Work Smarter, Not Harder.
“What worked yesterday doesn’t always work today.” Elizabeth Gilbert
I recently came across a quote on an Instagram post that really stuck with me.
“One of the problems with the myth of work-life balance is that we are selling people the idea that if they just have the right structure, or the right system or tools, that they will somehow be able to squeeze it all in” Sarah Peck, founder and Executive director of Startup Pregnant.
It dawned on me I’ve often thought I could easily create the perfect work-life balance, just so long I create the perfect sweet spot allowing me to do so. Work smarter, not harder, right? For me, this means I need to attract a position that allows me to remain efficient, not feel like I’m drowning in work, and still allows me to have ample personal time to do the things I enjoy outside of work, and spend time with the people that mean most to me.
All this sounds great, right? But it’s so much easier said than done. I can’t speak for other people my age, or even other people with similar work-life goals, but since graduating from college and trying to launch myself into a career path, my biggest discomfort I’ve faced is the fear that I would feel confined to my full-time job, and that it would derail me from my desire to travel the world. If I’m honest, it’s created quite a few roadblocks for me in my job search. I have so many dreams and desires of traveling, both for work and personal reasons, changing my living locations until I find one I feel grounded in, and feeling like there’s still enough time for me to spend with the people I love. I now look back at all my time in school and think, wow, I had so much free time!
I’m really lucky, though. I have landed a great position as an EA with Generon International, where I get to work alongside my mother and her business partner on a day-to-day basis. I’m not going to lie; Working with my mom is pretty awesome! This job manages to give me a lot of the things I feared I wouldn’t have in my first “big girl” job. For instance, I get to work remotely! This means that I have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, just as long as I have access to a computer and a trustworthy WiFi connection. This position gives me the freedom to go where I choose, when I choose, while at the same time, teaching me efficiency, time management, and how to deal with difficult people from time to time. It’s also taught me how to be smarter with my time (hence the idea, “work smarter, not harder”).
In my first two months working with Generon, I have learned the importance of allocating resources; this idea of “don’t do more than you have to” and “share the wealth”. When you wake up on a Monday morning and see that you have over 50 emails in your inbox, it’s easy to start spiraling at the thought that those 50+ emails = 50+ tasks that you now have to complete by yourself. At first, I thought I would just have to suck it up and handle it. But I soon realized that I’m working on a team, and this means we all have each other’s backs. It’s okay for me to ask for help, and guess what? It’s also okay for me to advocate for myself when I feel I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. When seeing that inbox number, yes, it’s overwhelming to say the least. And believe me, I take notice as that red number racks up over the weekend. At first, I just wanted to keep that inbox number down, so I found myself working on Saturdays and Sundays until I eventually realized, hello! It’s the weekend! I should be going out with friends or taking time to catch up on some of my favorite shows, or simply just taking the time to continue reading a book or go for a walk. I kind of started to feel like I was marrying myself to my technology and quickly saw how unhealthy that relationship would become. So, I hit the pause button and came up with a new rule for myself. Come Friday by 5:30pm eastern standard time, any and all emails that come in from that point forward will not be touched until Monday morning and so far, I’ve done a pretty good job at keeping that promise with myself.
“What worked yesterday doesn’t always work today.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
It’s hard to not feel overwhelmed by these things, but I know that if I don’t take the time to share my headspace with something not work related, come Monday morning, I’m not going to be able to start my new week off right. If I’m not mentally able to take that much needed break every weekend, I’ve noticed that when I start back up again on Monday morning, my motivation and desire to get tasks done is way lower than it is on days I wake up feeling refreshed. This has been a huge lesson! If you show up in a space feeling fresh and ready to get shit done, you’re more likely to not only get it done more effectively and have a successful outcome, but you’re going to get those tasks done a lot faster with much more ease and grace than you would if you felt crappy or distracted by other stressors while doing the work. Again, work smarter, not harder! Be honest about how you feel and about what you can handle. Make sure that your desires, expectations and goals are clear from the outset. When we can authentically relay those factors, not only will we feel better, but we have a way better chance at actually turning those dreams into a reality.
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