By Karen Young
Here we are, nine months into a new world order. Like you, I have had a myriad of thoughts about the situation we find ourselves in, but also like you, I have to keep moving forward with business, work, and life. Nothing has really changed on those fronts in that work issues need to be addressed; personal issues still try to interfere with work; and decisions need made every day. I am energized professionally and personally by the unique challenges this year has presented. At the same time, I am drained. Really drained.
But why? Googling “Why am I so drained right now?” provides a slew of health reasons. Well, I am healthy and I am sleeping well (probably better than ever because I am drained). I am not dehydrated (that can do odd things to a person) since I drink at least 96 ounces of water a day. And I don’t have COVID-19. Passed that test!
So, what is it? There is one significant change that I can point to on my calendar that is completely different from “Pre-C” (my affectionate reference to all things prior to March 13, 2020). There are no breaks in my day.
I look at my calendar and I do not see breaks in my day. I go from a client call, to another work task, to a Zoom meeting, to a Teams call, then a GoToMeeting call. Maybe then I’ll grab lunch but will catch up on emails while I’m eating just so I can catch the next Zoom call, complete the project that I started a few days ago, hop on the next Teams call, and respond to the “other” Team chats in which I am a “guest.” Then I journal what I accomplished today and start planning for tomorrow.
Does that sound familiar to you? If you add in managing kids doing virtual school (bless the parents and teachers), the chances of a break are even lower!
When I look back to Pre-C days, I see how breaks were more automatically built in to my day. For example, I would drive to a client appointment instead of having a virtual appointment. In that scenario, I would have a break when driving to the meeting and another break driving back to the office. Two breaks when I was not attached to my computer.
So, what do we do? I have implemented a few ground rules that have helped me fight against chronic drain. Maybe you will find some of these to be helpful as we continue to adapt.
Start your day with a time of quiet. I begin each day with devotions and it has changed my life. Maybe for you it is quiet meditation, deep breathing, 15 minutes with a good book. Whatever it is, settle your mind to better position yourself for the day.
Spend a little time on yourself. Check personal emails and catch up on Facebook. Do those little things that can be a big distraction and drain on your time and your energy. Take time to reflect on what you are grateful for and looking forward to in your day.
Plan your day. Think about what you want to focus on today and what you will likely be able to focus on today. (The two may not always be the same!) Be realistic. Identify three to five priorities you want to accomplish and write them down.
Check your work email. Did you notice that this does not happen until I am grounded and the day is somewhat structured?
At this point, I am two hours into my day: one hour for me, one hour for planning and reviewing emails. I have been following this routine for almost two years now and am convinced that is part of what led HRR to 22% growth in 2019.
During the day, I am committing to trying a few things to help me reduce that constant and nagging feeling of being drained.
Limit how many times I check email. Right now, I am committed to checking it no more than four times a day with the goal of ultimately checking it no more than three times a day. (I physically cringed when I typed that! You?)
Scheduling breaks every day. Breaks should have equal standing on my calendar along with everything else. I am committing to scheduling at least one break every day. I am also going to take an actual break for lunch – no email catch-up allowed!
Be strategic and intentional with meetings. Ideally, I would like to limit myself to no more than three video meetings a day. This one is hard in the business of HR, where we desperately miss face-to-face interaction with our clients. But days filled with meetings never felt right Pre-C; jumping from one meeting to the next on our screens now is not going to feel any better or more productive.
Have a hard stop to my day. This is one I’m already good at! My business day is done no later than 6 p.m. each day, frankly, because my brain cannot take any more plus most of our clients are closed by that time as well. This defining end to the day can be challenging when working from home, but it is critical to achieving balance and maintaining energy levels.
I have now shared my goals publicly, now let me turn the tables a bit: What are or can you be doing to reduce the overwhelming drain many of us are facing these days? My goals and intentions may not work for you and that’s perfectly OK. What works for you may be inconceivable for me. The main takeaway is to take a breath, evaluate where you are and where you would like to be, and then implement the strategies that work for you and the demands you face each day.
By Karen Young
Karen Young is the award-winning founder of HR Resolutions and author Amazon’s Hot New Release in Human Resources, “Stop Knocking on My Door; Drama Free HR to Help Grow Your Business.” She works side by side with her clients to create workplaces where employees WANT to come to work ~ every day! Since opening her firm, she has become a regular speaker on numerous HR topics on a national basis. Karen helps professionals navigate the day-to-day challenges or employees, employment regulations and more. By sharing her passion for all things HR, she engages and entertains while helping audiences recognize the importance of effective Human Resources. You can reach her at (717) 652- 5187 or Karen@hrresolutions.com.
Featured in Commercial Real Estate Review – Fourth Quarter 2020