Slump to Pump: How to 'Just Survive'
I’m pretty sure the last three blog posts have all been led with an apology for not writing sooner. I always seem to be pretty busy with neither the time nor energy to write. But these last few months really been extra challenging and now I’m out the other side of the tunnel, I’m actually quite proud of getting through (almost) unscathed. So no apology today!
My full-time job has been very full of late. So full in fact, that I’m now juggling 5 mini roles in my normal hours. Obviously my priority (what I was actually hired for) is working in communications, which I love. Then you have my baby, the OUP Women’s Network, which gives me so much joy but has led me to adopt two other important roles within Diversity and Inclusion. To top it off, I’m also helping another area on the business on some exciting projects one day a week.
Then there’s the entirely separate side of my professional life, which I haven’t actually written much about on here but I think will help with the ridiculous context that is my life. My fiancé and I are also the Landlords of two historic pubs in Oxford: the Half Moon and the Port Mahon. Don’t ask how that happened, I’m not sure myself but it’s a huge (busy) part of our lives that we adore. Normally, the workload is manageable with two hard-working teams in each venue but it became a different story when we decided to give both places some TLC and refurbishments (at the same time…)
So from the start of May until… last Sunday. I’ve been slightly all over the show. Between my job, Landlady-ing and remembering to hydrate, there has been no structure, no rest and not even time to burn out. There are countless articles on career blogs about time management, goal-setting and self-care… I ignored every single one of them. I didn’t have time to experiment with strategies and face masks, I needed to get the job done.
Talking to a few people, I realised that this is incredibly common. We will have insane periods of time in our lives where all we need to do is ‘just get through this next week/month’. So here are five things I learned (and definitely didn’t do) to help you if you just need to survive. Used regularly, they might even stop the madness in its tracks!
Audit Your Life, and Prioritise
This sounds painful but it is really important. Whether it’s five minutes or three hours, reflecting on your battles will really give you the perspective you need to focus on what you need to do. When I feel absolutely overwhelmed, I brain dump every task I want to complete. This can be terrifying seeing so much in black and white but once you’ve got to grips of what you need to do, it’s much easier to prioritise and allocate your tasks to certain times.
I’m awful at this. We have to remember that there are only a number of hours we have in a day. Some people might be able to give an extra hour or two but that’s not an option for everybody. If you have other commitments like family (or pubs…), you need to leave when the clock strikes 5.
Work closely with your Life Audit when the next opportunity comes up. Say - ‘can I think about it and get back to you?’ This way you can take time and check in with your capacity, without the pressure of having to commit straight away.
Ask for Help
Another thing I rarely do. I’m especially bad at this with the Network. So far, I’ve been organising this initiative very much on my own. I have great mentors, but the actual operations have been a one-woman-band. Wanting to ensure the long-term sustainability of the network, I have put a framework together for a Steering Group, made up of mentors and operators to help me.
In your Life Audit, have a look at what tasks you can delegate in the short-term and see if you can team up on some of the bigger stuff you might be struggling with.
If you keep things in check, this crazy period won’t be permanent. You should get some sense of when a break is coming. Figure out how you want to use that time so you know what you’ve got to look forward to. This is your time to recuperate and do absolutely nothing. Personally, I turn my phone off and don’t leave the house. Don’t listen to anyone (but me), this is your slump and you do whatever the bloody hell you want.
Learn from the Mess
Everyone will experience survival mode differently. Whilst we can talk and read other people’s journeys ultimately we can only learn from our own once we’re through the other side. When all is said and done, get yourself out of the house and go for a nice long walk. Reflect (and celebrate!) on what you’ve achieved in this time, and have a thorough think about what went right and what you could have done differently… then write a blog post about it!