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Flipping the Switch

I was stuck in a rut and this is how I got out of it.

“I feel like I’m a B+ across the board. Work, you, the kids, training. I’m completely strained to keep everything afloat and I’m not doing any one thing well.”

That’s what I said my husband while we were standing in the kitchen. As he cleaned up after their dinner, I was pulling stuff out for mine. For the next few minutes, I recounted how an important search blew up and I didn’t seem to be able to find candidates for another. How some moms cornered me at the park about taking computers away at school and cheerleading practice and I thought they were speaking a foreign language. Then the never-ending  and immediate list of things we needed to fix around the house, and finally, cash flow.

I was anxious and overwhelmed, disappointed I wasn’t managing things better. If I were a weekly weather outlook, I’d be a row of angry storm clouds and non-stop rain. I was in a funk and I could feel my attitude making things worse.

I’m not the only one who has those days, right? So how do you right side things when it seems to be raining all the time?

My mood hadn’t changed when I woke up the next morning, but I was determined to have a better day and be more productive.

The first column to tackle was training so I got on the bike. I rode to my favorite coffee shop and started chatting with one of the regulars there that I had seen many times but never spoken to. My mood lifted. Feeling better, I talked my husband’s ear off the whole way home.

Work. I was unenthused and going thru the motions. There’s a certain part of repetitive activity in my job and it’s easy to seem productive without really achieving anything of consequence. It’s sales. It’s easy to say But I called all these people! But since I was on auto-pilot, none of these calls were successful.

I needed to re-engage. So before I picked up the phone again for an interview, I read up on this guy’s company. I looked at his profile and recent press and tried to imagine what might motivate him to take a new job. I looked at the people we knew in common and thought of the questions I wanted to ask him. (I’d like to do this for every single person I speak to, but sometimes the volume of searches we’re working on doesn’t permit it).

We had an incredible and insightful conversation. Instead of pitching him the opportunity, I started at what seemed like an obscure point up the road. As our conversation meandered toward the topic I collected all sorts of intel which ultimately led me to 1) walk away a troubling search project, 2) sign a new client, 3) get a few outstanding referrals…  in addition to presenting him for the job. It was a forest thru the trees kind of lesson. Stop working mindlessly and address the important stuff.

Kids. My curated Facebook news stream included this & this. This is what my friends are talking about. I wonder everyday if I’m short-changing my kids because I’m not involved enough.

Tonight I took their daily activity report from school and went thru it with them as they were eating. On my way back to the office, I paused to look at them in the yard. They had changed into the exercise outfits and sneakers I bought them and were doing some kind of run and cheer drill. OK, I thought, they look happy and entertained without me. Maybe it’s alright if I don’t make their fruit wraps into origami animals.

Husband. We set an hour to unpack the basement, and when it was over, we left everything exactly where it was and took ourselves out to dinner. He said, you seem less stressed out and more present. And when something is bothering you, you talk about it instead of retreating.

Wow, really? I mean, Thanks, I’ve been working on that. A smile crept across my face. My confidence returned and the sun came out.

In summary, lessons learned:

1.       Sometimes, just accomplishing one thing on your To Do list can provide the sense of an accomplishment and confidence you need to tackle others.

2.       Never estimate the power of a mental vacation to solve chronic issues and recharge the batteries. Spending time away from the busy list can give you the perspective or fresh eyes you need.

3.       Consider the alternative of being a B+ across all columns. If you must do everything, the consequences of being an A at work and a C at home seem worse than a B average. And if you want to be outstanding across the board, maybe you need to do less.

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