A few weeks ago, I found myself in a heap of tears in my study at 3am in the morning with a glass of wine by my side and my laptop staring at me blankly.
With a new project at work, I had been working more late nights to catch up with my regular work, while my days were filled with long meetings on the new project.
My late nights – or more often, early morning risings to work – caused untold tension and resentment at home. My husband complained that I was passing our two-year-old daughter off to him when it was my turn to spend time with her.
My daughter’s teacher had even given me a lecture because I was getting my child to school late, as I would still be glued to my laptop when we had to leave the house.
After my spectacular meltdown in the middle of the night – and I’m embarrassed to admit, some desperate status updates on my Facebook profile, I sought ways to get a better work-life balance – especially in the middle of a new project.
Stressful periods at work are inevitable because of the importance of a new project for your company – and your career. But if not managed properly, you can quickly burn out and that serves no one.
The important thing to do is to get a clear outline from your manager about what is expected of you, deadlines and the timeline of the project.
The next step is to spend time brainstorming and mapping out the scope of the project so that you are able to identify potential roadblocks.
Not only will communicating with your boss and teammates make you feel in control of your workload, but also, should unexpected challenges arise, you will be better able to handle them with ease.
2. CREATE A ROUTINE
Even with the best planning, the crazy 12-hour days are inevitable when there is a big project and it’s all hands-on deck.
Research suggests that waking up early, and having a clear morning routine will ensure you always get a positive start to the day and will be happier and less stressed during those manic times.
- Prepare your day the night before. This includes laying out your clothes, packing your bag and making the kids lunches.
- Write a to-do list the night before so that you go to bed with a clear idea of what your day will look like. Doing this at night will be less anxiety-inducing than doing it when your day has already started.
- Resist when your email tries to own you! Most of us – and I’m guilty of this too – check our emails constantly, before we even get out of bed. While you might think this is the best way to get your day started, it’s not, as you end up reacting to other peoples’ agendas before you’ve set your own.
3. ZONE OUT
Make time during the day to de-clutter your mind and re-focus on the task at hand. This can be taking 10 minutes to call a friend who always cheers you up; taking a short power walk or even putting on headphones and jamming to the Empire soundtrack. This will help you think more clearly.
4. MAKE YOUR PARTNER UNDERSTAND
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg once said the most important career choice you’ll make is whom you marry. She described her late husband Dave Goldberg as being hands-on, and their marriage being 50-50. She said that having a supportive spouse, a real partner, will play a huge part in your success.
Shortly after my now infamous melt-down I sat down with my husband to explain the project, my role in it, what it meant for the company and ultimately what it will mean for my career. I gave him the breakdown of the timelines. With a clear understanding of the work, and what is expected, we crafted a new schedule, which freed me up in the mornings to allow me to wake up earlier to work.
5. ALWAYS MAKE TIME FOR THE PEOPLE THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY
Half of the stress I was under was the guilt I felt because I wasn’t able to spend time with my family, especially my daughter. I interpreted each time she asked for her father instead of me, or refused to eat when I was feeding her, as a sign that I was a terrible mother.
Part of the plan my husband and I came up with was that my little girl and I would have 30 minutes of quality play time before he took her upstairs for her bath. On weekends, we would go out as a family for three hours and then I could go back to work if I needed to.