About 15 years ago, I was in my first senior director level role. I was thrilled and didn’t want to fail, so I worked long, grueling hours to do everything well at once. About a year into the job, I recall waking up one morning completely exhausted and overwhelmed, the same way I had fallen asleep. The same way I had been feeling for for months. My initial enthusiasm for the job had turned into a bone-weary tiredness. Initial passion and creativity had given way to feeling like a hamster caught in a wheel with no end in sight. I thought - there has to be a better way to work with passion AND not run myself into the ground.
I examined my approach to work. What I learned was surprising to me, though not uncommon. It turned out that I didn’t have many work boundaries, so I had a hard time saying to no to requests and projects even if they weren’t important. I wasn’t sure what my priorities were, so I worked on everything with the same high intensity, leaving me burnt out. And I had a hard time delegating and asking for help, so I attempted to do everything myself.
This called for a drastic overhaul in how I did my work. With the help of colleagues, some great books, and a coach, I learned 3 important lessons that still guide my work 15+ years later.
When I applied these lessons, I learned that working long hours didn’t mean that I was necessarily doing great work. In fact, the impact of my work increased as I said no more often, crystallized my priorities, and stopped trying to be a perfectionist.