The boundaries between our personal lives and professionally lives continue to get blurred – and it’s easier than ever to let one impact that other. Especially since millennials are the “most stressed out generation” according to an American Psychology Association survey. (Hmm, I wonder why.....?) As someone who had to practise every day to check my emotions at the door, I've found a few good tips to increase productivity while maintaining your sanity. It’s impossible to flip a switch and leave all the personal happenings behind when you step into the office, because it’s essential you try to prevent your personal issues from impacting your work.
1. Talk with your supervisor, boss or employer.
I’m not telling you to march into your bosses office and start crying about what a hot mess you are and that you got dumped right before the holidays. DON’T DO THAT. When I say talk with your boss, I mean communicate your needs clearly and effectively if something is going on that will impact your ability to be physically or emotionally present during your usual hours. Now if you have a boss/supervisor like mine, this may not be the easiest task as you may fear their response. You don't want to appear to be weak in front of them, but if it's anything I've learned, not coming forward with your struggles makes you look weak regardless as you're not performing at your optimum rate. So how do you do it?
Share only relevant information.
For instance: what can they can expect in terms of your productivity (do you need to enlist another team member to help you? will you still be able to meet a deadline, but just need some flex hours? Would working from home a few days help?”).
Explain logical/relevant reasons for sharing this with your boss too.
What I mean by that, is take a business mindset, wouldn’t it be a lot worse if you kept running yourself into the ground, pretending like nothing was going on, and making a bigger mess for the team to clean up? Versus just asking for what you need and bouncing back quicker?
What that would sound like:
"Hey boss, so I have to be honest with you, I’m going through a tough personal issue right now and it’s making it difficult for me to be fully present during my normal hours. I wanted to bring this to you to come up with a solution to ensure I bounce back as quick as possible, rather than hiding it and burning myself out more and for a longer period of time." Allow your boss to ask if there is anything he or she can do to help you during your difficult time and then negotiate from there.
2. Don’t overshare.
Again, I need to stress this: yes, I recommend talking with your boss, but don’t give them all the nitty gritty details of your personal life. The same goes for co-workers. We’ve all had that one Gossipy-Gina at work, who tries to “help” but sharing your plight about why you can’t do something – which is really just an under handed way to get at your Christmas bonus – or worse your job! While it’s great to connect with co-workers, don’t let them think your competency or productivity are at risk because of personal struggles. I had to learn this one the hard way. Some people only want to know your business for the sake of knowing it, or so they can use it against you in the future. Be wary of these people. They're always encouraging you to keep sharing but never share anything meaningful about themselves. They'll share one or two things that makes you feel like you're getting to know them, but it's the same things they tell every one else. Don't fall for that.
3. Take time off.
Did you know that millennials are the most likely generation to forfeit their paid time off (PTO)? Yeah, don’t be like those millennial work martyrs. Instead, if you have a personal crisis impacting your work, use the PTO! It's called a mental health day and really should be more acceptable but right now it's just not. So instead of requesting a mental health day (if you work for a company that wouldn't understand that concept) just take a sick day so you can recharge and refresh. Your productivity will do better if your fully engaged for four days in the week, than partially engaged in five.
4. Set digital boundaries.
More than half of those surveyed in a Pew Research Center study used social media at work to take a mental break or connect with friends and family. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a text, or checked social media at work and something set you off.
Since our personal and professional lives live on our phone, totally accessible 24/7 – its essential to create some digital boundaries. Turn off push notifications, shut the phone down, or lock it away!
Equally as important as digital boundaries, are your mental boundaries. Personally, this was the most difficult for me. I used to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but after crying in the back of one of my psych classes after a fight with my college boyfriend, I knew I couldn't continue like that. My professor took me to the side and explained that I needed to learn how to compartmentalise. What’s worked for me is to actually visualise my compartmentalisation. For instance say something is really bothering me and I can’t let it go, I’ll imagine putting it into a box, then filing it away in a cabinet in the depths of my mind. I give myself permission to come back to it later, but not in that moment. It’s a great mindfulness exercise. Unlike traditional meditation, where you “let the thought float out,” you know it’s still in your head and you can come back to it whenever you want.