I have always been a doer. I get shit done. I can almost be overwhelming in my haste at times. I’ll get an idea, or think of something that needs doing, and I’m off! I’ve struggled with being a control freak over the years as well – jumping in if others aren’t working quick enough or to my standards. It takes a lot of energy to be that busy all of the time. Eventually I had enough. Or not enough as the case turned out to be. Not enough time, not enough energy, and just not enough motivation to keep pushing myself that hard for what felt like little reward. I used to wear my perfectionism like a badge of honour, and joined in the chorus of smugly complaining about how busy I was. I can see now that I was actually hurting myself, and others around me as it’s hard to be your- whole-hearted, kind and loving self when you’re rushing around keeping every plate spinning!
Change doesn’t happen overnight. In my case I feel as if change has been happening for years, but noticeably it kicked in this summer – the projects I was working on just kept getting more and more intense, and I was getting little or no support. I would dread Sunday nights, losing sleep as I feared going back into the office on Monday morning, facing what I felt was just surmounting chaos! Eventually, I decided enough was enough. I couldn’t control the people around me, or the workload they tried to give me, but I could decide how much I was willing or able to do. I could decide to not attend every single meeting relating to my projects. I could decide not to respond to every email immediately. I could decide when to arrive and leave the office. These “rules” I had created in my head for being the Perfect Employee were not actually making me happy or, surprisingly, even that productive.
I noticed that when I didn’t respond to an email immediately, sometimes other people would provide the solution before I had a chance to look at it. As I attended fewer meetings, I found that I had more time to pay attention to the critical tasks at hand. I also chose to make an effort to speak less in meetings, which resulted in my learning more, and taking on fewer actions that others could easily do. And, even more surprisingly, others could sometimes do the actions better than I could! I had expected that to be difficult for my delicate ego to handle, but I was just so relieved that I wasn’t responsible for everything that I didn’t take offence – in fact, I was proud that I had allowed them the opportunity to learn and shine! Deciding when to arrive and leave gave me a sense of autonomy – I was choosing to be the office, not forced by perceived silent judgement.
The biggest step I have now taken is deciding how many days to work. Since returning from the Christmas break, I am now primarily focusing on one project, rather than being split between 2-3 as I have been for the last two years, and I am working 4 days a week… This Friday, I will not be working. At least not in this office. I will be at home. It feels so self-indulgent to even admit this but I will be using the day for me. I have a session booked with the amazing Esther Zimmer, an inspiring writer and Life Coach, before I attend a (free!) two day taster session with The Coaching Academy this weekend to explore whether becoming a Life Coach may actually be the next path for me!
I am doing less for others, and achieving more for myself. It feels terrifying and exciting all at once.