Constantly pushing ourselves to do the best job and to deliver excellent results is great in a lot of ways. We need motivation and energy to be able to deliver at work and to motivate the people around us.
So, when does pushing yourself become too much? When does being motivated too achieve, backfire on you?
I work with a lot of impressive people and what I've noticed about people who want to make a big difference, who want to do a great job, and who know they've got the capability to deliver great results, is that they can push themselves to hard. Not only that, they can give themselves an incredibly tough time for not doing what they expect of themselves. They tend to work ridiculously hard, they are focused on what they must achieve, and they tend to have unrealistically high expectations of themselves.
Working like this can serve a person well, until it doesn’t. What often tends to happen, is in pushing themselves to the limits, to do the very best job, they slip down the rabbit hole. The one where things don’t make quite so much sense, where they question their decision making, and where thinking straight, and staying calm, can become a distant memory. So, what do they do? They work harder. If there’s other outside pressures added on top, this can lead to unhealthy levels of stress too, which longer term, can lead to bigger issues.
So, when you’ve got to the point where that wonderful clarity of thought that you once had has diminished, where you’re questioning your ability to do the job, and where everything seems a bit more overwhelming than it did, what do you do? You don’t work longer hours – most of the time that’s totally counterproductive but it’s what I see people tending to do.
Here’s five great ways to help you take control:
1.Take time out
Often the hardest thing to do yet the most important, is simply stopping and taking time out. When your brain is fried, your body is tired, and you’re running on fumes, you’re not going to be working productively. Fact. It’s like expecting Maserati performance from a Ford engine, it’s just not going to happen. Whether it’s a day, a week, or a month, taking time off to refuel, to de-stress, and to get some head space is normally one of the best ways to get yourself back to a fighting fit state again.
2. Look after yourself
In our 24/7 world where we’re faced with pressure on all sides, the one person we often forget to look after is ourselves. Especially if we’ve historically been bionic, and our expectations of ourselves have been pretty high. For many people, to create more time, hobbies go out the window, exercise is ditched, friends are a thing of the past, and sleep is impacted. Once again, this is all counterproductive. If your body and mind aren’t being looked after, how do you expect to deal with all the demands you’re facing? It’s the old “put your own oxygen mask on first” advice.
3. Stop beating yourself up
People are great at this, some are better than others. When we’re under pressure or feeling overwhelmed, we seem to get better at giving ourselves a hard time for not ‘getting it right’. In what way is that helpful? The fact is, it just erodes our confidence and moves us further away from achieving what we need to.
Whether you’re learning a new way of working, figuring out how to do a new job, managing a challenging project or change, dealing with something you haven’t faced before, or you’re just not on you’re A-game, letting your inner critic run a muck is not going to help you. You need to fight back and when you notice yourself being self-critical, remind yourself that it’s not helping, and move on. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get.
4. Create space for reflection
We often think that by working working working, we’ll finally find the answers. However, your brain doesn’t like being worked to death, it’s more of a fan of flexible working. It needs down time to do it’s best thinking. Whether that’s in a coffee shop, a walk in the park, some meditation, a swim, it’s often when you’re relaxing that you have the most creative and insightful ideas. So, stop sitting at your desk thinking that’s where all of the awesome ideas will flourish – step out of the office. And if you’re one of those people who think presenteeism and being seen in the office at all times is important, get a grip. The world has moved on.
5. Make a plan
So much of what we do is driven by autopilot. Our brains like efficiency and so the more it can repeat the better. When we’re super busy or have a lot on our plate, we can end up being reactive to what’s going on around us, rather than focusing on what needs to be done longer term. That’s why having an idea of where you’re heading with a simple plan to back it up, can keep you (and your team), heading in the right direction. So, when you’ve got some headspace, think about where you’re heading and on one page, get down what you need to do to get there. Speak to other people about it to get their ideas if you can. Get yourself and your mind organised.
Natasha Wallace is the founder of The Disruptive Coach (www.thedisruptivecoach.com), a new generation leadership development company focusing on behavioural development and a human-centred approach to business.