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When Life Gets Messy

May 26, 2020

By Sofia Troutman

We are living in some strange days for sure and the landscape is constantly shifting under us.  As event and marketing professionals, we are basically circus performers spinning all the plates – we are accustomed to managing people and schedules and events, keeping all the moving parts moving, and all while managing ourselves. We, too, have social lives, families, personal budgets, and individual goals. Much of the time, these two worlds run nicely parallel. Occasionally, though, the two worlds collide and a personal crisis interferes with work life.

This kind of crash is probably inevitable for everyone. Maybe it’s a crisis arising out of a pandemic or personal health situation that needs more attention than usual. Maybe a natural disaster is affecting you and your house and your family. Maybe it’s a sick family member or a sticky family situation. Whatever the reason, the severity, or the length of time you are affected, there are ways to manage the messiness of life and not let it completely derail you professionally.

COMMUNICATE

With your supervisor. With your team. With anyone who might be affected by your new circumstances. Let them know what you’re dealing with and what you need from them. The sooner the better. That way, everyone’s flexibility is a little fresher and outlining a plan to accommodate your needs is easier. Besides the obvious prudence of alerting everyone to what’s going on with you, it goes a long way toward good will and camaraderie when you are honest (as is appropriate) and open with those you work alongside..

ADJUST

Can the meeting be moved? Can the calls be made from home? Can emails be answered elsewhere or later? Can the calendar be streamlined? Take a look at what is not necessary and at what is. Adjust your schedule AND (most importantly!) your expectations of what might get done initially.

ASK

For help. For advice. For suggestions. From friends. From family. From everyone. It would be really nice if everyone knew what we needed all the time. But sometimes, even WE don’t know what we need. As much as you can, ask for what you need from those close to you. They are more than willing to help, most likely, but just don’t know what to do. Be clear. Be specific. Do you need help with children? With a place for out-of-town relatives to stay? With dinner? ASK. Can co-workers pitch in a little bit more to cover some of what you’d planned to do? ASK.

PRIORITIZE

Try to figure out what is urgent, and do that or plan to do that. Get the URGENT covered. After that, figure out what is important. Tackle that next or make a plan to. Everything else can wait until you have a chance to breathe. Focus on what is most urgent and important, delegate what you can, and ask your supervisor to help you prioritize. There might be a chance that something you are prioritizing is not even at the top of your boss’s list.

DOCUMENT

Make notes as you go along because in times of stress, it’s easy to forget what was said, who said they’d do what, what was tabled and what was moved up to the front burner. You probably have a lot more on your plate than usual, so writing things down just helps your brain stay free for non-minutia.

BREATHE

Breathe in, breathe out. This is important. It will be ok. Take a walk with a co-worker. Grab a bench and some water. Sit down with a book at lunch. Do whatever re-charges you and helps you feel human.

Look, we all love our work and our jobs are important. We are important to them and they are important to us. Sometimes, though, life just inconveniently interrupts. Follow these tips to help yourself navigate some of the rough waters as you sail along.

This article was inspired by "Tips for Staying Afloat at Work When Life Gets Messy" by Sofia Troutman, and first appeared at www.skyline-etips.com/

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