Lately I’ve been cranky at work. You know how it goes where everything rubs the wrong way and rankles you, no? Luckily, I spend most of my day isolated in a very tall cubicle. However, I caught myself today being snippy with my associate. It caught me off guard and I thought, “OMFG, what the hell is going on with me?” To be clear, my associate is incredibly smart, hard-working, diligent, and makes me laugh at just the right times. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was doing something wrong!
My shortness is a symptom of exhaustion. (Come to think of it, maybe my pneumonia was too.) It generally shows up at work first, where I have a bit more space and fewer people to upset with my grumpiness. If I’m being honest, it reared it’s ugly head last night with my kids and husband. They just wouldn’t stop… Anything. Yelling. Whining. Crying. And it was working for them.
We had run one “quick” errand after work last night. It wasn’t quick. Littles may or may not have cried the entire drive home until we turned down our street and she cheerily shouted, “Home!” from the back seat. When we got in it was straight upstairs to put pajamas on and directly to stories. Bigs was delaying. Lucky for me, I had brought a magazine with me to read, in anticipation of this exact behavior that really pushes my buttons. It took 12 minutes to select six books to read. It took two and a half books before he was mouth open, snoring on my shoulder. In the most peaceful moment of the day, I lingered with my magazine and his soft breath.
I may or may not have been putting off the to do list that was waiting for me in the kitchen. A debatable point, but my quiet moment (dare I say time out?) allowed me to push the reset button. When I left Bigs sleeping soundly, I was in a much better place to get things done and I got right to work. Getting things done makes me feel better — more caught up, but it doesn’t cure over-tiredness.
How do I cure my fatigue? I accept responsibility for my part in creating it, acknowledge some things were not within my control, and make a plan to change my situation.
Let’s face it, we are largely in control of how busy we are. At my worst, I find myself doing the opposite of what I should be doing, so that I’m even busier than I need to be. I’m not sure who I’m playing the drama out for, because I rarely find someone to join my pity party. You know the one… feel bad for me, because I’m so busy. Everybody needs me and it leaves me with no time to take care of myself. I call this behavior wearing the Busy Badge of Honor. Not familiar with these doing? You’re my hero.
Once I get back into my right mind, I recognize that I am in control and reflect on these things in an effort to find time:
- Lower My Expectations. This can result in a broad range of time savings from frozen pizza for dinner to skipping picking the house up to disobeying my 20 e-mails in my inbox rule. For me, taking the heat off often gives me the space to get back to my normal level of expectations faster.
- Prioritize. Easier said than done. I utilize the urgent vs. important matrix:
- Urgent and Important – examples: paying bills, school forms, deadlined work items
- Not Urgent, but Important – example: spending quality time with family & friends
- Urgent, but Unimportant – examples: texts and e-mail (some are important, but generally speaking)
- Not Urgent and Unimportant – example: cleaning the basement storage area that has been on my list for six month
- It’s a quick way for me to assess what actually needs to get done. I can quickly wait list items in the last category, delay items in the third category, assess how much wiggle room I have on the second category, and focus in on the first category.
- Just Say No. Adding to the to do list while trying to find time for self care and recharging is counter productive. Trust me. Thinking that time will magically regenerate after you get one night of eight hours of sleep is in a word: nuts!
- Eliminate Procrastination. I like to wallow in my weariness just as much as the next gal, but usually I need to stop complaining and get it done.
If I were a great blogger, I would have some fancy-pants graphic that is perfectly pinable outlining my sure-fire method of getting back on track. Currently, I’m trying to lower my expectations, so that will have to wait… maybe forever. It should also be noted that this recipe sometimes fails. There are times when things aren’t in our control. Right now, work is very busy as a result of external factors. Maybe for you it is projects or kids’ schedules. Emergencies also happen. Remember that 14 hours this past week in the car for a funeral (urgent and important, but completely unforeseeable.) This is a time when we should say yes and need to say yes.
Can you see how the plan is starting to come together? Yeah, me too! Makes me feel like I can breath again. Now this time that I have
magically found earned back through tough choices, I’m going to spend it doing things that fill me back up. Sleep, reading, quiet time, finding laughter in my life, and going for walks.
I think I’m going to be (sort of) caught up in a couple of weeks. I’m proud of recognizing my bad mood as something that was being caused by my own choices and not other people.
Do you think my associate’s favorite Starbucks beverage and an honest apology for my ugliness this week will cut it? Apologizing does always make me feel better.