Drowning When Things Get Messy
July 23, 2019
Tips for Staying Afloat at Work When Life Gets Messy
Most people think their jobs are stressful, but some may be more entitled to complain than others. As it turns out, the number 6 most stressful job in America is Event Planners. That said, we need to take a breath and unpack some ideas to implement when life gets messy.
As event and marketing professionals, we are used to keeping it all under control while everything around us is constantly changing. You track the competition, manage the timelines and budgets, and do your day job at the same time – all while managing your personal life whether that involves caring for kids, aging parents, spouses and, hopefully, a social life. This can all come to a grinding halt when emergencies come calling.
I reflected on this as I was at the hospital with my brother checking work emails and making sure that my kids had rides to their respective activities. I am lucky that my employer gave me the flexibility to work remotely and shift my schedule as needed. I will share some of my tips for keeping the wheels of progress turning at work while managing personal situations. I would be interested in knowing what tips you, my fellow marketing professionals, have for managing a crisis.
Think About What You Love. When you’re moving through messy issues, it becomes all too easy to adopt an extremely negative frame of mind that unfortunately, makes it far too easy to be critical of your work. Tasks, to do items, and even co-workers you once enjoyed can suddenly become a root for frustration and annoyance.
It is incredibly important to try to remember what you love about what you do and all of those people that make you love what you do. Whether it’s a specific project or your supportive team, it helps to actually make a physical list of those positive things. Yes, it sounds obvious, but “stay positive.” But, it can be extremely helpful to refocus on the highlights and the positives when you need to be shaken out of an emotional low point.
Talk with your manager as soon as an emergency arises. Let them know what happened, what you need in terms of flexibility and what you will do to make sure the work gets done. The sooner you communicate and clearly outline a plan the more receptive they will be to accommodate your needs.
Have a “plan B” before it’s needed. This is like putting an insurance policy in place for work. At times this can feel like a waste of time, but it can be a life saver when the time comes. Make sure you have solid “buddy system” in place at work so someone could step in and assist if needed, if the time comes. Cross training is a key to saving your sanity if things begin to unravel. On the personal side, having people approved in advance to pick up your kids can be a life saver.
See what can change in your schedule as needed. If a meeting is not urgent maybe you can move it to when the crisis subsides. Make sure to communicate to your colleagues as necessary. You might want to update your family calendar to share where you will be with friends or family who are helping you.
Speak up and ask for help from friends or family. If you are a parent – especially if you are a single parent – you know it takes a village. This is especially true in case of a medical emergency. People want to help, but they need specific tasks and clear communication. You can ask an out-of-town sibling to be the communication hub for the rest of the family. Ask in-town family to take shifts to help with family matters. Call on friends to help with kids as needed.
Have a solid partner for your events and trade shows. This goes without saying, but having a reliable partner who you can lean on when things go off the rails and help keep things going while you are out. If you are unsure if your relationship is solid enough, then it may be time to explore new relationships that are more reliable for you.
Ask questions and always try to get answers in writing. This is especially important if you are dealing with a medical situation, as we tend to forget things in times of stress. Also, be sure you know who has the appropriate credentials to know the right answer. The medical assistant may be happy to give you some answers, but may not be as informed as a registered nurse or a surgeon. And if you or your loved one gets discharged from the hospital or needs medication it will be helpful to have any important information in writing for caregivers who come to help.
Place urgent tasks first and important tasks next. If you are caring for a loved one, no one will judge you if your dishes are dirty (and if they do, who cares). Focus on keeping everyone healthy, including yourself, and the key parts of your job on track. That may mean delegating more at work and asking your boss what the most important tasks for you are to complete.
Take breaks mentally and physically as needed. Burn out stinks and if you don’t make time to take a short break (or a long vacation), you will likely burn out. This could be as simple as going on a walk with a co-worker during a stressful day, taking your kid out to lunch for a little one-on-one time or taking time for a good book after a long day – whatever recharges you.
Breath deep. At the risk of sounding a bit too earthy-crunchy, it goes without saying that taking several deep breaths with your eyes closed carries many physical and mental benefits. You get more oxygen and you close out the world, even if it’s just for a moment. The good news is you can do this just about anywhere.