“I work all the time. I have basically no free time.”
I’ve said it. You’ve said it.
A certain kind of person—the type who has made a firm commitment to their career, who believes in their work—can’t help but to say it—because it’s true.
Saying it can feel like both a release and a cry for help. The often unspoken thought that follows is, “How can I fix this?” or, “How can I stay sane given how overworked I am?”
I’ve got some suggestions:
Simplify your “home work”—and outsource where you can
When you’re working long hours, you really need your life away from the office to be as uncomplicated and streamlined as possible. (Your results may vary, depending on family/parenting obligations and the extent to which you might have a partner or spouse who helps out a little or a lot.)
For instance, I manage my household’s expenses, and so I contacted our credit card companies, cable/internet provider, etc., to arrange to have our bills come at the same time every month so I can manage our books in one sitting. I’ve signed us up for Instacart, a web-based grocery delivery service, use TaskRabbit for running errands around town and organizing my garage, and I have my dry cleaning delivered. Honestly, I’m amazed at how many very successful people I know hold onto various household tasks and errands out of habit and a misplaced sense of frugality—when, in fact, between gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, and the cost of your time, on-demand services can actually work out to be considerably cheaper.
You know people who keep gratitude lists? I’m not one of those people.
Though I am thankful about so many things in my life—for example, the fact that I have a supportive partner—when I’m really stressing out about everything I have to do, I like to think about what I don’t have to do.
I think of a friend who has three children under the age of six to take care of, or another friend who’s taking care of a sick parent. If I’m ever tempted to feel like I can’t handle everything going on in my life, I never have to look far to be inspired by the people around me who are so admirably handling responsibilities that are often bigger than mine.
Find your center—and keep going back to it
I happen to be a spiritual person, but regardless of faith, I believe that everyone can benefit from centering themselves and finding their inner strength.
And the thing about meditation is that you can start in small ways and stick with those small ways, if you want. (To get started, see “How To Meditate: A 10 Step Beginner’s Guide” or “Meditation for Beginners.”) Meditation doesn’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming—you’re not trying to become a monk—but meditative practice can give you the tools you need to clear your mind, so to speak, when your mind is racing because you’re so overwhelmed by everything going on at work and at home.
Connect with your loved ones
It’s become way too easy to convince ourselves that we’re staying “in touch” with loved ones by exchanging texts and social media messages. But for me, voice contact makes all the difference. So almost every day during my car ride home, I call someone I care about, whether that's my parents, my sister, my grandmother, or one of my good friends.
These are people who I don’t see enough in real life, so I’ve created this ritual of calling them regularly and having actual conversations. A lot of that ritual has to do with my point above about maintaining perspective by staying attuned to the challenges others face, but it’s also about having a support network beyond my partner.
And these conversations aren’t about venting (though I have been known to vent). I'm just calling them to talk—and I always get off the phone feeling better.
I think of these car calls as a sort of buffer zone. In the end, I suppose much of what I do to keep from being overwhelmed with work involves creating emotional spaces that aren’t about work.
And they’re not about home either—but they’re a form of home all the same.