Feeling Overwhelmed by Work? Go Back to Basics

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According to recent conversations I’ve had with both emerging and senior leaders, 2017 has (already!) been both fraught with tension and rich with opportunity. There is so much work to be done, all seemingly urgent and important. This sort of professional stress may be par for the course, but can also serve as a signal that change is imminent and necessary. Staring your work tension in the face and taking steps to manage it authentically can lead to incredible clarity, or in Virgo-speak – peace.

What do you do when the world is your oyster, but you have neither time nor energy to take on the world? Where do you go when the path ahead is both promising and unclear, when you could do anything but can’t do everything, when your priorities extend beyond your purposes?

Well, you can always go back to basics.

What are the basics? If you’re struggling to figure out what to do next, but know you don’t want more of the same, read on.

Basics # 1: Who are you?

Are you a visionary? A fixer? An encourager? A motivator? A problem solver? Which of the many opportunities in front of you allow you to be who you truly are? If you’re devoting significant energy to work that demands you be someone else, it might be time to rethink your commitments. You may be good at this work and it may have meaningful benefits, but it won’t necessarily get you closer to your own professional center. In fact, it’s probably detracting from what will.

Basics #2: Why are you here?

I always tell people my professional purpose is to help women advance theirs. Since I’m clear about my professional purpose, I’m also clear about when I’m investing in work that’s not fulfilling it. If you can’t state your “why” in a pithy sentence, notice when you feel out of order. This often shows up as unreasonable fatigue. Ever felt exhausted by work that isn’t hard, or even time-consuming? You’re sitting in your office thinking, “I can’t do another thing!” But you’ve sent three emails. All day. If this sounds like you, and you can rule out any deeply emotional or physical reasons, you may be out of order. Purpose-driven work IS energy.

Basics #3: What are your gifts?

I truly believe we are all uniquely gifted. Are you using your gifts to make a meaningful impact? If you’re a phenomenal teacher but you never teach, someone or something is worse off because of it. Stop to consider whether that someone is you. Know your talents, and find ways to leverage them where and how you can. Don’t get bogged down in work that has absolutely no use for the ways you naturally shine.

Basics #4: How do you prefer to work?

Are you a collaborative leader who works alone? Are you a creative thinker who’s responsible for following someone else’s procedures? Do you thrive on depth and focus, but have several projects, each requiring a light touch? Do you enjoy fixing problems, but your job asks that you merely identify them? Figure out the kind of work environment or situation that brings out the best in you and others. Then, shift your way there, one choice at a time.

Basics #5: What are your deal-breakers?

We all have stakes in the ground. Working counter to our values is perhaps the most insidious danger we face at work. We often think of values alignment with our companies. Other, less explored culprits are process, people, and norms. Your company or client may stand for immeasurable good, but if the culture doesn’t live up to that promise, or the leaders behave in ways that challenge your sense of rightness, you’re going to feel sick all the time. Maybe not physically, but emotionally – as in burdened, tired, and detached. No bueno.

There you go, friends. Here’s what you get when introspective Virgos have free time on a weekend – clarity, and a straightforward, purpose-led plan to get back on track.

Originally posted on TaraJayeFrank.com.

Tara Jaye Frank

Tara Jaye Frank is VP of Multicultural Strategy for Hallmark Cards, Inc. and the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose, written to help women from all cultural backgrounds chart a career course they can believe in and achieve. Follow her on Twitter @tarajfrank and Facebook at Facebook/tarajayefrank, or visit her at tarajayefrank.com.


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