My attitude at work has changed dramatically over the last few weeks: previously, when asked how I was getting on, I would struggle to describe the intense environment in which I work without feeling as if I was trying to elicit sympathy for my struggles. However, more recently, I can confidently respond with a more positive outlook – I feel as if I have work figured out a bit more, and so I am able to manage myself better, and almost enjoy it at times! I haven’t changed jobs; I’ve changed my perspective.I used to feel as if I needed to control everyone and everything around me, as if I was personally responsible for everything associated with my projects and my far-reaching role as the project manager. That all changed when I began reading Brene Brown a few months ago, and more recently, Anne-Marie Slaughter – I realised that I was living almost entirely without boundaries in my efforts to be the ‘Ideal Employee’ – the one that works late, says yes to everything, and is always willing to go the extra mile. However, rather than feeling proud of my accomplishments as I would push to be seen as ever-enthusiastic, I would instead feel resentful that I was being pushed beyond my limits, without any appreciation for these efforts.
I experienced the breakthrough one evening, as I was given yet another task late in the day, to change something I thought I’d already completed, and I felt that weight of responsibility that meant I would need to stay late now to get this finished. As soon as that thought popped into my head, a question mark suddenly appeared – why? Why do I need to stay late? People change things all the time, people will ask more of me all the time, but unless something is critically vital for that exact moment, why do I now need to sacrifice my evening to get it done?
Suddenly it was as if light appeared through dark clouds – and I realise how obvious this is now but at the time it felt like a revelation – I can’t control what other people ask of me, but I can control how I manage their requests. I don’t have to say Yes to everything, in fact, sometimes I need to say No so that I can finish doing what I started. I don’t have to always go the extra mile – I can choose which mile will really make the difference. I can value my time, so that others will follow my lead, and value me in return.
It’s only been a few weeks but I can already feel the difference, and I wish I had realised this years ago! So please, don’t wait another day, have a think about what is draining most of your time, and – more importantly – think about what you should be focusing on, and prioritise that immediately. After all, if we don’t value our own time, then who else will?