For the past two months since my GM left the company, I’ve been trying to accomplish the workload of two people. To put it simply, it’s been difficult. The most difficult thing for me has not been the amount of work I’ve been trying to complete, or balancing my time management but coming to realize that I’ve failed to leave my problems at the door. I have had three months of sleep deprivation, irregular eating, aggravation, moodiness, and physical soreness all caused from on the job stress that is all too easily avoided.
This sudden realization does not come as a shock to me at all, because I understand my personality. I understand that I think of things as logically as I can, and I do not often pay much attention to the emotional side of my brain when it comes to work or conflict. It makes me laugh at how silly I am to think that I won’t burn out; rather, it makes me laugh that I don’t take the time to consider that I am human and can burn out like anyone else. While I’ve spent years getting to know my staff, I’ve spent very little time learning about my own limitations and stress factors.
I am invested in the personalities of my staff; I know who loves working, who needs to work, who can’t wait to stop working, who likes film, who likes books, who likes games, which analogies work for each person and which ones get lost in translation, which staff members could replace me someday if I were to move on and which staff members will probably leave the job for greener pastures in the coming months. I know that I am respected and well liked as the leader of my team. I know what motivates, inspires, and engages my team and I am an integral part of keeping the machine that is our business moving. For a young manager with less than two years of experience, this knowledge comes with a lot of pressure.
This pressure has weighed on my shoulders in a slow nagging way that led to a few conversations at home about work; a few conversations at home slowly turned into a lot of conversations at home about work, and eventually too many conversations at home about work. I’ve had years of practice leaving my problems at the door when I walk into work, but only just came to the realization that it’s important to my business, my team, and myself that I leave my work problems at the door when I walk home.
When I was in college I constantly had more responsibilities than I wanted. I frequently drove an hour to get home and work almost every weekend because I pushed for advancement which eventually came with more hour long trips home and more responsibility at work. I put up with that drive to keep a steady income that would fuel my gas tank and help maintain a long distance relationship. I dealt with a host of nagging family issues that every family deals with at one time or another, but naturally felt unique to me. I was maturing faster than I wanted to, supporting older family members in ways I wasn’t prepared to do. Besides the personal drama listed above and the usual hormonal issues associated with the college age, I worked hard to keep up my grades in school. Somehow I also made time to get involved on campus to make and keep new friendships. All of this was a carefully planned balance that was not easy for me to hold together at times, especially because I let everything going on in my life weigh on me with equal importance which didn’t help my cause of taking myself too seriously.
The times I found most difficult to maintain this balance came whenever I had close interactions with one close friend. This friend of mine had (what looked to me at the time as) little responsibility, and because of my personal situation I could not understand how he would frequently get excited to hang out with our friends and “just sit”. This guy had a job with less hours, but he still had a family, friends, relationships, and classes that must have weighed on him just as much as my issues weighed on me. I never realized it at the time, but he had (and still has) a strong grasp of what it means to leave it at the door. He knows how to unplug, and I cannot remember him allowing his work to consume him the way I’ve let it consume me for the past few months.
I’m a young leader with more responsibility than I thought I would have when I first accepted my job. If I could talk to myself in the past in some way, I would stress the importance of leaving it at the door like my friend did/does so easily. I would stress the importance of just letting things go and allowing myself to unplug. Leadership/management requires a fresh perspective daily. If you don’t unplug you’ll find yourself too close to issues, and eventually you’ll find that you are an issue for yourself. So remember to stop thinking about once in a while. Read your books, watch your films, play your games, and most importantly, do things with your friends and your family.
At work, it’s important to get to know your staff so you can work as effectively as possible with/for them. They are your greatest asset, your best tool, and your most important set of tasks—if you think about work, try to keep thoughts towards your people, because they are what change at work—your tasks usually remain static. Your family and friends are your greatest asset, best tool, and most important set of tasks in life. When you are at work, your job can be your life. When you leave work, your job should only be your job. Your job will usually remain the same. The people you value in your life can come and go, and are not a commodity to be overlooked and undervalued. Your tasks at work need you to finish them. Your people at work? They need you as a leader for guidance and support. Your family and friends? You need them in order to unplug and stay as effective as possible at work, but more importantly in life. Leave your problems at the door, and build your relationships before your career. Your career will eventually end—don’t let your relationships suffer for that. I’m lucky enough to have these insights in my early twenties, and somehow I’ll manage to follow my insights consistently.