There are thousands of philosophies out there on how much priority should be given to work when compared to all of the things going on in your life.
In one corner, you have the “always on” employees are heavily focused on upward mobility and allow the line between work and play to get razor thin. In another, we have the group who will never be caught on the clock a minute after the official close of business.
If you are a member of the boss moves crowd, you know how to manage work and play, but you shoulder a lot of the weight because you feel personally responsible for the end result of your work.
No how much of a boss you are, life happens. At one point or another, external factors will appear and force you to focus elsewhere to maintain your balance. Here are a few tips on what to do when life causes you to hit pause:
Don’t keep it yourself. This goes against the advice that most will give, but when you have a real problem that requires your attention, it will show. Few people are skilled enough to mask emotions and continue to perform at the same level when life takes a tricky turn. Even if you belong to this group, the added stress of attempting to handle it all is usually not worth it.
Create a “need to know” list of trusted co-workers/superiors who will be affected if you decide that you will need to dial back your presence at work, and strategically let them know that you have a personal matter that may prevent you from staying late or serving as the point person on upcoming assignment.
You do not have to go into a great level of detail, but if you work in a gossip-centric environment, this is a much better alternative than having people assuming that you are checking out, no longer reliable or preparing to leave your post.
Know when to ask for help. While I’m far from perfect, I like to game plan situations as much as possible. Think hard about whether your personal matter will require you to step away from work completely for a few hours, days or longer. Once you have your answer, create a plan for transition. Bosses are accountable, but they also enlist help. Ask for help if you need it, and be clear about when you believe you will be back to take on 100 percent of your responsibilities.
If you need to step back completely, do not delay. When we chase success, we tend to do things we shouldn’t. We take on one project too many, sacrifice sleep and/or choose work over life with the hope of a payoff down the line. When life is going well, the choice is yours, but when life starts to get out of control, all bets are off. Determine the best course of action and address the issues without delay. No matter how committed you are to your job or company, life exists beyond work. There are times when friends, personal ventures and/or family will need you more.
If you manage this all well, your team will value the fact that you handled the situation without creating any undue stress on their part, and the sooner you focus on the matter at hand the sooner you will be able to restore balance.
James S. Walker (@jaywalk1 ) is a global digital manager on the Nature Conservancy’s international digital marketing team. Intrigued by how social and cultural insights connect people on a global level, Walker has completed long-term project assignments in China and Mongolia, and chronicles his thoughts on the industry via his blog, PR Prescriptions, and Website, Socially Diverse.