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  • Writer's pictureJessica Davey

Procrastination, Overwhelm and Self Doubt - How To Handle It - For Yourself & As A Manager

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Something a candidate said to me the other day really stuck in my mind.

I asked him how he was and he replied, “I was good - until recently. I'm lacking focus and procrastinating; I just sit there and stare at the screen some days. Everybody around me seems to be doing amazing things throughout lockdown. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall.”

How have you been?

Over the past few months, my main focus has been staying connected and communicating with candidates and clients. I haven’t been selling jobs or my recruitment services (funnily enough, there hasn't been much hiring going on, something about a global pandemic?!), but providing them with market insight, counselling through their issues and asking how they are. My job is not about taking on a job vacancy and filling it. The majority of my time is spent as a consultant, business partner, confidante and sometimes even counsellor - to both clients and candidates. I don’t get paid for it, but it is the favourite part of my job and the reason why I love running Belong.

How have you used this time?

We have all had A LOT more time on our hands. Suddenly we have gained an extra 4+ hours a day from not commuting, being caught in meetings about meetings or pointless office chit chat (no, Sandra, I don’t want to hear about how your boyfriend left the toilet seat up again; and no, Clive, I don’t want to hear about the classic car convention you went to on the weekend).


For many of us, we have used this time to reflect. We have taken stock of our lives, considered our future careers, learned new skills, got fit and ironically reconnected with more friends than ever through regular Zooms and FaceTime calls (who knew drinking on your own whilst staring at the computer could be such a fun Friday night).


But for many - including myself - sometimes having so much time alone can be counterproductive. We have had our routine and everyday lives turned upside down almost overnight, forced to suddenly spend more time on our own, motivate ourselves and still be expected to deliver the same results.


And now that it is clear this could be the ‘new normal’ - for a while anyway (I personally do not believe remote working is healthy or sustainable in the long term, but hey, that’s a whole other blog post!), it’s important to learn how to deal with these new challenges we face.


When speaking to candidates, I found what people are experiencing the most is:

  • Procrastination and lack of focus

  • Overwhelm

  • Self doubt and comparison syndrome

Procrastination

Have you ever found yourself staring at the same empty email for 20 minutes and not written a thing?


You have so much to do, but instead you wander to the fridge, consider whether it’s acceptable to have a second breakfast at 10:30am and make a fourth cuppa?


We all procrastinate. When we are working alone with no one to hold us accountable, it can be hard to avoid.

Overwhelm

If you have been fortunate enough to not be furloughed, chances are you have been busier than ever at work because there is double the workload and half the employees. Although it is great we have gained so much extra time not commuting and being in the office, you can find yourself on the laptop from 7am until 7pm, if not longer, and never switch off.

Self Doubt and Comparison Syndrome

When you have nobody around to hold you accountable, keep you focused or recognise your hard work, self doubt can creep in.

Am I doing it right? Is this what they expect of me? But they are doing this, should I be doing that too?

We naturally have the tendency to compare ourselves to others and with social media being all around us - especially as we have relied on it more recently as a method of communication - it can become a dangerous concoction.

How To Handle It

1. Write the mother of all to-do lists.


Pretty basic, I know. But this isn’t just a list, this is your list (can I make a list sound smart and sexy?)!

Start off writing a long list of absolutely everything in your mind that you need to do and do not worry about the order.

Then categorise your list into A’s and B’s. A’s need to be done straight away and B’s can be tackled after that. If you want to be a mega keeno, use A* for the extremely important my-boss-is-going-to-kick-my-ass-if-I-don’t-get-a-move-on tasks.

If you want my advice, do not use C - no one does C tasks. C’s are the equivalent of the Bounty in a box of Quality Streets. C’s are the boring relatives you should really see at Christmas, but watching Love Actually for the 110th time with a mulled wine and your cat is so much more appealing. C is the guy from gym who keeps asking you out because you must have 'soooo much in common because we both go to the gym', but funnily enough you are always busy washing your hair. You catch my drift. Don’t use C’s.

It helps us visualise and acknowledge what we have achieved, which sometimes we forget to when we we are working on our own and have positive feedback from managers and colleagues. It's also extremely satisfying to tick it off once it's done (no, just me? OK, I need to get out more!).


2. Plan like a pro

Plan your week before it starts - not on Monday morning. You will end up wasting half your working day; by 12pm you have had to contend with 5 work calls, the postman, the puppy, your mother and an exploding inbox.

Choose a time to plan when you have the most energy and focus. Perhaps choose Saturday morning when you are fresh-faced and can then enjoy the rest of your weekend (brunch, anyone?!) or Friday afternoon when work is quiet and you can reflect fully on the week just gone.

Remember to break down the individual days, not just one week. Extra points if you want to add some timings - this prevents you from overrunning and eating up into the rest of your day. Sometimes we can be unrealistic in what we want to achieve in a whole week and without consciously designing how we use our time, it can feel overwhelming.

3. Turn off distractions

I love a cheeky scroll as much of the next girl, but social media can play havoc with our mental health and productivity.

Here are some useful tricks - you will be amazed at how much more you get done!

  • Don’t leave LinkedIn open on the homepage, you don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing.

  • Delete Instagram, Facebook, Daily Mail (no judgement here!) apps from your phone during the day and install them again when you are enjoying your free time.

  • Set boundaries - just because you are working from home, it does not mean you can chat all the time - only allow yourself to be available outside of working hours. Seriously, those 27 WhatsApp messages about what people had for breakfast can definitely wait...

4. Take time for you

Without the daily commute, it’s easy to find yourself at your laptop from 7am, still working in your PJs by lunchtime and carry on working until after dinner.

  • Here are some top tips that help me:

  • Factor in a start time, end time, lunchtime and breaks.

  • Have non-work days: we are all guilty of doing some work on the weekend, but it’s important to have at least one day per week where you do not even think about it.

  • Put away the laptop: for many of us, our home has become our office, and not having that separation can really take a toll on our mental health. Ensure your work stuff is cleared away at the end of the day, so you can really switch off and enjoy your home again.

  • Invest in you - learn a new skill, pick up a new hobby, walk the dog, read a book or have a bath and large glass of wine - whatever relaxation and self care looks like to you, do it!


5. Speak Up

The one positive - if you can call it that - of the pandemic is that everyone (to a certain extent) is in the same position working from home. You are not alone in the emotions you are going through. Reach out to your manager, colleagues, friends, family or even people in your professional network. Chances are, they are feeling exactly the same.

And if you need a bit more support, there are some exceptional services out there that can help:

And above all else, be kind to yourself.


I'm a Manager, how can I support my team if they are going through this?


1) Check in and show up - don't wait for your 1:1


As a manager, you will have a regular 1:1 catch up scheduled in with your team members. If you don't, make sure this is regimented for at least weekly - and show up! Nothing says "I don't value you" or "I don't care about you" like your manager not showing up for your 1:1.


But don't leave it until then. Check in with your team on a regular and adhoc basis - and don't ask about work - ask how they are. If it has been a tough week at work, or they have delivered exceptional results, make sure you acknowledge their hard work - this could simply be a Slack message or even sending them a card or flowers in the post.


If comfortable, perhaps suggest getting your team together for a socially distanced coffee or drink. Face-to-face contact is so important.


2) Don't be scared to ask


Not everybody wants to divulge their private life to their manager. But the likelihood is that if you asked how they are, as opposed to how their work is, they would share something with you. You do not need to be a qualified counsellor and if matters are serious, you have a HR team who can help, but simply listening is sometimes powerful enough.


Some of your team will not be keen to communicate over Zoom or on the phone, but may be more comfortable filling out a survey - perhaps even anonymously. Ask your team if this is something they would like you to implement and try it out - you may be very surprised what you get back.


3) Lean on HR


Like many managers, people is probably only 20% of your job and you are still an individual contributor with a huge remit. We are also in unprecedented times where our team need us now more than ever, but you were not trained for this and cannot be expected to handle it all on your own.


Lean on HR - this is what they are there for. Keep them fully updated on your team , ask of their advice and if you do not already have regular HR:manager catch ups, request that you do. You need support too, just as your team does.


4) Be human


A lot of people put their manager on a pedestal and would struggle to communicate openly. It's important to break those barriers down (within reason), so they feel that they can speak to you. Tell them that they can contact you with these sorts of issues, not just work; let them know you are always there. Perhaps share how you have found lockdown and they will be more willing to divulge. Be open, be relatable and be human.


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