What are your weekends like? Are they filled with fluffy clouds, pool splashing friends and family and long evenings of inspirational debate to fuel your mind?
Or are they often like mine, where for some bizarre reason, I think it's quite acceptable to put all my "rest up for the week ahead" plans on hold and dive in for one or two more days of work related tasks?
I have done this so many times that recently I realised that if I continue to do it I may very well forget what my children's names are, have trouble recognising what was originally food in the fridge and spend the following week in zombie-mode.
Coupled with this rather irrational need to keep working, I've had a battle on the side that has often thwarted all of my attempts at being productive on any day!
When everything began to change...
For the best part of 20 years, I've experienced a see-saw life challenged by anxiety, panic attacks and bouts of depression. I've had my fair share of serious panic attacks and literally lost the capacity to make a sentence come out of my mouth, while watching my colleagues stand aside, slack-jawed as I attempt to pull clumps of hair out of my head to try and drain the adrenalin spinning through my nervous system. I've also had three serious bouts of depression with one that required medication.
I'm telling you this because I know at least one of you will resonate with my experiences, and may even be dealing with some stuff right now. I'm also telling you this because as I refine my emotional management skills, I'm learning that there are areas of life that we all struggle in and that maybe I have a few tips that can help, regardless if you struggle with any emotional or mental issues, or not.
Finally after a particularly bad case of vertigo thrown into the mix, I realised that it was time to make some changes to how I was operating and this started with assessing my need to work on the weekends despite clocking up at least 50 hours already.
I set out determined to have work-free weekends.
Maintaining a work-free weekend was already a struggle so I decided to "assess" a recent weekend when things went totally belly up. I'd checked social media, worked on my website and been in touch with a client. It's not like I was "working" but I did plan that this particular weekend I would not interact with anything work related.
So why did I end up doing it then?
Ahh, well, you see, I made a fateful error in judgment on the Friday. I decided that because I felt I hadn't met my expectations through the week, I should schedule a few hours over the weekend, you know, to "catch up."
I've made this mistake before.
I'm amazed at how easy it is to forget how many times I have made the same error!
But make it I did. I then proceeded to spend all of Saturday procrastinating. Took the youngest to work, fiddle faddled around, took eldest to train, went and took pictures for a client's website (late minute decision) and then indulge in the ultimate procrastination.
My favourite op shop.
Yep. 30 minutes later and I walked out happy to find some treasures.
There goes the morning. Not only that, I then realised it was nearly time to pick up youngest from work so hung around until then, then finally drove home! It's now 2pm!
Geesh! Can you see where this is heading?
Have you had a Saturday like this? By the time I got home and pretended to organise myself to get some of my scheduled work done, I was a mess. Angry with myself for screwing up my morning agenda, and then angrier with myself for even trying to do something, that by now, I remembered was futile.
I spent the rest of the day 'resting', which still included mucking around with creating a splash page for my website, scheduling some more social media posts and watching a chronological history of NASA. Yep, totally time well spent.
Not. one. minute.on. my. preorganised. work.
So, the outcome on the Sunday morning? Frustration, disillusionment, irritation and a distinct feeling that I let myself down. Sound familiar? This is where I often stumble. This is where depression and anxiety tend to have a field day playing havoc with my sense of personal expectation and my fear of failure.
Eventually, I went for a walk and remembered that this is where I have a choice to make. I can let depression swallow me or anxiety twist me up into circles, or, I can fight.
I've decided to fight.
So, this is what I have learned from all of this navel gazing, and I hope that you can enter the next weekend, with me, as we journey through the emotional expectations we place on ourselves and still manage to achieve our goals.
1. Do not schedule work for the weekend.
It's pointless. You know it's pointless, yet you still do it. I think this is because when you tend to adhere to the school of over achievement, you find it hard to have time that is unscheduled and free from things to do.
Just trust yourself to work through the weird feeling of doing nothing. Eventually it's going to get easier.
2. Don't forget that 'work' can also be defined as reading industry related blogs, connecting with customers and catching up on work-related emails.
If you can't keep yourself from doing these things, at the very least, put a timer on and ask a family member to let you know when you've said you would stop.
Keep the time to no more than 1 hour, because that next hour turns into 2...
3. Schedule things to do with family and friends.
Make yourself obligated to other people. It's really easy to let yourself down, but a fair bit harder to say to loved ones and friends that you can't keep your coffee/movie/golf/toenail painting appointment because you just have to work on your work.
Try saying your reasons out loud. Yep. They sound really dumb.
4. Turn off your computer, tablet and phone and shut the office door.
This is particularly the case if, like me, you have a home office. Leave your devices in the office. If you can lock the door, why not give the key to your other half?
Maybe you cannot do this for the whole day, but perhaps try it for half a day and see if it helps.
5. Use tech tools to help you NOT work.
There are a number of tools around that lock you out of websites so that you can work distraction free. Why not use them on the weekend too, so that you cannot access your email, Facebook, Twitter and client websites? Or whatever work related cyber world you usually spend time in.
Most important of all:
6. Don't miss the view.
Catch a train and look outside at the cool houses and trees and don't write a blog post while you're sitting there. The mind requires time to process information and we just keep shoving more into it and like an over-stuffed sock drawer, expect it to close up properly.
Take at least a half hour a day to just let your mind wander with no agenda. It will make an incredible difference! I do this first thing in the morning while no one else is awake and I sit in my chair and just drink my tea and chill.
7. Make the effort to plan ahead.
Schedule your down time. Put it on every calendar and let your family and friends know that you need their support to stay away from work related activities.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Old words. Wise advice. Take the time to plan and you'll be amazed at how much more flexible your life can be.
Create a list of things to do during your down time. If you're a to do addict, going cold turkey can be overwhelming and if you suffer from anxiety, this can send you into a tail spin.
A list of fun and rewarding things to do - NOT housework! - helps to calm those butterflies flying around your tummy and gives you something to do...without having to do it.
If you're reading this and heading into a new week, I encourage you to focus on one of these steps each day. Work toward next weekend with a plan in place and take notice of the changes it can bring.
If you're reading this and it's Friday, take heart dear friend. Be kind to yourself and make small changes as you go through the process of changing how you manage your week.
Thanks for reading. Now go and enjoy your weekend!
Have you experienced days like this? How do you cope? I'd love to hear your ideas too! Comment below and let's start helping each other live more fulfilling lives!