How to Put Work in its Place2016-11-30T18:09:09+00:00

How to Put Work in its Place

I was recently working with a client who was burning out and needed a change. He needed to make time and energy for a career move, but he didn’t know where to start. He was sure he needed to quit and start over.

This person had so much going for him, but he couldn’t seem to leave work on time and found himself coming in earlier and earlier. The work crept into his free time, eventually leading to 12-hour days.

He wanted to make big changes in his career, but that was impossible with his workload. We started with small changes in his day, and he was able to create time for his next career move.

Adopt a Ninja Mindset

First, repeat after me: No sudden moves. Don’t immediately jump to a plan for a big change. No need to get a full-time job if you’re at home full time, or to quit your job if you work full time. This is the most common decision-making error I see with clients. I call it the Go Big or Go Home Trap. Before you risk everything, try more subtle moves. You are a career ninja. Ready? Okay, then.

Build a Better To-do List

How long has it been since you thought about priorities in your life? What are your top three things you need to do today? I’m betting your to-do list is a mile long, and it includes things that take hours, and things that take 5 minutes. I’m betting some of those things don’t matter to your boss or your family, but you feel like you should do them for some reason. What if you tried reprioritizing based on things that take a lot of effort and mean the most to you and the people important to you? And when you come upon a conflict, note that. (This is where I can help as a coach, too).

Find Your Most Productive Time

Try tracking your daytime hours by how creative, focused, and energetic you feel. I’ve come to realize I’m not a morning or night person anymore. I’m a midday/early evening person. I know, it’s an old joke, right, but for me it’s a reality right now with little kids in the house. So I’ll work with what I’ve got. A lot of times it means working through lunch, but it works for me. I love this spreadsheet for tracking productivity.

Schedule Email

Don’t forget to add email to your schedule. Budget time for it and put it on your calendar like an appointment for a while. Maybe you do best with three 20-minute checks. Start a timer and stick to it. Don’t spend too long crafting replies, either. Remember, you’ve got big things to do with your day.

Practice Talking About Priorities

You may not be able to say no to your boss or your family, but you can have a conversation about competing priorities. If you’re feeling overworked, it’s time to have a conversation. It’s all in the tone of voice and phrasing. What if you asked if you could talk about priorities, deadlines, or how high a new duty or task should rank on your to-do list? See if you can brainstorm with a boss or family member, instead just saying yes and adding more to your plate. And here’s a great piece on saying no to more work.

Leave a Tiny Bit Earlier

Once you’ve made these changes, it’s time to leave work a little earlier each day, or take a small break for yourself to do what you need to do with your career. My client started hacking his work day, and he eventually nudged his quitting time back 20 minutes, then another 20 minutes, until he wasn’t the last one to leave anymore. He hung in there, and was recently offered a job that was a better fit for his skills and personality. It was in-house, too, so he didn’t even need to do a full-fledged job hunt. Now he’s energized. It can be done with small moves, like a ninja.

Question for you:

I’m considering doing a weekly virtual drop-in hour for clients and former clients, and their friends and family. For an hour I would basically be ready to text you back with answers to career questions you have — no charge, just a chance for me to demonstrate the value of coaching, and to help you out with a quick question. Would that be something that would interest you? Some examples might be: Does my resume need updating (you could email me the resume with the text)? What’s a good web site to hunt for marketing jobs? How do I begin prepping for a Skype interview?

Email me at if that sounds good to you, and I’ll work on making it happen.

Links for you:

October is a great time to job hunt.

Here’s my blog post on why job hunting is like cooking dinner.

This new nonprofit helps moms return to work.

More research that stress on the job leads to health problems.

Career advice for women you probably never got. (A repeat link from my last newsletter. It didn’t seem to work properly).

Show why you work so hard with this t-shirt.