“Dear Laura, my workplace has become a nightmare; the workload is horrible, nothing is ever good enough, or fast enough, I am exhausted, my family suffers, I suffer, but I have no choice. Urgent requests keep coming, pressure increases, positions disappear, and I am afraid to loose my job, so I try to hold on, but I am not sure how much longer I can go on like this. What can I do? Love, Jin”

Dear Jin,

I fully understand how you are feeling, and unfortunately your situation is not unique. Many managers feel squeezed and overwhelmed nowadays; fast technologies do not alleviate our burden, they actually exasperate our expectations of being able to do everything every time everywhere and at light speed.

You ask ME what to do. Well, first of all, let me turn the question back at you. What do YOU want?

Seriously, nobody can help you unless they know what you really want. Do you want to quit? Find another job? Ask for additional help? Negotiate part-time or a sabbatical? Or simply complain and tell your sad story until you believe it, so that you do not need to act?

OK, let me go on a limb here: let me assume that what you really want is to stay in your job, and to give it another shot; but you need help in identifying how to do your job at a bearable level of intensity. Right now, you are so tired and scared that you lack the clarity to see what is possible.

If this is the case, I can offer the following 3 suggestions:

1. Take responsibility.
Ruminating over “how bad things are” is totally natural and understandable, but it does deplete your energy. You need to stop it. So start to change the words in your thoughts:
“This place is toxic, it damages my health” becomes “I am damaging my health”
“Overtime robs families of attention” becomes “I am robbing my family of attention”
“Constant fire-fighting increases the risk to make some stupid and irreparable mistake” becomes “I am increasing my risk of making a stupid and irreparable mistake”
Repeat it to yourself until you believe it. This will give you clarity, perspective, and the courage to act. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you are now ready to make a real change.

2. Be kind with yourself.
Now that you are aware, you can start to act differently. Even small changes can ease your tension and provide useful insights. For example:
Aware of my responsibility towards my health: I make sure to get enough sleep and to take a walk after lunch to decompress. Insight: I am more efficient when rested.
Aware of my responsibility towards my family: I make sure to be home in time at least twice a week. I may find out that some of the “urgent” questions of yesterday have fallen off the list; they were not so vital after all. Insight: I learn to recognize key priorities.
Aware that I am not giving my very best when I am tired: I tell that I would not be serving the business well if I continue to rush and try to do everything. Insights: I gain self-respect and others start to look at me as a role model.

3. Apply these practical rules of thumb:
– Always do first what “only you” can do. There will always be things that get left behind or are not done perfectly. Make sure they are not the ones where you can contribute real added value, hence you can both feel good and shine.
– Learn how to “say yes and … ” followed by a few critical questions. You find a detailed guideline in my previous blog post: http://grooa.dev-projects.techblog/78-hate-to-say-no-try-this/

I hope that you give this job of yours a good chance, it would be a shame to leave without trying; if you do try these suggestions, I guarantee that you will regain energy and self-esteem. Lots of strengths!

Love, Laura

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