I was supposed to publish this blog last week. But, the week came and went, and I had written nothing. Past deadline again, I found myself sitting at my desk on a late Friday afternoon with no creative inspiration in sight. Plus, I couldn’t muster up the energy to write about the right way to do things when I myself had seen everything go wrong.
Until I realized there was a valuable lesson in all of that.
See, in the past two weeks I’ve made every possible mistake one can make at work.
Well, not every mistake—I didn’t get drunk and hit on the boss, or show up to the office in curlers wearing a mismatched pair of shoes (thank goodness for remote work). But, I missed a crucial deadline, failed to account for a pretty obvious variable when organizing a project, and kept using the wrong words, wrong tone, or wrong expression.
I ignored my limitations and work suffered as a result
In truth, I’ve been walking around like a zombie—my brain in a fog, unable to connect point A to point B. That fog has had a negative impact on my performance and my ability to support my team. It happens to all of us at one time or another, but a course correction was needed.
Here’s what I (re)learned from this dismal week.
Lesson 1: Sometimes “pushing through” just doesn’t work
We all make mistakes—we are human after all. When I was made aware of my first mistake, I realized that a combination of factors affecting my health was having a negative impact on my ability to reason and stay focused.
I figured I’d just push through the mental fog and the coughing. Obviously, that didn’t work so well. I ignored my limitations (yes, we all have them) and work suffered as a result.
Lesson 2: Context and communication are everything
Had I been working in an office, it would have been pretty obvious to my colleagues something was up with me. They would have seen the huge shadows under my eyes from lack of sleep or heard me coughing so loudly and severely as to wake the dead. This would have given them some undeniable context surrounding my missing a major deadline.
Because my team didn’t have that context, it was my responsibility to let them know I wasn’t doing well and needed someone to review my work for potential errors. Had I done this, it’s likely one of the bright women I work with would have pointed out where I’d gone astray. There are two key lessons here: knowing when to ask for help, and then actually following through with the request.
Lesson 3: Work-life balance is key
The agency as a whole has been working very hard. We’ve had a few projects that never close, unexpected new projects that clients want done yesterday, and a fair amount of snags and glitches. In short, a typical marketing agency’s workflow. Like most humans, my ability to deal with all these challenges diminishes in direct proportion to my level of burnout.
We all have to find an appropriate work-life balance
In hindsight, it’s obvious I reached my threshold this past week. After looking through my Toggl report, I realized I had worked every single day in the month of July. Every day. Not every day was an eight-hour day, mind. But I didn’t have one single day when I completely unplugged from work. Not good.
We all have to find an appropriate work-life balance. Taking a few nights off (or mornings, for my fellow night owls) or allowing yourself a Sunday Funday can provide a crucial mental reset.
All Roads Lead Somewhere
There are many advantages and perks to working remotely. However, there are also a few adjustments that all remote workers need to make in order to be successful. We must be aware of how we are spending our time, because there isn’t someone else looking over our shoulders. We have to be super vigilant about communication, or risk isolating the very people who are depending on us. And, we have to be humble enough to know our limitations and to ask for help.