As I've navigated making a major medical decision for myself this year, I have felt like the poster child for your brain on stress. And it's not a pretty sight.
I have had an average of 4 doctors' appointments a month since the beginning of the year. All in the name of gathering insight to help me make an informed decision. I've had to become an expert on a topic I didn't even know was a thing just over 5 months ago.
And in order to do all of that I had to renegotiate my priorities.
One of my colleagues wisely shared that she wished she had taken more time for herself when she was battling cancer. Trying to do it all - working like nothing had changed - was her biggest regret.
When we had talked, I was at the peek of being over-committed. I could barely keep up with the onslaught of meetings scheduled on my calendar. And the stress of my work just made my personal circumstances all the more challenging to navigate.
Her words landed with a thud. And inspired me to get honest with myself.
In order for any of us to set healthy priorities, we have to confront some hard truths. That thing we'd rather not deal with. The problem we tried stuffing into an overflowing closet. The issue we've learned to ignore will not only persist. It will grow more unruly as long as we resist it.
And so, we have to be honest with ourselves. I had to acknowledge, first in my journal, that I needed to give myself more time and grace to focus on my personal health. Then I had to share my new intentions with friends who would hold me accountable. Lastly, I had to define the parameters of my boundaries so I knew how to execute on them.
For example, I quickly realized that I did not have the emotional bandwidth to hold meetings on the same days I had doctors appointments. So I gave myself permission to do more simple tasks on those days, which helped me to not over-extend myself.
I realize I am both lucky and privileged to be able to draw these boundaries, not everyone is. At the same time, more and more workplaces are acknowledging the importance of giving employees time to address their personal needs.
In fact, one of my client's has observed members of her team are more effective and efficient at their work when given the grace to deal with personal needs. In a recent meeting she reinforced this with her team, "If you have personal stuff and need to flex the day, reach out to your team lead to get those distractions off your plate."
Sometimes there's an imbalance between personal and work priorities. When that happens readjusting expectations in the moment has more advantageous outcomes than pressing on as though everything's fine.
In response to the CEO's comment a seasoned team member reflected, "we are really flexible here. It’s awesome what can happen when you take time off to take care of your personal life and come back to work. It can help a lot."
And that's the key to navigating duelling priorities - flexibility. Such flexibility must come from within as well as with those around us. Until we first recognize we have the option to re-prioritize how we spend our time, it doesn't matter what the boss says.
If there's one thing we've all learned over the last two years, it's that life happens. And we can either extend ourselves the grace to be flexible and adapt or we can burnout trying to act like nothing has changed.
I for one am playing the long-game. Just like a marathon runner paces herself, so must I! For the next few weeks my health will be my top priority. And as I heal, you can expect to see more of me. In the meantime, I'll be resting in the pause of healing.
What helps you renegotiate your priorities so your personal life gets the time and attention it deserves?