How successful are you at leaving work at work and your personal life at home? My guess is that even if you are good at this, you can’t separate the two 100%. It is a well-intentioned concept: give your employer 100% focus by not bringing your personal problems to work, and give your family 100% by not thinking about work 24/7. Being fully present where you are is important to success; however, it’s time to realize we are not compartmentalized beings. We cannot turn off the emotion app and turn on the driven-to-succeed app with the push of a button, nor should we want to. So what options do you have?
Stop compartmentalizing. The skills we have that make us successful outside of work can improve how we do our job. Being lighthearted, telling great jokes at a bar, or being a great cook can help you at work! Having a personality at work or being passionate about something can connect you to the team. No one likes working with a robot or someone with whom they share no common ground.
Acknowledge your feelings (and be empathetic toward yourself). You are not Vulcan – you are human. You have emotions. If you are upset, frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed – whatever – the first step is to acknowledge it and put a name to it. And then, give yourself a break! Often, we are hard on ourselves for not consistently being on the top of our game. We all have times we aren’t at our peak; accept the cycles and work within them.
Use healthy coping mechanisms (at home and at work). With life being so fast-paced, we tend to turn to food or “vegging” in front of the TV to escape. While these might feel good in the moment, they actual compound the issue. Bad food directly impacts your mood. Escaping through things like television just makes you feel guilty or even more stressed when you return to reality. Instead, it’s important to have a network of friends or family you can talk to, to exercise regularly, to try meditation or other relaxation techniques, and to eat healthy food. For a good list of other coping mechanisms, you can check out this article.
Be open. If you are struggling with something at home, share it with those who have to deal with you at work. I’m not saying pour out all the gory details; however, let people know you aren’t at the top of your game. Ask them for patience, but also give them permission to call you out on your attitude or performance. Dealing with issues does not give you permission to remove your filter or to not deliver. It should, however, be a reason for people to extend to you a little grace. The same holds true at home. If you are battling a nasty problem at work, share it with your family (and with them, you can get into the gory details if you want). You can explain the impact the issue is having on you and ask for their support. Again, this isn’t permission to fly off the handle or to berate your children. But it should help your family understand if you are distracted or are accidentally a little short. Hopefully, they will be on their best behavior because they want to lighten your burden. If you don’t communicate your challenges at work or at home, then don’t expect anyone to support you; instead, they will be wondering why you’re such a jerk.
Stay in control or leave. To expand more on the point above, regardless what is going on in your life, you have certain responsibilities to deliver. Additionally, you don’t get a carte blanche to fly of the handle, be curt, cry your head off, etc. You are an adult. You can be in control of yourself. There are times we are overcome by emotions, whether anger, sadness, or frustration. If you find yourself in a position where you can no longer control your emotions, go somewhere it’s appropriate to express them. Do not subject your co-workers to your sobs or your family to your tirades. (Please note, I’m not saying it’s inappropriate to share your emotions with people; that can be very healthy. What I am saying is share the appropriate emotions with the appropriate people.)
It is important to not be fully consumed by work at home or by home at work. Be present where you are. However, quit spending so much energy compartmentalizing your life. It’s distancing yourself from the people around you. Instead, appropriately deal with the situation and communicate to those around you about what’s going on.
I’d like to hear from you: what ways have you found to effectively handle this balance?
Jana Axline is Chief Project Officer at Project Genetics and the author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings, she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Project Genetics.