Last week I received an email from someone in our community who is at a difficult point, both professionaly and personally. The email contained this phrase:
I feel like I am wasting my life being at my current job.
Almost two decades ago, I said almost the same thing to a coach I was working with. I was very worried that I’d get to a point where I’d feel like I was wasting my life. I remember her response to this day:
That’s not possible.
When I challenged her on how she could know that, she responded that people who waste their lives aren’t the kind of people who hire coaches and ask the kind of questions I was asking. “You’re one of the most intentional people I’ve worked with,” she said.
I have the same advice to you. People who are wasting their lives don’t listen to leadership podcasts, don’t work to get better at their work, and certainly don’t subscribe to weekly leadership guides like you’re reading now.
Since you’re clearly not wasting your life, here’s how you can master your attitude — for both yourself and others:
Give Yourself Grace
One of the guiding people principles many of us embrace is the concept that it’s not a good use of time to be a critic. In his bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People*, Dale Carnegie concludes the first chapter with this directive:
Don’t Criticize, Condemn, or Complain
No doubt most of us struggle to get better at this in our daily interactions with others…
And then completely forget the lesson when dealing with ourselves. (If only I could have been paid hourly for all the time I’ve spent being critical of myself.)
Perhaps the same if true of you. Chris Lema asks the question, “You know who needs grace?” Hint: not just everyone else.
You Weren’t Productive? Gasp!
When David Allen of Getting Things Done was on the show in March, he explained that his work attracts that kind of people who care a lot about productivity. He said:
The people most attracted to what we teach, the GTD methodology, are the people who need it least.
Reading these words suggests that you probably are way more turned into leadership, people, and productivity than the average person.
So, let’s stop beating ourselves up.
Not that helpful, I know.
Better advice is what to actually do differently. Here’s six ways to reduce your guilt about not being productive.
60 Hour Weeks
The most obvious way to deal with a crazy workload is to work more hours. Many of us can push 60+ hours weeks during busy times.
And since it works well during busy times, the default for some of us is to work longer hours all the time. More hours = increased productivity, right?
Turns out no. More and more, I’m seeing articles and research suggesting that working more hours is counterproductive.
Harvard Business Review goes even further. An increase of hours may help temporarily, but the research is clear: long hours backfire for people and for companies.
Calling Out Calling
Speaking of things we waste a lot of time on, I’ve heard several conversations from thought leaders recently that challenge the advice that we need to find our calling.
Instead of worrying about finding your calling, try a different focus. Seth Godin suggests we focus our attitude on a different word starting with the letter C.
206: Five Steps to Conquer Overwhelm
As mentioned earlier, the first thing most of us do when overwhelmed is to work more. That might help for a few days, but done consistently, often makes the issue worse.
That’s why I asked Michael Nichols on the show this week to review five steps to conquer overwhelm. The full audio and all the links Michael and I discussed are posted on the Coaching for Leaders website.