How do you get your work done when the world is on fire?

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At the time I’m writing this, the world isn’t literally on fire (yet?). It just feels a little bit that way: A hurricane has devastated the Texas city I grew up in, the news cycle is. . .well, what it is these days, and there are always personal challenges to deal with like family and aging pets (ask me about my cat’s steroids!).

As they say, life happens. So when life seems to happen a lot, all at once, how are you supposed to get any work done? Let’s discuss.

First: Don’t.

I’m not recommending that you quit your job and lay down on the floor, George Michael Bluth-style. (Although if you feel the latter would be therapeutic in your own home, who am I to stop you.)  I am recommending that you take a look at your current workload and schedule and see where you can make some space for yourself.

If you routinely push yourself past the limit at the gym or at the office, make some space to back off from that. Go home at 5pm and do whatever it is you daydream most about doing to recharge. Exchange a HIIT class for a yoga class. Go for a really long walk.

Fill these arbitrary examples in with things from your own life that work for you.

Overhaul your priorities

While you’re looking at that schedule of yours, how can you maximize it? Rearrange things so you can be as efficient as possible and keep some version of the space you’ve made for yourself going forward.

Life isn’t likely to just let up on you so easy, after all.

Recognize what does and doesn’t actually recharge you

Here is where the old adage “too much of a good thing” comes into play. If you run to recharge, don’t run so many miles that you wind up burning yourself out.

It’s a worthwhile learning process to figure out how much of a thing that recharges you you need before it backfires into draining you in a new and different way.

Another example is cleaning your home or office space; sometimes you’ve got to force yourself to do that cleaning because you know you operate better in a clean space, but you don’t want to spend so many hours cleaning and organizing that you resent using all of your free time on that activity.

You also need to be sure you’re able to forgive yourself during the learning process. There’s no point in punishing yourself because you didn’t find the optimum level for an activity the first time (or first few times) you tried to.

Finally: Dive into work

Work can actually be a very needed distraction from other areas of life; the trick is not to let it also become an all-consuming problem itself. It’s not healthy to dwell on personal problems or a terrifying news cycle 24/7. Doing either isn’t likely to solve anything and is likely to gain you increased blood pressure and a general sense of depression and helpless frustration.

So use each to balance the other: Be an informed, active citizen as much as you are able. Be a good friend, parent, partner. Be a good employee and get your work done. Be good to yourself so you can do all of these other things.

Recognize when one is eating up space of the others and adjust as necessary. There will be seasons of your personal life and career when one will come before the other and that’s normal. Just don’t be afraid to readjust as necessary.

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash