Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tearing down the pile, high and deep

Maastricht evening 1 It’s been a busy month: my job officially switched location from Arnhem to Maastricht on the 1st of November, and I’ve been playing catch-up with finding a place to live, getting ready to move, taking on the new job, closing out the old one, and plying the two-hour commute a day or so each week.

Add to it the need to find another job, to visit physicians to assess my ankles, to finish planning and grant submission for the startup in England, to help structure the course I’m co-chairing in Cambridge, to attend the occasional conference, and to save time for the people who matter most in life.

Toss in the unexpected: my father’s bypass surgery, which had to be a priority…

..and my life has gone from crowded to difficult to stressful in rapid jumps.

Maastricht evening 2 Yes, it’s my own fault: a period in life where I over-committed, under-planned, and mis-prioritized.  At the end of the day, I’m predictably harried, irritated, frustrated and stressed to the limit.  Quite-not-fun, all things said.  Exhausted, I took an hour to sit down with an advisor last week to see if I could sort things out.

Clearly, lightening the load has to be at the top of the list.  Even though my main job feels a bit lightweight at the moment compared to what I was doing, augmenting it with a half-dozen other jobs to prove my worth has not been smart.

To scale down the pile, I’ve taken a few hours to organize a list of *everything*.  Then I’ve prioritized the things that can’t wait and the things that can.  I’ve tried to communicate a more realistic schedule of who can expect to get what, when, and am sticking to it.  Finally, I’m being firm about not taking anything else on until this is excavated.

Maastricht evening 3

Second, I’m accepting that it can’t all get done.  I’ve resolved not to stress out if I have an 80% successful day.

If several big things get completed and a lot of little things get closed, then the day has been good.  If the list is smaller at the end of the day then at the beginning, that’s a win.  If the things I’ve started get completed and I’ve made a good job of it, that’s success.

At the advisor’s suggestion, I’m strengthening ties with a couple of close friends who I can talk with about what’s going on.  She suggested that I just pick a couple and ask if they would mind if I called occasionally to talk about what’s going on.

It’s been nice to know that the support is there if I needed it.  And I have sometimes called to talk about the evolution of work, prospects for my father’s recovery, to share travel stories or plans, and to laugh about some event or bit of news.  It helps to put things into perspective, lighten the mood, and head off temptation.   And a weekly chat with both of the kids is always palliative.

Maastricht evening 4 Finally, I’m making guilt-free time for non-work activity on non-work time.  It can become a viscous cycle, letting work spill into off-hours to catch up, which creates the illusion that I’m on top of it, further encouraging me to take on work.  Keeping work in a limited box and holding fast to limits reinforces the commitment to holding the line at a reasonable number of tasks.

I’ve wanted to get more time for learning Dutch, to exercise, for taking drives, to read a book, for joining a social club, to fiddle with art and writings.  No worries, it’s not becoming a ‘leisure list’ of things to do.  But it is a palette of relaxing and stimulating things that I can pick up as, and if, I choose.

The job worries have, in particular, been a source of concern.  Time seems to pass quickly, and resolution is moving very slowly.  I’m really trying to pull back from having to actively manage the search as intensively as I have.

I’ve talked to the people that I need to, I’m aware of the opportunities being offered, and I know the process and timeline for being likely to hear something.  I am moving towards setting a few personal deadlines, and I’m actively pruning the leads that are likely to be non-productive.  It’s time to play more of a waiting and watching game, and to stop reminding everyone that I’m still looking (even the best house becomes suspect if it stays on the market too long).

This too will pass…quickly, I hope.

‘More good suggestions at the Mayo Clinic’s ‘Stress Solution’

No comments: