foresight Blog is a venue where we begin our conversation; where I bring to you some big ideas in small bites and you (hopefully) find yourself wanting more.
Those of you in my social network know that my field is change, and my focus is on workplace, careers and academics. I believe that change is very personal, often occurring at the interface of our relationships with others and ourselves. Many times we articulate change in terms of a goal or desired future state, such as "I want a career that's more fulfilling" or "I want more time to focus on my priorities." Sometimes change is forced upon us, perhaps an encroaching deadline or a job transfer.
But what do we really know about change and how to make it stick in our lives? What can we learn from research, from practitioners, from storytelling, and from our own lives that provides insights into making real change in the pursuit of our goals and aspirations? How do we make a vision for our future into a new reality?
I invite you to join me for a weekly small tasting of big ideas about how to change our daily lives for the better and illuminate the path of change. You can follow the Foresight Blog on the website, www.theforesightcoach.com, or by clicking “like” on the Foresight Coaching Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/foresightcoaching.
Welcome and enjoy these small bites.