Don't Let the Crush of Work Crush You


Author's Note:  The topic of "too much work" is one I have felt I needed to address more times than I can count.  As always, confidential and proprietary information has been removed.  

I have a document on my desktop that I have named “Crush of Work in Chicago” and I literally started this document so I could keep track of what seems to be a never-ending list of deliverables. Every time I walk around the office, I learn about: 

  • Some new business opportunity (A great sign of growth)
  • An emergency request from a client (A great sign that we’re their go-to in times of need)
  • A new plan that is due (It's nice to be partners in planning)
  • A request for additional creative ideas (We're proving ourselves as creatives)
  • New hires we need to on-board or a job candidate to interview (New energy and ideas are always good)
  • A deck that needs to look beautiful (And our designers can be counted on to make sure it does)

So, as I add another deliverable to my “Crush of Work” document (which is now three single-space pages) I do wonder about what I did to irritate the timing gods. 

So for starters, more important than my list-making, I just want you to know I genuinely appreciate the sacrifices so many of you are making to ensure that we deliver…and that we deliver at the high quality we hold ourselves accountable to.    

But I don’t think it was accidental that I chose the word “Crush” in my definition or, at the very least, it was perhaps a little Freudian.  

 Because sometimes the demands of our time really can feel crushing.  

Crushing of our time with family. Of our good intentions to exercise. Of a restful night’s sleep. Of our usual unquestionable attention to detail or of our boundless quest for better ideas. Or, possibly our good judgment and our sense of humor.  

So, in terms of those first important things like seeing family, exercising and sleeping – let me first reiterate gratitude but also promise (and I’ve been around long enough to know) it will get better. It will.   

When it comes to crushing our attention to detail and our quest for better ideas, I know it can often feel like we are coming up empty. That’s when it really pays off that we are all part of a team – actually we are part of many teams. When I am “stuck” on something or need a fresh set of eyes, I simply look around and am always grateful that I have so many people who will respond to my “have you got a minute?” request. You have those people too – and don’t ever hesitate to reach out.   

The last two that I know can sometimes get “crushed” in the crush of work mode are judgment and sense of humor.  Here, I have no easy answers but am happy to share what has worked for me. When I know I am tired (OK, exhausted) I also know I am likely to over-react or conversely under-react. So, here’s what I do (and those of you who work most closely with me know I love me some analogies, so here’s mine). When I am driving and suddenly overcome with how sleep-deprived I am, I become hyper-vigilant. I open the window, I describe the other cars on the road to myself; in short I force myself to be acutely aware that I am tired so I pay more attention. (And yes, if all of those fail, I will pull over and cat nap!)   

That is a good way to handle your own personal “crush of work.” Just own it and acknowledge that if you aren’t hyper-vigilante you might miss something. You might get sloppy about protecting the confidentiality of what you are working on; you might think it is okay not to tell your client that you might be late on a deadline; you might forget to give your colleague context for a request. You know how to do these things (you normally do them instinctively). Just like I know how to drive safely instinctively, but when I am tired, I need to remind myself to pay attention!   

And last but not least, a sense of humor is a wonderful gift.  Being able to laugh is a gift to ourselves and to each other.  And I honestly and truly believe it makes our work better. So this video below does double duty – allows me to say once again how grateful I am to you for all the sacrifices you are making and hopefully give you a little laugh.