Protecting Your Peace at Work is Key to Your Performance and Personal Health
One of the things I wish I knew when I started my career was how to draw a line between work and my personal peace of mind. It is so easy to get completely wrapped up in the grind of the work and the office politics. This is not just a hard task for a ‘challenging situation”, it’s also hard when you love your work and coworkers.
However hard we find it, drawing clear boundaries around your peace of mind is imperative, especially if you are in a more idea-focused field such as marketing. Lack of peace usually comes from fear and fear is the greatest enemy of the creative mind. If you are mentally wrapped up in the fear and/or anxiety of your idea being wrong you will never have anything to contribute.
A personal story: Early in my career I worked in a place so toxic that I still refer to it as being in the “lion’s den”. I was completely overworked, underpaid and too new to know it. Even though I was doing the work of 3 people and crushing goals, nothing I ever did could satisfy my manager. I was completely wrapped up in the work and viewing my self-worth through the lens of a completely irrational being. I left that place thinking something was wrong with me and that maybe “I just wasn’t creative”.
You may say the problem was the manager and it was but it was also that I allowed this person to control how I felt about my myself, not just professionally but personally. I had zero boundaries and it completely killed my confidence, taking me years to fully recover.
Now that you have heard why you have to protect your peace, let’s talk about how we go about it.
Get a freelance mentality. Instead of thinking about a job as a place you have to be or else, start thinking about it as a place that pays you to learn new skills and explore new ideas. Every company you work for gives you a chance to sharpen the skills in your toolbox (even the bad ones teach you something). As you go about your day, intentionally change the way you see your job functions.
This change in thinking not only helped me draw some boundaries but it elevated the quality of work I did. I was no longer “trying to get it done”, I was more focused on creating something I was proud of and surprising myself. Yeah, the job loved it but in my head, that was just a byproduct.
Build that “fuck it” fund. Why do we stay in jobs we hate? Money. Nothing kills your peace like being stuck. Start socking away money as soon as you can, its the best way to get some personal leverage. Think about how much freer you will feel if you know that you can survive a good 3 – 6 months on savings.
Nothing is personal. People will be people and they come to work with all of their childhood trauma, PTSD, relationship problems and daddy issues. Even if they make it about you, its never really about you. You will find that toxic folks are never just toxic for you, they kill the entire vibe. Try your best not to allow this person’s reaction to your work, impact how you see your work.
Not your circus, not your monkeys. I think this often and try to never say it allowed because I have found that people think it means I don’t care but …. yeah that’s pretty much exactly what it is. No matter your position in a company there are certain levels of problems you cannot solve, no matter what you do. Stop trying. In these situations, I build some guardrails so that I can do my part and move on.
Personal example: As a marketer, I know that people always want you to do something last minute. I figure out early how long certain projects take (a guardrail) and I can quickly say “that campaign is gonna take X weeks to complete and here is why.” I cannot control when they show up.. that’s not my circus but I can make sure I know enough about the circus to set some expectations.
Take your damn Paid time off (PTO). I don’t know where y’all got the idea that you get a gold star for not taking your vacation time but I am here to tell you, it’s a dumb idea. There is no honor in working yourself to death. What is the end goal? Do you want us to put “perfect attendance” on your gravestone? You need the disconnection. It keeps your mind fresh and your approach agile. It feeds the relationships you have outside the office and it makes you less bitter at those of us who take all of our vacation time. Stop gloating about never missing a day, no one cares. Even if its a week on the couch, take it! (And don’t check in on any email while you’re away…. please)
As I said earlier, protecting your peace is imperative to work life. And finding that Balance is not just about leaving on time every day, its also about keeping work and office politics in its appropriate place in your life. It actually makes you a better employee when you can take you can separate your personal ego from the work. Try it and let me know how it works out in the comments below.