From the desk of Amanda Goyer, Director of Community Engagement, Cap Com Federal Credit Union
Tips & Tricks for Managing Your Chaos
Everyone lives their own version of what they call a chaotic life. Look around as you walk through the office, travel through the airport, visit the grocery store, drop the kids off a daycare…whatever it be, the majority of people today live busy lives overflowing with chaos. Some say by choice, others say it’s just the pace of the world today. Either way, people manage their chaos differently. I’ll share what has worked for me (and trust me, it’s still a work in progress daily, but I’m learning fast).
Thinking about this topic as we lead up to our May WBC event and after recently returning from my second maternity leave is very timely. I’ve recently redefined my definition of “chaos” as we have added another member to our family, another major priority in my world while maintaining the day to day and trying to go above and beyond.
Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve learned from great mentors and experiences:
RESET YOUR EXPECTATIONS:
When I started my career, my relationship, my life as a homeowner, my expectations were FAR beyond where they are today, and I’m ok with that. As I’ve added more into my life, I’ve let go of control of other things along the way. Things that used to be “important” to me have ultimately had to take a back seat as I’ve added other priorities to my life. It’s ok to let go of some things and maybe you let go of them just for now or maybe for good.
The first step in managing your chaos is to manage your expectations realistically. I can do a lot, but I can’t be the super boss, super co-worker, super friend, super mom and super wife all in the same day. I find on days or weeks where I’m performing well in the office, I may not be as present at home, and I don’t mean that physically, but mentally my mind may be thinking of work while at home. I try not to do this, but the reality is, it happens. It goes the other way as well. If one of my boys is sick or my husband gives me a reality check (thank you for that!) my gears shift and my heart and head get grounded at home again where I deliver my full attention and energy to my family. It’s that work-life balance thing everyone talks about or the phrase everyone “hates” to hear! Whatever you want to call it, the fact is, no one can deliver 100% simultaneously in all aspects of life, and no one should be expected to.
MANAGE YOUR TIME-DON’T LET SOMEONE ELSE:
You need to take ownership and accountability for what you schedule and what you allow to take time in your life. Say NO if you cannot be fully present for a commitment, say YES if it’s a priority and/or something you truly want to do.
Are there recurring meetings on your calendar and what is occurring during those can actually occur over emails or with a quick call? Change them!
Person-to-Person meetings are very valuable, but if you already have a great relationship with the individual, can that same thing you were going to book an hour meeting for (and an additional 30-minute travel buffer before and after) be accomplished in a 15-30 minute conference call?
Do you have a corporate culture that supports a “No Meeting Monday” or “Flex Friday” schedule? If not, can you pave the way? For example, I started to block out Friday’s on my calendar as “Office Time”. Things got so hectic that people still booked over this time. Now, I book these Friday’s as “Out of Office” or “Private Appointment” and people respect that time and do not book on top of it. (Now the secret is out, but I usually am in the office on these days). Everyone needs days like this to feel productive, to feel purposeful no matter what level you are at in your career or company. Book time for yourself whether it’s to brainstorm, to execute or to just plain old catch up on email and paperwork.
DON’T LIVE BY EMAIL:
I’ve seen people constantly miss deadlines or avoid big-picture projects that will actually move the needle for their company because they are consumed by their email. Email=Chaos!
Unfortunately, we all get hundreds of emails a day, or a week depending on your role, the trick is how you manage this before the chaos takes over.
A friend of mine has an auto-reply that goes out once an email hits her inbox. It says, “Thank you for your email, I’m so appreciative you reached out and value what you have to say. I’m only checking email at 8:30am and 4:30pm and will reply to you during one of those timeframes. I’m doing this so I can be present with my clients throughout the day. If this is urgent you can contact “name, phone” in my office anytime throughout the day.” Genius!
I’m in the world of Public Relations so I may have emails that come in that are more urgent, what I do is check my email 3 times a day. Morning, lunch and an hour before departing for the day. When I say “check” I mean I scan them for urgent or important things. If it will take 1 minute, I’ll answer immediately, if it’s going to take longer, I’ll hold until that last hour of the day where I take more time to complete more in-depth responses. Otherwise, I’m fully invested in my team, community or bigger projects.
As much as people value a quick email reply, what will be more valued long term is your production and execution on projects that move the needle for your company and ultimately your career.
DO, DELEGATE OR DISSOLVE:
In your work and personal life, manage your chaos in 3 buckets:
- What will you do?
- What can be delegated to others?
- What can be dissolved or taken off your plate in the big scope of priorities?
People that often voice that they have too much chaos in their life, tend to be people that cannot make a decision, cannot let go of control or overcommit.
By breaking your chaos into these buckets it will enable you to continue on a forward trajectory. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your chaos, sit down for 5 minutes and list out these items. First tackle items to dissolve, that is easiest, then meet with those that you are delegating to, finally after both of those are complete you will have the headspace and motivation to move forward with what’s on your to-do list.
LOSE THE GUILT:
Last but certainly not least, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. Chaos happens and it overflows when we overcommit because we feel guilty saying no or guilty that things that were once a priority are no longer. This is not something that comes easily, it’s something you have to work at each day. I find this especially true for women.
It’s OK to take time for you.
It’s OK to flex your schedule on a Friday afternoon if you’ve already been out at 3 morning or evening events this week.
It’s OK if you can’t reply to every single email each day.
It’s OK to leave the dishes in the sink, and leave the clothes in the dryer…for (several) days.
It’s OK to say no to birthday #2 this weekend.
It’s OK to order takeout again.
Lose the guilt, it can be paralyzing, and it’s certainly the #1 key, in my mind, to managing and being OK living a life of (beautiful) chaos!