Yes, you read that right.
Sometimes your career should be your LAST priority. Like, dead last.
I bet that sounds crazy coming from a gal like me, right? I'm a career coach -- one who believes very strongly in career as a pillar of happiness, fulfillment, stability and even health.
I spend my days helping people navigate their way to feel-good work because I know just how important career is to growth and wellness, and let's not forget that minor little detail of putting food in mouths and roofs over heads.
So, why on earth would I suggest that sometimes your career should be your last priority? Because sometimes that's exactly where it belongs -- right at the very bottom of your list.
Know that taking care of yourself is also one of the strongest strategic moves you can make.
I recently worked with a woman who has had the year from hell and is dealing with grief, legal issues and major health concerns. She needs to heal. But she feels like it's irresponsible -- and even a little bit selfish -- to focus on herself and her healing before progressing in her career.
It's not. It's exactly what she should focus on right now. And not just because self-care is important, which it is. But also because self-care is often the best strategic priority -- not just in your personal life, but for your career, as well.
Self-care as strategy. Chew on that for a minute.
Think back to the last time that you were hanging by a thread -- when you were burned out, struggling with your physical, mental or emotional health. Maybe you were racked with anxiety, deep in a depression, lost in a debilitating brain fog or struggling with exhaustion.
Would you say you were at your best, mentally, during this time? Super sharp? Bringing your A-game to all of your work? Probably not.
And who could blame you? You were barely holding it together. It's hard enough to get up to bat when you're in a haze like that, let alone hit a home run.
It's way more likely that you'll hit a home run when you can actually see clearly, when you feel strong, when you have your wits about you.
And yet many of us (yes, I include myself here) who are Type A, super ambitious and out to conquer the world try to push through and move forward at a time that makes the least sense to do so.
But we want to keep going! Keep climbing! Keep moving! We have the will! We have the grit! Just not, you know, the mental bandwidth. Not while everything else is going to hell in a handbasket.
Which is where self-care as strategy comes in. Because it's nearly impossible to make good long-term decisions for yourself -- for your work, for your business, for anything -- when you're dealing with other, more urgent issues.
I'm not suggesting that you tell all of your colleagues to shove it, take your life savings and move to Bali. I'm just talking about slowing down, taking smaller bites, pressing pause.
Maybe you don't push for partner at the firm while grieving the loss of your father.
Maybe you don't go for the promotion while negotiating custody of your kids.
Maybe you don't pitch to business investors while you're still recovering from surgery.
I'm not saying you shouldn't do those things if they feel good to you. I'm just saying think about it, and let yourself off the hook a little. You might be more equipped to make better, clearer decisions in a few weeks, a few months, a year from now.
Take care of yourself. If you find it hard to give yourself permission to do that for the sake of healing and restoration, know that taking care of yourself is also one of the strongest strategic moves you can make.
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You can't rehash every annoyance or major problem with your partner every day or all you will do is sound like you're constantly complaining. Be selective about which story you want to share and which experiences you will keep to yourself.
Everyone should have a chance to get in the door and unwind from their own stress at work before being hit with a laundry list of their partner's issues. So don't walk in the door complaining. Come in, change clothes, decompress and use that time to calm down and consider what things should be shared and which ones should not.
Limit the amount of time you discuss what's stressing you. You have so little time to spend with your partner after work so don't spend it all complaining about problems. Sometimes we have rolling conversations about stressful things throughout the night. You bring it up as soon as you get home, then again during dinner, then after dinner, and then again in bed. Have the conversation once and avoid revisiting it unless absolutely necessary.
Spend as much time talking about non-stressful things or being affectionate as you spend stressing out. You want to leave your partner with a positive feeling about you, instead of with a knot in their stomach.
If you want your partner to listen to you when you're sharing your concerns, then be sure to listen to your partner when they're sharing theirs. Things will go better if you make eye contact and nod or comment to show agreement or react to what they're sharing. Listening while staring at the TV or reading your mobile device will make your partner feel ignored.
Our significant others tend to be our best friends, and so we want to tell them everything that we go through both personally and professionally. Sometimes we don't realize when that is becoming overwhelming or just too much info in too little time. If you have a good friend, sometimes you can decide to share with that person and not bring your every concern home to your partner.
So many of us are glued to our phones and computers but at some point we need to disconnect for the night and relax, especially when you need time for yourself and to spend time with your spouse and kids. You can't keep taking calls and reading emails through dinner, in the bathroom, in the bed and in the middle of a bedtime story. Choose a cutoff time to put your phone to bed and/or limit the amount of time you spend on the phone/computer so that you have time to take care of home. I know everyone needs to do what it takes to keep their jobs, but at the same time you won't be successful at work if you're falling apart from stress and your home life is crumbling around you. When you get home from work, try to manage your time and communications about work in a balanced way so that you can use your time at home to relax and recharge, not just rehash the day and keep the stress going.
Follow Sarah Vermunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/careergasm