Negotiate What You’ll Tolerate in Your Career—and What You Won’t
Have you ever had a moment where the constant ringing or pinging of your phone makes you want to toss it out the window?
The pressures of a demanding job are stressful enough during “normal” times. Compounded with the challenges of a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted women, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning with no rescue in sight.
Boundaries between work and home life are more blurred than ever, with many women working and living in the same space. And when you’re hooked into work every moment of the day (and night), the demands of email, Zooms, phone calls, and Slack are a never-ending burden.
Constrictive Gender Norms Pressure Women to “Do It All”
Women tend to accept the inevitability of impossible deadlines and a mounting to-do list, weighed down in part by the old, sexist mantra that a woman must work twice as hard as a man to achieve the same recognition and respect. We’ve been conditioned to do everything: from working a full-time job to running the house to looking after the kids.
While it can feel like a badge of honor to keep all those balls in the air, your beliefs may be holding you back from setting reasonable expectations for your workload. That’s right: the first step in dealing with overwhelm at work isn’t to cut your hours, ask for more time off, or ask your manager to revise your job description. Those asks can be an extremely important part of your plan to negotiate what you’ll tolerate in your career, but the first negotiation you need to have is with yourself.
Renegotiating Your Mindset About Your Career
I’ve written a whole series about negotiating your mindset, and how your negotiation with yourself is truly the most important one you’ll ever have. Before you can go to your employer, or your clients, and ask to make a change in your relationship with them, you need to understand what it is that you really want.
In other words, what are you willing to tolerate at work? Are you willing to work weekends so you have flexibility during the week to go to your favorite yoga class? Are you willing to take early morning calls as long as you can pick your kid up from daycare by 3 pm? Are you willing to spend 20% of your time on administrative tasks that bog you down as long as 80% of your time is spent doing fulfilling work you really love? The answers will be different for everyone.
I’d also invite you to consider what you won’t tolerate: more work than you can reasonably handle, unrealistic expectations about deadlines, colleagues and managers who don’t treat you respectfully.
And finally, bring your negotiation back to how you treat yourself. Can you give yourself permission to not say yes to every request you get from your team? To be less than 100% polished and prepared every now and then? If so, you’re in the right headspace to take tactical steps toward negotiating a work life that’s less stressful and more enjoyable.
6 Practical Ways to Feel Less Overwhelmed at Work
There are practical ways to manage work-related stress and burnout, from mindful coping mechanisms that get you through a tough day to holistic preventative solutions. These tips will help you negotiate work life, home life, and even some time for yourself.
I advise the powerful women I coach to:
- Practice mindful breathing. Focusing your attention on your breath is one of the most powerful ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Best of all, you can practice this calming technique right in the middle of the office and your colleagues will be none the wiser! In my programs, I teach the 4x4x4x4 technique, otherwise known as box breathing: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold for four counts, repeat.
- Get out in nature. When you’re struggling to find calm within yourself, getting out in nature can help you find your center—and you only need five minutes to reap the stress-reducing benefits! Touch a tree or feel the grass with your bare feet. This tactile sensation reconnects you with the earth, literally grounding you and producing feelings of deep relaxation.
- Create a plan of action. When you work a demanding job, it can be hard to step back and look at the bigger picture, but setting aside time to plan will actually help make you more efficient. It will make it easier for you to stay focused on your priorities instead of inadvertently taking on somebody else’s agenda. You’ll also train your mind to focus on the positives and set achievable goals.
- Use the 80/20 rule. Once you’ve figured out your plan of action, use the 80/20 rule to prioritize tasks that have the greatest impact on your future. The idea is that 20% of the activities we do stand for 80% of the results we produce. For example, if you have a list of 10 actions, 2 of those actions will have a more significant effect on your future than the other 8 combined. Start by identifying a high-priority task and commit to completing it.
- Delegate your work. Women often fall into the trap of taking on more than they can practically handle—at work and at home. While it can be empowering to feel like you’re superwoman, trying to do too much easily leads to burnout. Passing on tasks that you know someone else can accomplish frees up your time and your mind.
- Eliminate what isn’t necessary. Do you really need to complete your to-do list today? You can feel a sense of failure if you don’t finish everything you have written down. If the work you have to complete isn’t urgent and time-sensitive, give yourself a moment to come up for air.
Tapping into your own natural skills to negotiate your work-life balance can ease the feeling of being overwhelmed, empowering you to push past limiting beliefs that may be holding back your potential. You’ll probably even feel less inclined to throw your phone out the window!
If you’d like additional guidance on reclaiming your power, let’s connect. I can’t wait to hear from you.