I remember the words like yesterday. “You can do anything for a period of time. As long as you know there is an end in sight.” This theory from my then boss and mentor kept me going for many long work weeks and through large, complex projects.
When I was getting home late at night or working weekends, I would just repeat this mantra.
However, there was a piece of the puzzle still missing back then. Actually, a couple of pieces. First, I focused on an end to the project as the reprieve, rather than a plan to actually manage work and life better long-term. Secondly, there was always another all-consuming project right behind the one I was waiting to finish. It was never-ending so my light at the end of each tunnel never provided enough rest in between.
A couple of decades later I have learned much more about work effectiveness and healthy living to add a few lines to this mantra.
- Your work habits must have a steady and strong foundation. In general, you must work with Stephen Covey’s Quadrant II time management in mind. You must work on important things that are not urgent. This means you must plan for your work, build processes and systems, and stay focused on what is most important. If this is not a part of your work habits to begin with, when an all-consuming project hits you, it threatens to pull you under…to drown you.
- Find the pain point of the busyness. Did something change to thrust you into the added work and longer hours? Even if you gained a huge contract, took on a complex internal project, or are responding to a crisis in your business, the issues are still going to fall into a couple of categories, or can be a combination of:
- Lack of expertise in your business to handle the situation with ease and efficiency.
- Lack of human resources. Not enough people to handle the added work.
- Lack of other resources (i.e. equipment, money, time to complete).
- Evaluate the needs. Is the pain truly short-term or long-term? If we can actually evaluate the need, we don’t have to wait for the light at the end of the tunnel. We can create our own light and restore balance to our work. Many times we just put our head down and try to work ourselves out of a problem. We never look up and take the time to assess how long we are going to be in the proverbial tunnel. We don’t realize we haven’t seen the light until we are too tired and too weary to plan our own way out.
- Make changes as needed. We do have choices. We can work to extend deadlines or add resources. We can let go of other competing responsibilities, projects or tasks. We can find help. It may not happen over night, but once we have a plan and we start working toward it, the hope is in sight.
The point is that we have to do something to restore balance and effective work habits back in our life. We can’t just hope it will happen on it’s own.
Yes, you can do anything for a limited period of time. However, I have learned to make sure that I control how long that period of time lasts.
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