How to keep going when the going gets tough
The other day one of my highly-valued employees posted this graphic to our Slack instant messaging app. It's safe to say that everyone on the team had a good chuckle and then a moment of reflection about the message behind it. The graphic features a sad looking pianist saying "I don't enjoy this at all anymore" with the sub caption saying "How to tell when you're a professional". The image received responses such as "I feel it", "same" and one that really hit home which was: "I guess that makes me a professional now :(".
I'll admit, this really gave me room for pause. I had to reflect on this for a while and realized that even I felt this way from time to time. As the leader, you've got to run point and be the cheerleader. It should be your mission to keep the morale up and people gunning for the goal. If you're feeling this way, does that mean you have a problem? Does this mean you're heading you, your team, your organization in the wrong direction? Maybe. Maybe not.
I took some time to compile my thoughts on this topic and did some soul searching as well. I'll let these points speak to what I found and how you might be able to get out of the doldrums.
Ask yourself, "Is this really my dream job?"
For me this was an easy "yes". I love what I do and I love working with the people who have chosen to trust my organization with their careers. I've personally been working towards this goal since I entered the workforce in 1994. This company, these goals have, for the most part, been in the works for 23 years. If I ever find myself crawling out of bed not wanting to face a Monday morning, it's not because I don't love what I do.
If I take a census on what's going on in my head on Monday morning it's usually one of these types of dilemmas that bring me down:
Working on a project that's been going on far too long
Handling a customer that doesn't feel you're doing your best, even though you've put everything you have into it.
Dealing with a situation that I'd prefer to put off for another day.
Sometimes the issue is that I had such a great time with my family over the weekend, the thought of doing something feels unnatural.
At the end of the day, I still really love my job and what I do. Once you can identify your problem areas, make some adjustments and keep moving forward. Chances are, it's not as bad as it appears.
Are you getting enough sleep?
It's a legitimate question. It is safe to say that a lot of us feel like crap at work because we're not sleeping well. Did you just buy the latest copy of Halo 13 for your Xbox and perhaps stayed up too late? Maybe junior picked up a stomach virus over the weekend and you've been mopping and bleaching since 1:30 am. Another reason could be that you suffer from insomnia like me. My brain comes up with the most brilliant ideas at the most ridiculous and inconvenient times. Consider altering your sleeping habits (if you can) or perhaps working with your boss to see if a modified work schedule is available.
Are you the boss?
No. The reality is that you're concerned with sales, marketing, product development, HR, insurance, taxes, customer satisfaction, and keeping things running along with providing a healthy environment that everyone will love. It's a lot of pressure, a ton of stress and you're probably in the office before everyone else and long after everyone has left. If you sense your team is getting anxious or isn't happy, it can really be taxing. Consider delegating some of that responsibility to people on the team you can trust. Don't try to be the only one calling the shots. You'll go crazy in the process.
Have you had a vacation recently?
Vacation time exists for a good reason. A mental health break is incredibly important to all of us. We need time other than the weekends to recharge and be ourselves. You might love the people you work with or for, but you still need to change your own pace from time to time. If you find yourself feeling stuck thinking about the "week in and week out" with absolutely no chance of change, it will drive you to a point where you get burned out and start resenting your team or your employer. Take your vacation. Change your pace. Do something other than work. You'll be glad you did.
Is your significant other telling you it's worse than it really is?
You may REALLY love what you're doing, but if you're not receiving support from your family of those closest to you, it can be a bit of an uphill battle. They may not feel the same way you do. Chances are, they see your stress and long hours, but don't necessarily see your passion or know what you're feeling inside. From their perspective, your job isn't working for them. A lack of positive support can really bring you down. Talk to your support system about how you feel. They may not realize the negative effects it has on your work life.
Are your skills falling behind?
It's a legitimate question. You may be the best in your field, but if your skills are stuck a few years behind, you may find yourself working harder or struggling more than you need. In the technology sector, it can be increasingly more difficult if your learning doesn't continue. If this is the case, get out of the office, attend seminars, conferences and anything else that might help keep your skillset running hot. If finding time to do these things is tough, check with your boss and see what you can work out. If you're the boss, what's your excuse?
Get a hobby.
Your work should define what you do, not necessarily who you are. Granted, our jobs are a huge part of who we are, but there needs to be more to you than just your job. Why is this important? If you're having a string of bad days at work you begin to associate that with who you are. You may not really need a change of job, but rather a change in perspective. Hobbies can help us take our focus to other things that excite us. If you're just leaving your place of work and coming home and eating, going to bed and repeating that over and over, you'll really start to hate your job - no matter which one you're at.
Stop being a martyr.
Are you the first in the door and the last to leave? Unless you're the boss or simply have a true pressing amount of deadline driven tasks, you shouldn't make a regular habit of this. If you keep this type of behavior up, you'll get accustomed to leaving late and may even start to feel guilty about leaving on time. Chances are, your efforts will be appreciated early on, but sooner than later, they'll become expected of you. The rest of your team mates will be out the door at a healthy time, while you're still working the grind. You'll begin to think your job depends on you staying late over and over again. This can take a tremendous toll on your work life and especially your family. Don't do it.
Are you feeling under-appreciated?
Your boss may be a busy person and they may not interact with you in a way that meets your expectations. It's reasonable to think your boss should tell you "great job" on occasion and if you're not hearing it, do a quick check in with them. The lack of communication probably isn't due to lack of interest in you or your work. Almost every position occupied these days puts workers doing two, maybe three times the workload. Keep in mind your boss may be just as swamped as you. Send them an email and request a meeting. Tell them what's on your mind. Any feedback you can provide your boss will go a long way. If your boss is the kind of person that likes to promote a healthy environment, they'll be all over the idea.
Is your dream job turning into a nightmare?
I've spent most of this article covering ways to get out of the doldrums, however you may truly be in a pit of a situation. If you're stuck where your boss won't listen or your goals and company goals aren't quite lining up, it may be time for a change. Staying around too long can put your well-being at risk as well as the company. Before you do leave, make sure you've made every effort to speak to your employer about your situation. A good employer will want to help. If you get the opposite effect, it's time to put your name out there and move on. A job, even a career isn't worth risking your health, your family or your future over. In the end, you have to make the decision and execute the will to move forward.
There are literally dozens of other ways to try and escape the feeling of perpetual Monday to Friday syndrome. You could probably Google it and get a lot of really great results. These suggestions are truly from the heart. I believe in the concept of team and hope that everyone that supports my organization is able to get beyond the same feeling that I myself have. Truth is, we're all human. It's fair to want to be happy with your work. It's such a large part of your life, why would you choose to be miserable for the best years of your life?
On behalf of the entire Liftoff E-Commerce team, I hope you find happiness in your career and a proper balance that keeps you excited and eager to hit each Monday head on.