Two weeks on

As you know, nearly two weeks ago, I quit my job. It’s now Sunday afternoon, and this marks the end of two pretty hard weeks.

But they weren’t hard for the reasons that I expected.

I was prepared for work to be difficult.  I anticipated questions from everyone.  Neverending questions that I couldn’t really answer.

And of course, I did get questions.  But they weren’t the questions I expected.  I had pre-planned my responses to all sorts of reactions:

  • “You’re CRAZY, what are you DOING?” (I’m making the right choice for me)
  • “Oh, really, Career Development, what kind of job is THAT?” (a job that I’m passionate about, and that I think is important for individuals, organisations and society)
  • “How can you give up a steady job for unemployment in this economic environment?” (We can make do, and I’m giving it to someone who really wants it)
  • “Finding yourself? Pah. What does that even mean?” (I don’t know what it means exactly, but it means getting closer to the person I want to be)

I definitely got a few of those.  But hardly any.  Mostly the conversations were more like this:

Me: Well, I’ll be finishing up just before Christmas…

Colleague/Friend/Someone: What are you going to do?

Me: I’m not sure yet.  I’m going to spend a bit of time working out what I want to do next…  Probably study next year.

C/F/S: Oooh, how exciting for you.  What great news!

I even got offered a collaboration with a friend who runs a recruitment business, and a potential offer of contract work in career development with my current employer.  So work’s actually pretty positive right now.  I’m delighted with the decision, other people are happy for me, and I am fairly confident I won’t need to be unemployed for long.

If that had been all I had to deal with, life would be swimming along nicely.  But of course, the career move wasn’t all that was going on for me in the last couple of weeks – that would just be too easy.

There was the fact that the other person from my 2-person + manager team also announced their plans to leave.  Meaning our team is falling apart.  And nobody quite knows what to do.  But that’s not really my thing to deal with…

My things to deal with were some Stressful Personal Things.  Stressful Personal Things involving my body not doing what it needs to reproduction-wise, and medication to correct it.  Stressful Personal Things involving drug side effects that mimic pregnancy symptoms.  Stressful Personal Things that meant I struggled to focus on my work.

And these things really reminded me how challenging it can be to balance work with the rest of your life, and how important it is to have some strategies to work through these distractions.  During the week, I came up with a few ways to make it a bit easier and to deal better with those things that try to take over your mind when you need to be working:

  • Deal with the distraction.
    This only works if you can do it quickly.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a quick Google search, and that can put your mind at rest, and allow you to re-focus on work.  If you can’t resolve it quickly, move onto another strategy.
  • Defer the distraction.
    Plan in some time to deal with the distraction later.  Make a list of actions to complete when you get home in the evening, or on the weekend, and set aside some time to work it out then.
  • Delegate the distraction.
    If there is someone else who can help you with your distraction, get them involved. Send a quick email, or make a call to your partner or a friend.  Someone else’s perspective, and sharing out any actions can help the distraction feel a lot less distracting.
  • Distract from the distraction.
    If you can’t deal with it, and can’t plan it in later, sometimes the best option is a double distraction.  Listen to some favourite music or a great pod-cast as you work to take your mind off the distraction.  This will only work if you’re a good multi-tasker.  Most people aren’t, so try not to use this one all the time.
  • Down time away from it all.
    Sometimes it all just gets too much.  If you really can’t focus on work, you’re not helping anyone.  Take a quick break to re-focus.  Have a cup of tea, walk around the block, work on a crossword puzzle, write in a journal, just sit.  Whatever will help you get your back on the task at hand, and away from the job.

Throughout the last couple of weeks, I’ve used all of these strategies.  Liberally.  

I’ve also found it useful to have as little time as I can spent on work alone at my desk.  Collaborating with others, running workshops, having meetings (useful ones of course), and visiting people rather than emailing them have all been great ways to keep my mind off my Personal Things and on my job.  And at the end of the week, I’ve managed to achieve some good stuff, despite big distractions trying to strong-arm their way into my mind.  

The Stressful Personal Things aren’t resolved yet.  But they are feeling a lot easier to deal with.  So I’m pretty hopeful that my work will be a bit easier for the next seven weeks.  And even if it’s not, I know the weeks are going to fly by, and before I know it, I’ll be self-employed.  With the task of figuring out how to be the person I want to be.  It’s a big one.

In fact, I think I’m going to need to keep those distraction strategies close at hand…

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