I am a 55-year-old male engineer who travels for his work 60% of the time. Up until recently, I have been able to handle a variety of tasks easily, without there being a problem with accuracy in my work. Lately, I have made some small mistakes that have been caught by my supervisor. My errors have started to concern me, because my mistakes could affect my ability to retire from this job. Worrying about this has started to make my stomach hurt. As the only minority in my department, I feel I am being unfairly singled out for the few I have made after over 15 years in my department. I am an extremely busy person, with my weekends filled with, managing my managing my two building rental units. While I do enjoy time with my wife and family, it feels like my mind is always racing with things to do. Do you have a solution to help me to be more focused at work?
Dear Making Mistakes,
I want to congratulate you for being willing to examine your past mistakes, before it results in a loss of your job. In my work, I have found that one of the most challenging experiences many men face is when they make a mistake. It is not uncommon for men and women to beat themselves up for a long time over past errors. This is particularly challenging for men, since they are not always comfortable with admitting how they feel. The underlying need for a man to be strong also impacts their ability to openly discuss when things are going wrong in their life. Your stomach hurting you is your intuition alerting you of the need to address this problem.
There is clear evidence to support that minorities deal with cultural and racial bias in the workplace on a regular basis. You did not mention if your mistakes were pointed out in a private meeting with your supervisor, or if the errors were mentioned in front of others. There is no escaping the fact that no one enjoys having their errors pointed out to them. My hope is that your supervisor operated with integrity and met with you privately to address concerns.
My concern is focused on two areas your problem brings out:
1. Feeling stressed over how you are viewed as a minority in your department.
2. Your working two full-time jobs; first as an employee with a stressful work and travel schedule, and as a small business owner managing your rental properties.
The pressure you are experiencing in making errors or forgetting things is explored in a new study that confirms people over 40 are facing more cognitive challenges. The findings are based on a study of 3,000 men and 3,500 women. The problems you describe directly reflect the study’s findings; those who work 50-60 hours per week scored the lowest in cognitive abilities. Long hours at work and during your off time does not give your brain the opportunity to rest, which it needs.
Since you also mention your mind is always racing, I am also assuming that you are also having trouble getting a good night’s sleep. There are a number of steps you can to help you be more accurate in your work:
1. Release the belief that you must be perfect.
The truth is, everyone makes mistakes. Start to decrease yours by determining if there is a specific pattern of when you are missing details. Does it happen on projects that you are doing in the late afternoon, when your brain is more fatigued? Once you determine the pattern, this will make it easier to put safeguards in place to keep you on your toes. The first involves you making time to have breakfast before you come to work. Eat brain healthy foods such as blueberries, wild salmon, and avocados. It also would be a good idea to keep brain healthy food items such as nuts for an afternoon snack. Also, prepare for a good day at work by getting a good night’s sleep by disconnecting from your smartphones,
The first involves you making time to have breakfast before you come to work. Eat brain-healthy foods such as blueberries, wild salmon, and avocados. It also would be a good idea to keep brain healthy food items, such as nuts, for an afternoon snack. Also, prepare for a good day at work by getting a good night’s sleep, disconnecting from your smartphones, laptops, and computers at least one hour prior to your bedtime.
2. Schedule a time to meet with your supervisor and thank him/her for bringing any mistakes to your attention.
Being able to hear constructive criticism is a big part of being in a success mode. Examine your schedule and workspace to determine if there are things that you can change to help you focus more effectively. If your desk or work area is messy, clean it up and eliminate all unnecessary clutter. In addition, identify only three goals for you to accomplish each day. It will give you a greater sense of achievement to successfully complete the three tasks you have identified. You can always add more items to do your to-do list, once those are finished.
Share with your supervisor that you are taking definite steps to improve your focus and ask for a suggested time for the two of you to check-in to make sure things remain on track. If you notice that you are being treated differently than your counterparts when it comes to work issues, by all means, speak with your human resource department.
3. Connect with the emotions of joy and gratitude throughout the day.
It is easy to lose focus that the gift of life is very special one. Many times we get so caught in being busy, that we forget to take a few minutes to appreciate what we have. Developing a short daily meditation practice would prove beneficial in giving your mind the opportunity to fully relax. Taking care of your mind, body, and spirit is important for being successful in life.
4. Eliminate or reduce multitasking.
Be present within your presence and focus on one activity at a time. If you need to completely focus on a detailed project, set a specific time period for doing the work and take a break. I like to set the time on my phone to allow me to do tasks in 30-minute intervals. This allows me to actually determine how successful in completing a specific task or assignment.
5. Reduce your work time during your weekends and/or evenings.
It is no surprise that you are stressed, since you are operating as both as an employee and small business owner. I am going to suggest that you give yourself permission to take either a half day or a full day on the weekends to doing nothing. As minorities, we face tremendous pressure to live up to the standards and commitments that we set for ourselves. Often we are the harshest critics, because we know society judges us more harshly. Talk about your concerns out loud to a trusted friend. Get into the habit of openly discussing when things are bothering you, rather than holding it all inside.
6. Maintain a regular exercise schedule.
A travel schedule like yours could offer you the perfect opportunity to step away from your busy schedule and exercise each day. Even if you do not have time to go to a fitness room, there are plenty of exercise videos that you can access on your laptop that you can do in the privacy of your room. Exercising is like wringing out a dishrag, it releases stress from our body.
Intuitive Life Strategist Sheree Franklin helps people to find the courage to release their life challenges in order to live in alignment with their true self. She is the author of Intuition: The Hidden Asset Everyone Should Learn to Use. She is also a practitioner at Holistic Health Practice at One East Superior, in Chicago. You can email your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her practice includes one-to-one coaching as well as speaking to organizations. For more information, go to www.shereefranklin.com or call 312-664-8376.