Summer time is fun time — right?

This sunny Northwest summer is bringing with it a joyful and frenetic energy, and the last few months have been full!

My husband returned to Seattle after his first year of graduate school in a different city. I’ve been working with clients who are in the midst of major organizational changes. I’ve spent lots of time having fun with loved ones. The events in our nation continue to deliver reminders that the bright sunshine does not slow down hateful acts of violence.

Three forces are pulling me in opposite directions. The extra vitamin D induced energy has me wanting to get big things done and move my work forward. The sweet sunny days with my husband close by have me wanting to lie on a blanket by the water’s edge and read a book. And the local and global news reminds me daily that all things are not equal in this world. I’m aware that my safe, warm sun is not everyone’s experience and that if I want the world to be a kinder place I need to pay attention, learn more, and work for change.

How do you contend with different desires during the same season?

Enjoy where you are in each moment.

I have found myself watching little kids splashing in the waves at the beach, and suddenly thinking:  What should we do at that next planning meeting? I have jumped up to write a weekend packing list when I am right in the middle of writing content for my new website.

When I catch myself I say: Whoa, Annie! Where are you right this moment? I breathe deeply, and remind myself: Oh, yes! I have my toes in the sand and there is a sweet three-year-old tossing pebbles with a splash. No need to plan that meeting agenda until Monday.

When you discover that you’ve interrupted one moment with thoughts about your to-dos, take a breath. Remind yourself that this moment matters. You have time.


Big change and big projects do not happen on an exact timeline.

I am great at attaching arbitrary meanings to time, and then deciding that things must be done during that time — or else! I have built quite the robust set of summer projects. And guess what? Not all of them are going to get done this summer! I have already had to reconstruct my plan — more than once.

Yes we need timelines or things can drag on forever. However, overloading yourself with too many plans or unrealistic expectations causes a lot of additional stress. Remember that linear time is a helpful yet arbitrary parameter. It’s OK to reschedule some of your plans and even take a few big projects off your list.


Build time for the most important things.

It’s good to view time as flexible, but we all need schedules. I’ve learned that if I don’t build in specific time for the things that are critical, those things will not get done. My calendar is one of my most important tools!

Put the most important work, projects, and life events on your calendar and attend to them when your calendar tells you to. This applies to exercise, writing time, having dinner with family or friends, or a meeting at work. Setting time on your calendar for important events keeps projects moving forward and makes space for the things you need most. When you build everything in to your calendar it will also help you see visually if you are over doing it. (If you are cut something out.) And yes both of these things are true for me – my calendar helps me get things done AND things need to be flexible.


What about the sad, anger inducing things happening to our communities, here at home and far away?

Hold on to complexity.

I am allowing myself to have complex feelings. I can feel bliss and sadness on the same day. I do not need to run from the bliss because there is so much to be sad about. And I do not need to ignore the sadness because I am afraid it will take away the good feelings. I need both feelings. I can feel both.


Face the news. Keep trying.

When I feel guilty because of the opportunities, rights, and privileges I have, I remind myself that I can do something. To deny myself any joy because of all the harm in the world does no one any good. We need more joy. We need people to feel it and shine it out. At the same time, the guilt and sadness I feel is a reminder to not ignore my desire for the world to be a more equal place.

I remind myself that I am responsible for making that change happen. We all are. For me, taking responsibility means not shutting off the news, not turning away from the difficult conversations. It means examining the work I am doing and how it impacts others in good and negative ways and making changes in how I work.
These are a few of my thoughts on dealing with different wants and desires during this summer season.

How do you contend with different desires in the same season?

Post your thoughts in my comments below.

Annie Von EssenSummer time is fun time — right?
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Joy in your work day

Last week I wrote about enjoying your job, even when you’re working super hard. I talked about finding things you like about your work… Things that are fun… Things you do that you have always wanted to do and now you can!

Finding those things and taking time to enjoy them is important. Here is another technique for enjoying your work.

Build some joy into your’ work day.

Your moments of joy do not have to be related to the actual work at hand. Instead, this technique is all about figuring out how to fold a few things you really enjoy into your work day… and then have fun doing those things!

Here are a few examples:

Go for a walk in the middle of the day. Just 10 or 15 minutes — or longer if it’s possible. And enjoy it! You can walk alone or with co-workers. Either way can be fun, depending on the kind of day you are having.

Bring a lunch that you are really excited about eating. Really! Enjoy it.

Bring food to share with your co-workers. This could be cookies or fruit, or anything you enjoy. Share. Experience other people’s joy at having a treat at work. Enjoy their enjoyment!

Pay someone a compliment. Send a card or tell them in person. Say thank you! Then enjoy the moment when they feel joy.

Bring gorgeous summer flowers into your office. Look at them often. Enjoy their colors and intricate details.

Take a moment to ask yourself how you can bring joy and fun into your office space and your work.

Take it a step further: How can you bring this same intention for fun and enjoyment into your home?

Annie Von EssenJoy in your work day
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What? Work can be fun?

A week ago I had a big AHA! moment. Okay, honestly my husband helped me have a big AHA! moment. (Partners can be good at helping us notice things.)

I was busy with work I was super excited about, and I was still talking about it like it was so much “work”. Robbie said to me, “What if you just enjoy this? I mean you love doing this work. What would happen if you thought about it as a fun thing that you get to do instead of more work that you have to do?”

WOW! A revelation! What if I really let myself have fun while I’m doing this project?

Is there something in your day-to-day life that you’re looking at as more work instead of looking at it as a fun opportunity?

If you stop and notice the things you enjoy about your work, you may just have fun.

Try this.

List three things you like about your work. “Work” could mean your job, or parenting, or taking care of a family member.

If you are really hating your current work, that is okay. You do not have to start liking it. But I bet you can find something you can enjoy even in the midst of the crud — that one great customer, supportive co-worker, or important project that you are building.

Take a second right now to name the things you love.

For me the list includes: Being able to witness a client breakthrough. The moment when a group of people has a big idea. Quiet mornings spent writing and reading and researching. Putting together a new curriculum for Room Next Door.

The next time you are doing are super busy with work, slow down a bit and actually enjoy it. Step off the treadmill that says, “You are working! KEEP working!” Instead, try saying, “Look at me! I am doing something I love doing. I am enjoying this. I am good at this.”

Annie Von EssenWhat? Work can be fun?
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Overwhelmed? Stop and get organized!

When the list of to-do’s, calls to return, and emails in your inbox is growing at a steady rate, it is easy to get overwhelmed.

When you’re overwhelmed, it feels like there are piles everywhere and you just cannot get ahead of them, no matter what you do. The laundry and dishes pile up. The email threads get lost in digital piles. And looking at the real paper piles on your desk can make you cringe.

It is hard to know what to do next. And it seems like things are never going to be “done.”

What we want to do in times of overwhelm is keep going!
We tell ourselves: Do this one more thing. And then this. And then go over here and do this. Keep going! It will get better if I just keep going!
But it does not get better.

Good news! I have learned a key trick that can help reduce overwhelm within a few hours. You probably know it too. It’s simple — and we almost never do it.

Stop. Get organized!

This is not what we want to do. Looking at all those piles of work increases our anxiety, and we usually want to flee from it. I know I do.

I promise that if you get organized, you will feel better. You may have to push through that first bout of anxiety, but you will feel better! And getting organized improves the chances you will actually accomplish the task you set out to do.

I did this earlier this month.

Right now, I have a number of projects going, including quite a bit of on-site facilitation. At the end of April, I was beginning to wonder how I was going to get it all done.

My first response was to put my head down and just push through. To ignore the piles that were building up around me and simply take care of the next task… and the next… and the next.

I pride myself on being there for my clients. In order to do that, I actually needed to be there for myself first.

So inside of blindly running forward, I set aside an afternoon and evening to get organized. I did not delve into any pending tasks or to-do’s. Instead I cleaned up and fine-tuned my systems.

Here is what I did:

Manage the project and work backwards from deadlines

First I tackled my project management system. I cleaned up the software I use for project management. (I use Asana for business, client and personal projects.) I made sure all my major projects were in the system, with their monthly and weekly tasks. I worked backwards from my deadlines and set completion dates for the key components of each project.

Review daily to-do’s

I use my project management tool and calendar to tell me what needs to happen and when. And I keep track of my daily to-do’s in an actual paper notebook that is always with me. (I know most people are fully digital now – I just cannot give up the great feeling of crossing off tasks on a piece of paper. AND this process allows me to step away from the computer during the day.)Each day I write out two to four to-do’s and/or meetings. If I have more than four to-do’s, I know my project timelines are off and I am not going to get everything done.

Clean up the calendar

I took a look at my calendar and made sure it was “telling the truth.” I reviewed the last few weeks and previewed the weeks coming up. This means that what my calendar says I am doing and what I have planned to do is ACTUALLY what is occurring. When I revisit my calendar, I learn how I am spending my time. That helps me be more realistic about how long it will take me to complete upcoming tasks. I ask myself, “Can I really get this done by then? And what other chunks of time will it take to get this task done?”

Get emails under control

I got back on top of my emails in a few steps. I scanned my email. I responded to anything I could handle quickly. For emails that needed a more thoughtful response, I used Boomerang in Gmail to send messages out of my inbox and back to me at a time when I could focus on them. And I deleted A WHOLE bunch of email, making sure to unsubscribe when pertinent. When I am receiving too much email, I change my email priorities. I respond only to clients, potential clients, friends, and family. I delete the articles and “forwards” in my inbox and start fresh.

Clear the decks

As I worked through this process, I paid attention to tasks that could come off my plate. I asked myself, “What can I move to next month? What can I do a few months from now?” I revised some deadlines in my project management system. I canceled a few appointments. I asked for more help from other people on my team. I decided whether some tasks were truly critical, and whether I needed to do them. I took some tasks off my plate completely. Yes, I actually chose to NOT do some things that were on my to do list.

I know my priorities this month. I have fewer piles. I know what needs to get done. I gave myself permission to let a few things slide for the next five weeks (things like laundry and home-cooked meals).

The whole thing took about four hours. When I was finished organizing, I was tired! And I still felt residual overwhelm.

But the next morning I woke up refreshed! I knew what I needed to tackle and I was no longer avoiding my email or calendar.

This month and the beginning of June are full of good work and good times with my loved ones. I know I will have to stop and get organized again — maybe more than once. I will also need to take an hour at the end of every other day to straighten out my email, my calendar, and my project management system.

If you’re overwhelmed by the work, set aside the time to get your systems in order. When you know what you need to get done, your overwhelm will decrease significantly.

Piles all around you?
Before you do another task, stop and get organized!

Annie Von EssenOverwhelmed? Stop and get organized!
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“I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART TWO

Here are a few more ideas to carry with you whenever the work is hard and you’re “TIRED OF IT”. And here is the first half of the checklist of ideas if you missed it.

Reach out for support

We often struggle with asking for help or reaching out when things get tough at work. I am one of those people. I do not like asking for help. I want to be strong and take care of others but I don’t want to be seen needing support. Look at the line of work I am in!

Here’s the deal: People want to help and support us. This is what connects and brings us together. If you are truly tired, exhausted and thinking about throwing in the towel on that project… then that is THE SIGN you need help! You probably need two kinds of help. You need help actually doing the work AND you need some human contact.

First, ask for help with the workload. Talk with a few people you trust. Tell them about what is hard for you right now. Hang out with the humans you love and have fun. If it’s helpful, ask for check-ins and accountability. (Remember, we almost always CAN ask for help, but we usually DON’T!)

Remember a time when you got through it

We have all worked hard, pushed through and accomplished things we did not think were possible at the time. Find some examples in your past. Make a list — on paper or in your mind — of five times you have worked through something very hard. Be mindful of these times. What did you do? How did you feel? You are capable of working through this tough time. Remind yourself.

Work differently

There is always a new way to work. You can do things differently now. Once we have been working on something for a while, we begin to only see one way for things to happen. This is one of the most dangerous traits we have as humans: Our inability to see that there is a different way to do what we have been doing. If something is not working or if it is incredibly tiresome, try doing it a different way.

Sometimes we are stuck and we need others to help unstick us. Get together with a group of people and talk through fresh options. Pick people you want to talk with, people who will listen. And remember to let them know you are looking for ideas, not answers. You still get to decide what you are going to do. Imagine a change. Get creative. Build a plan.

Get “gritty”

Remember, as human beings we have the ability to do a lot more than we think we can. We see examples of this all the time in sports stories or survival stories. People can get through a lot when they need to. You can, too.

Dig in a little deeper. When you think you have reached your limit and you cannot do any more, try stretching even further. That is when you’ll begin to find out what you are made of. You have guts and abilities you never even knew about.

Take good care of yourself. Get support. And then put your back into it! Tell yourself you can do this. Then keep doing it. You are much stronger than you think.

You’ve got this. And when the work is done, you are going to feel good!

Annie Von Essen“I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART TWO
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“I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART ONE

In this series (check out Part 1 and Part 2), we have been thinking about what to do when you want and need to continue working and creating, but you’re exhausted, tired and frustrated. How do you keep going?

Here is a checklist of helpful tips that work for my clients — and for me!

Ritualize the hard work

You may have heard people say, “Do the hard work first.” I totally agree. Sometimes when we are tired of the project or exhausted from the work we avoid the hardest parts. Those hard bits and pieces keep lurking around, getting bigger, and wearing us out. The more we avoid them, the harder they are to accomplish.

What I like to say is this: “Do the hard work first AND build consistent rituals that make work easier to get in to.”

What does ritualizing the hard work look like?

Create a time, a place and a method for getting the work done.

In my business I have a few pieces of work I avoid. I love my business. I just do not love bookkeeping! Bookkeeping — actually, AVOIDING the bookkeeping — can make my whole business feel like a chore. But I am learning that if I make this task a ritual, it eliminates the stress and strain caused by avoiding it. I do my bookkeeping the same time of the week and month, in the same place. I give myself a treat (tea and music). And I put on my “Get it done” attitude.

Do you have a task or two that are making you dislike your whole job? Figure out the pieces you really do not like. Do not put off those tasks. Create a ritual for getting them done. (Or if you are lucky, maybe you can hand those tasks to someone who would enjoy them.)


Take a break

Take a break! Take a break! Take a break!

Walk away from the desk. Walk away from the work. Walk away from the project.

Do this for a short time every day. Do it every week for a longer period of time. And please take a real break. Do something nourishing and DO NOT talk about work.

For more about the benefits of taking breaks, check out this post [link] AND this post [link]. Really, taking breaks is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself.


Know why

If you’re going to keep going when the work is tiresome, you need to know why you are doing the work in the first place. Then when the work gets hard, you have to remind yourself of the reason you are doing it.

Ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” Write it down. Put that note somewhere you can see it.

(Oh, and check in with yourself about that “Why…” If your answer is about guilt, obligation, and pride you may want to examine if you really want to keep going.)



Move your body. It will reduce stress. It will give you new perspective. It will increase your creative problem-solving ability. It’s fun.

You don’t need a big new routine. You don’t have to join a gym or buy an exercise outfit. Walk around the block. Stretch in the mornings. Put a happy song on your iPod and take a dance break.

Trust me, getting in touch with your physical self really helps when times are tough.



Sleep will… well… make you less exhausted! If you are tired of the work and you are not sleeping, it is hard to keep going. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier for starters. Create a cozy ritual around bedtime. Don’t take your phone or your tablet to bed.

If you are having trouble falling asleep it could be the stress from work. First increase your exercise during the day. If that doesn’t help you fall asleep more easily, talk to a health care professional.



Meditating for just five to 10 minutes a few times a week will give you a different perspective. Meditation does not always bring immediate relief, but you will discover that it does help throughout the day. Meditation reminds us of our breath, of our connection to each other and nature. It helps us take things a little less seriously.

Stay tuned to my next post to see four more tips in the checklist.

Annie Von Essen“I’m tired of it!” Now what? – THE CHECKLIST: PART ONE
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“I’m tired of it!” Now what? PART TWO

You’re doing your work. You’re involved in a project. You want to keep going… you need to keep going… you must keep going… but you’re TIRED OF IT!

What do you do now?

In my last post I suggested taking the time and space to think things through. I suggested asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now the right thing for me? Am I doing it the right way?”

Which answer did you hear?

Answer #1. “Stop doing the work because it is no longer good for you.”

Answer #2. “The work is good! Keep going and do things a different way.”

Answer #3. “This work is important and you need to do it! Keep going and don’t stop even if you are tired.”

Answer #4. “Wow, am I confused! I’m unclear about whether to keep going forward or change direction.”


Let’s take a look at each of those scenarios, because each one requires a different strategy.

Scenario #1. Stop doing the work.

Just for you, I have a series of posts about this! Check out my three-part series “When things aren’t working at work.”

Scenario #2. Keep going but do things a different way.

This scenario requires two strategies.

First and most important: Take good care of yourself while you’re still working. This means getting good sleep, taking breaks from work, and getting physical exercise. Start with a few little changes. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Take a walk during the workday. Stop eating lunch at your desk. Or start your day with five minutes of stretching.

Second: Reflect on the ways that you could do your work differently. Create space to reflect with trusted friends and coworkers. Ask yourself and your colleagues, “What if there was another way to do this work? What could we change?” Get curious and creative. Problem-solve with your team. Make a new plan and get help implementing it. Notice what works.

Scenario #3. This is the work that must be done and you know you must keep going.

This scenario requires a few additional strategies.

Just as in Scenario #2, practice self-care techniques while you’re still working. Get some sleep. Taking breaks. Move your body. (I’ll share a lot more about this in my next post.)

Then, do the work. Really tell yourself you can keep doing it. And do it.

Next, put a time limit on how long you will keep working with your head down before you check in and think about how it’s going. It is helpful to set up a check-in with someone. Tell a friend, a coach or a trusted co-worker, “I am working really hard on this. But in two weeks, if it’s just as hard and I’m not making progress, I’d like to check in with you and reflect on a different way to do the work.”

And most important, rally the troops. Get support doing the work. Ask co-workers and colleagues for more help. Delegate! And get connected with loved ones outside the work. They can provide a sounding board and an escape valve.

Scenario #4. You are confused about whether you should keep working or quit.

For now, do not stop doing the work. BUT slow down. Put in a little less effort and time. Make some breathing room. Back off the throttle as much as you can without losing momentum.

As in all the other scenarios, practice techniques that allow you to take good care of yourself while still working: get good sleep, take breaks, and move your body.

Then build in more time for reflection. Find time to get quiet. Take a walk to get coffee during the workday. Take a moment in the driveway before you go into the house. Gently ask yourself, “Do I want to keep doing this the same way?” Talk with only a few trusted confidantes about your struggle to understand whether you can “keep going.”

And be gentle. Give yourself time to figure out the direction you want to go. A new direction may come to you in a flash or it may dawn as slow awareness. Or you may just finish the work you are struggling with. And when you’re finished, your reflection time could lead you in a new direction.

Are you still craving a more techniques for revitalizing the work you are tired of? Stay tuned for a checklist that can help you keep going when exhaustion and frustration set in.

Annie Von Essen“I’m tired of it!” Now what? PART TWO
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“I’m tired of it!” Now what? PART ONE

What can you do when you’re tired of the work, but you know you need to keep going?

You know what I mean by TIRED OF IT?

You might be feeling this way about your job, a project, or a personal commitment. (You could also be feeling this way about a relationship, but we’re not going to get into that!)

It could be that you are completely exhausted. It could be that you have spent all the energy you can muster and there is still more to do. Or maybe you’re just fed up and sick of the whole thing.

You want to be done.
And there is more to do.
Now what?

Before we get in the nuts and bolts of “not giving up,” let me remind you that I am not a proponent of blindly pushing forward. There are times when we need to stop and choose a different path. For more about when it is time to quit, check out my three-part series: “When things aren’t working at work.”

Let’s talk about what to do if you have to keep going — and you’re TIRED OF IT!

First things first. Stop.

Do not keep going without knowing why you are pushing forward. If you keep pushing forward without looking up, you could miss an important part of your journey. You may look back with disappointment when you realize there was a different path to take. You will almost certainly end up feeling empty and exhausted.

Allow yourself time and space to figure out if you are going to keep going and why. Step away from the work that is exhausting you. You may need a few hours in a quiet café, or you may need to retreat for a day or two and listen to your own quiet thoughts.

Spend time in reflection. Write in your journal. Take a stroll. Sit quietly and meditate. Ask yourself:

“Is what I’m doing right now the right thing for me? Am I doing it in the right way?”

Then listen.

What does your gut say? Here are four possible responses.

Answer #1: “Stop doing this work! It is not the best thing for you anymore.”

Answer #2: “The work is good, and it’s right for you. But let’s do some things in a different way.”

Answer #3: “This work is important. Keep going, and don’t stop, even if you are tired of it.”

Answer #4: “Good question. I have no idea. I’m confused. Let me get back to you.”


If you’re getting Answer #4, and you feel confused and unclear about what you should do, keep working and moving forward, but set a slower pace and continue taking time for reflection.

If you’re getting one of the first three answers, you’ll find helpful tips in my next post. I’ll help you understand how to work with Answer #4, too. And then in my final post in this series I will share my “Go To” tips for not giving up.

In the meantime, I don’t want to leave you hanging! It is important for you to get enough sleep, take breaks, and move your body. I know these little things feel like clichés, but they really work. Pick one tiny thing you can do to take care of yourself, and do it every day. I promise it will help you keep going.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Annie Von Essen“I’m tired of it!” Now what? PART ONE
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When things aren’t working at work (Part Three)

We’ve been thinking about what happens when things are simply NOT working at work.

In Part One of this series, I acknowledged that there are times when we’ve tried everything and it has become clear that it’s simply time to move on. In Part Two, we looked at a four reasons why it may be time to quit — and examined some actions we could take.

But what if the ONLY answer is to leave?

You’ve done good work! You have done your best. It’s time to get out and get a different job.

My language may seem flippant. The job market can be hard, I know. It may have taken you a long time to get this job. If you cannot leave or cannot find another job right now — go back to my last post and look at all the other ways you can survive and make the best out of the crappy situation in the job you have.

BUT just because finding another job is hard and scary DOES NOT mean you should not explore the idea. You may find that a new and better job is actually right around the corner.

You do not know if you do not try. Really. Preschool teachers say this all the time because it is TRUE. You do not know if you do not try.

Think about it…

WHAT IF you could leave? What else would you do? Where could you go?

The first step is small. It is not quitting or even pulling out an old resume. Start by talking to a few folks you trust. Have coffee with a friend and chat about finding a different job. Then have a tea date with a friend of a friend. Begin to think about different options. You got this.

Decide. Do you want to leave this job? Decide to leave. You do not have to leave yet. But if you do not make the decision to leave, time will just keep passing. And you will still be right where you are.

Once you decide it is time to leave, you will need to explore other possibilities for work. This is not a quick process. Continue to chat with trusted friends and network with their friends. Think about all the possible fields you could work in. What jobs use your skills? Consider the amount of money you need to earn. Make sure to give yourself plenty time and space alone as you explore what you are good at doing and what you enjoy doing.

Once you get clear about what you want and you begin looking around, people and resources will begin to show up and show you how to get out of there. I’ve seen this happen time and again.

The process is not going to be easy. It may take a while. But isn’t making a new choice better than staying stuck forever, feeling physically and emotionally spent, and dreading work?

You can find something better.

Work doesn’t have to suck. Really. Lots of people have jobs they do not mind going to — jobs that are pretty okay most days, and some days are even FUN. You can have this too. Figure out what you want and need from a job and what you have to offer. Then take action — and take care of yourself.

Are fear and overwhelm creeping in and overpowering your sense of possibility? If you are overwhelmed, please find a friend who will listen to you and support your plans. Consider talking to a professional about this. Reach out to people for support outside of your work space.

Annie Von EssenWhen things aren’t working at work (Part Three)
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When things aren’t working at work (Part Two)

This post is a bit longer than usual. But it’s super important. I’m writing this for all of you who are experiencing struggles at work and trying to find a way out.

In my last post I acknowledged that there are times when we need to quit. We’ve given it all we’ve got. We’ve really tried to make things work. But we’re hitting the wall.

If that sounds like what you’re feeling, it’s probably time for a change. There are four reasons that work may not be working. (This also applies to other major areas of your life.)

Let’s take a look at these four possible scenarios:

SCENARIO #1: Your work is really hard right now

If you used to enjoy the work you’re doing and you can clearly define why it feels hard right now, the “thing” that is making it hard may be finite. If so, this tough situation may soon be over.
The tricky thing about “really hard right now” is that sometimes things are hard for so long that you get exhausted. From there, you can easily turn the corner into full burnout.

We don’t always see burnout coming. If we are in a rough patch and we think we can see the end, we may just tell ourselves, “Keep going, work harder, this will be over soon.” But if you JUST push through it without slowing down, you may end up exhausted and spent, with all your perspective gone. Then you WILL hate what you’re doing and want to leave.

The key here is to do things that help you avoid burnout WHILE you are going through a big push at work.

1. Take breaks.
2. Define your sense of purpose beyond your work.
3. Ask for support at home and at work.

And remember that this period of work or pressure has an end.
(If no end comes — or if there’s no end in sight — you may have entered burnout.)

SCENARIO #2: Your work is no longer the right fit

Once upon a time, your job was pretty good — even great! — but now you feel something is shifting. Something is pulling you in a new direction. That feeling is exciting and scary. You are beginning to think about leaving and doing something different. Perhaps you can see how someone else could do your job now.

Congratulations: Your work here is done!

Listen to this voice. Begin to explore other options and talk to people you trust. Talk about that little voice telling you it’s time to move on. Build a plan and exit the job.

New beginnings are good for everyone — for you, for the person who could step into your job, and for the organization you work for. New beginnings create new possibilities. You can create a ripple of good things by leaving when the time is right.

SCENARIO #3: You could be burned out

If you used to enjoy what you did and now find little to no fulfillment in your work, you are probably burned out. When you reach burnout, you get exhausted, then depressed and possibly very distant. You begin to feel despair. You feel that things can never change or get better.

Burnout is no good because it leads to all the ways we don’t want to feel as human beings: sadness, anger, exhaustion. We lose insight. We feel our lives lack purpose. Like I said — no good!

If you are burned out, you probably remember enjoying and taking great pleasure in your work. You were proud of it. Then more and more was added to your plate. You felt an ever-growing expectation to do well. And you kept going. Perhaps something very difficult occurred with a project or a person in your workplace. And you kept going. You wanted to do your best no matter what. You kept going. And going. And going.

If you are experiencing burnout and you can admit it (which is actually very difficult), you have three options:

1. Keep working at your current job, but acknowledge the burnout AND do something about it.
Take some serious breaks (breaks during the day, days off, AND a longer break). Get support from family and friends. Make a plan to take some work off your plate. Celebrate your successes AND separate your sense of self from the work that you do.

2. Seek other employment.
Ideally you will take a BREAK between jobs. You need time to regain strength and find a new sense of self OUTSIDE of your work. Request some time off before you start your new job. Or plan ahead for a break between your current job and your search for the next one. This time will help you figure out what limits to set with yourself in your new position so you do not burn out again. (More about leaving your job in Part Three of this series.)

3. Just keep working.
You can keep working and ignore what is happening to your body and mind. If you stay at your job and do not make any changes, your burnout will increase in severity. Your physical and emotional health will decline. Your relationships will suffer. You will continue to feel less fulfilled.

I DO NOT suggest this option. You CAN choose option 1 or 2. People escape from burnout by taking action and making changes. You can regain joy and avoid a full collapse.

SCENARIO #4: Your workplace is toxic and bad for you

Are you constantly walking on egg shells, waiting for the other shoe to drop? Do you try to get your work done without interacting with most of the folks in your office? Do you find yourself feeling bad about yourself and your work?

If you have answered YES to one or more of these questions, you may be in a toxic workplace.

A workplace can feel rough and rocky — and yucky! — for periods of time, during a time of change or during difficult work projects. And organizations CAN change the way they work together and shift the workplace environment for the better.

It is also possible that the entire workplace feels toxic when it’s just one or two people who are bringing everyone down. Perhaps they are burned out or tired of their work. Perhaps they are going through personal struggles. Figure out if you are dealing with an organizational culture issue or a personal one.

Once you have figured out the source or sources of the stress and toxicity:

1. Talk to someone.
Start by talking privately with someone in a position of authority. Someone you TRUST. Someone you think can help. Prepare and have an honest conversation about what is going on. This can help. It may take a while and it may be a hard journey.

This could be a good starting place if you are still committed to the work and not in burnout.

2. Set up strong boundaries and outside supports.
Remind yourself who you are as a person, what you have set out to accomplish, and what you wish to achieve at your work. Then DO your work. Ignore and avoid the folks who are toxic and just DO your work. Cultivate a full, fruitful life outside of your job.

This works best if the work you’re doing is not deeply entangled with the folks who make you feel bad about yourself. This solution may work only for a short period of time — perhaps enough time to look for different work.

3. Leave the job.
That’s right — LEAVE! You have done good work. Pat yourself on your back. You did your best. Now go out and get a different job.

I know this is not quick and easy. I know it’s scary.

That’s why I’m devoting Part Three of this series to discussing what to do when you know you have to leave. Stay tuned!

If you are feeling stuck and overwhelmed and you do not know where to start, I provide practices for moving out of overwhelm and into action. Sign up for my monthly newsletter for tips and to receive updates about upcoming workshops – like The Room Next Door – where you’ll develop practices to help reduce your stress and find your joy.

Annie Von EssenWhen things aren’t working at work (Part Two)
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