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When life is getting us down, often the last thing we feel like doing is logging on to our computer and finishing that report that’s due for today. If we are dealing with difficult emotions from our personal life, concentration and motivation at work can be badly affected. So how can we go about our work when these issues feel too much? There’s no simple remedy, but let’s consider a few things that might help.
Communication is crucial
It might sound cliché, but the worst thing you can do in these situations is to try to do it by yourself.
This applies on two levels. On the one hand, when things are occupying your mind, often you can’t deal with them until you’ve articulated them to someone else and gained their external perspective. So speaking to a trusted friend, family member or mentor is important.
But at work too, it can be important to let people know what’s going on in your life. Of course, this is a different context, and the information that you share will reflect that context. You probably don’t speak to your manager in the same way as your closest friend. However, if you don’t flag the fact that there’s anything affecting you, then no one is going to know or be able to help.
For example, if you’re unable to concentrate at work because your mother is extremely unwell – maybe you’ve even been staying up all night looking after her – then your performance might suffer, and you might even leave yourself open to criticism. But if your manager found out the real reason, their perspective would be likely to completely change. Of course, every team and workplace is different, and managers will react in different ways. But at least initiating a conversation is the first step towards addressing the situation.
Set realistic goals
When negative emotions are affecting us, our capacity to take on a major workload reduces dramatically. It’s important to acknowledge this fact and to be comfortable with it.
You will make it through to the other side of this situation. But in the meantime, you’re going to have to acknowledge that you can’t get all 349 tasks on your to-do list done in a day – and that there’s no weakness in that. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Make a list of everything that you need to do, and then prioritize the most urgent matters. If you get through everything you’ve listed for the day, then congratulate yourself. And if you don’t, then that’s okay too – you’re only human, and you can only do what you can. You’ll have to rest, pick yourself up, and try again tomorrow.
Make time for yourself
In the midst of trying situations, you might find that all your time is occupied simply by doing what you need to do in order to get through the day. But don’t forget that you need to make a bit of time for yourself to switch off and recharge. Whatever it is that helps you relax – going for a walk, watching a favorite TV show, reading a book, or just spending some time with friends and family – it’s important to allow yourself that space, rather than checking your work emails at 10pm.
Whatever it is that’s interfering with your work and your life in general, take it one step at a time and you’ll come through it. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself in the meantime!