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Rejuvenate your career - a practical guide for working women & busy mums

By Karen Leong

Director, Influence Solutions

Author, “Win People Over – 75 Simple and Powerful Ways to Influence Anyone”

When you are physically exhausted and mentally drained at work, it is very important to take the time to take a step back and reflect upon the root cause. In this state, we use most of our energy on day-to-day items, rather on whether we are moving in the right direction towards what we really want.

This could be 3 things:

  1. Your work is not in an area of your key strength or interest. Therefore, you need to put effort and energy into delivering an average piece of work. It’s not something you will dedicate time in excelling in, but rather, you are focused on just get through the project/day/work. You aren’t as productive and efficient as you can be, you probably need to deal with procrastination as well, which causes even more stress when timelines near.
  2. The workload you are bearing is too much for you, or the timeline given is too tight. You aren’t working in a sustainable manner, and you may be neglecting important pillars of your life such as exercise, having adequate sleep, time with family. And this will further sap your energy and decrease your productivity. You may not be communicating with your superior about your inability to deliver the work, on time. It could be a lack of clarity, skill-set, or specific issues.
  3. Your morale is negatively affected by organisational changes such as leadership change, restructuring, retrenchments, pay structure changes or deterioration of relationships at work.

When you are clear about the root cause, you have greater confidence in taking action in changing things for the better. Start with the easiest action you can take first. Start small now, and set things in motion to change, rather than waiting for something bigger someday (which may take too long to come).

What if changing jobs is not an option for you now?…” In the longer-term, there are many possibilities. In the immediate term, here are five ways to rejuvenate and motivate yourself:

  1. Re-assess your life’s priorities. List down all the important pillars of your life – for example, your health; family and friends; romance, personal development, career development, money. On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how satisfied you are now. Reflect on what you have written and which pillar(s) you like to improve. Commit to taking at least one action. This action, should be small, and repetitive. Something you can begin doing, consistently. For example, you want to focus more on your health, and your action is to take a 10 minute walk in the morning every day. You will be amazed how a small action, can set off a positive change reaction.
  2. Read and reflect. There are lots of resources online, in the library or your favourite book store. Gain inspiration from people who overcame adversity. Acknowledge that you too, have survived through challenge and change before. Think about your inner strengths which have helped you through earlier challenging times, and how to tap into them again.
  3. Get support. Talk to a trusted family member, friend, colleague or superior who can widen your perspective about your situation, give feedback and share new ideas.
  4. Start the day with clarity. Set aside time, as short as 15 minutes, to begin with gratitude, think of one day you are grateful for. Then, list down the most important tasks for the day. And only do that one important thing before being distracted by anything else – social media, urgent (and not as important) tasks.
  5. Take care of yourself first. Women are the nurturers of the world, often giving themselves to take care of people – their spouses, children, parents, in-laws; team; superiors; customers. However, when you neglect yourself in the process, everyone suffers. When you are facing a burn out, you need to give yourself the space rejuvenate. This means setting aside time to ensure you have enough sleep, exercise, relax, so you can recover. It is when you take care of yourself that you become a source of positivity that energizes the people around you.

If you no longer feel enthusiastic about work, your lack of enthusiasm is a symptom. Instead of just seeking answers to help you regain your enthusiasm, look deeper for the real cause. For example, when you procrastinate on something, it’s not because you are lazy (after all, there are many things you don’t procrastinate on) – it’s because you don’t see the value of doing it.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What do I enjoy about my work?
  • What problems do I help solve at work?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What do I love to do?
  • What is my ultimate career goal?

Some women share with me that it’s difficult to draw the line between home and work or between switching on and off when they are no longer at the office. Here are some ways on how you can prevent “ burning out” at work.

  1. Don’t be a perfectionist. Are you someone who is a perfectionist, fussing over the minor details till the end with the risk of not meeting the timeline? If so, you may be sacrificing time that could be better spent on other important tasks. Turn your weakness into a strength: Be a perfectionist with time instead. Ensure that you deliver work that meets the key requirements, ahead of time. This will boost your overall effectiveness and productivity, which enables you to advance important goals. It also enhances your personal brand as someone is on top of things, a key leadership quality.
  2. Do schedule important personal time every day. What gets scheduled, gets done. This could be ensuring you are home by 6pm to have dinner with family with no work distractions till 9pm; or setting aside 7am to 730am to read. When you schedule your personal time, it can help increase your productivity in the day too. Work often fills the time it’s given.
  3. Do start the day early, so you can end early. Begin the day early when your mind is fresh and there are less distractions in the office. A simple way to start the day early is to sleep early. When you end early, you have enough quality time for yourself and your loved ones.
  4. Don’t aim to do it all, do ask your spouse for support. Allow your spouse to be an equal partner at home and at work. Ask for help, and you will be amazed at how often he will rise to the occasion. Don’t sweat the small stuff, affirm and acknowledge him when he helps out, in any way.

At the end of the day, you are solely responsible for your career development – not your boss, and not human resources. So, do up your personal development plan. Firstly, write down the skills you need to do your current job more effectively, as well as the skills you need to advance in your career. These can be technical skills, people skills or leadership skills. Share your personal development plan with your boss, to see how best he/she can support you with organisational resources, for you to make a bigger impact in your current/future role.

You can revitalise skills in four ways:

  1. Attend formal training programs. Check out the programs your company provides or what’s available in the market.
  2. Approach a mentor, a person who has the experience to guide you in your career. You can directly approach a superior within the organisation or participate in formal mentoring programmes, if your company offers it.
  3. Get an executive coach. A coach will support you in achieving your desired goals.
  4. Sign up for online courses. There are now many free resources (e..g Coursera, TEDx videos, Slideshare), as well as paid ones which you can leverage upon.