The Work/Life Conundrum: 7 Ways to Keep Personal Issues from Damaging Your Productivity

“Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” –Viktor Frankl, Austrian Holocaust survivor, in Man’s Search for Meaning.

Emotion affects and informs everything human beings do. As such, you may find it difficult, at times, to separate work from the rest of your life. Some people can do it as easily as flicking a switch, but it’s rare for anyone to remain completely productive in the workplace while facing difficulties elsewhere. So here are seven ways to help you maintain high workplace performance, even when you’re experiencing issues in your personal life.

  1. If your organization has an EAP, take advantage of it. Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) exist specifically to help employees work through personal crises and other issues, from substance abuse to marital problems. Whatever your troubles, they can usually help. If your company offers an EAP, find the time to schedule an appointment to speak with a counselor. You’ll feel better for it.

  2. Talk it out with someone else. If your company lacks an EAP, seek someone else to speak to or otherwise help you get by. Look to your social support network of good friends and family to vent to. For a more structured approach, speak to a professional counselor. It’s worth it, even if your insurance won’t pay for it.

  3. Don’t overshare with co-workers. It’s enough to let people know you’re working through some tough personal issues and ask them to give you a little leeway. Most experts recommend you leave out the juicy details, unless you’re confiding in someone you completely trust. Why? Because on the one hand, some people love to spread juicy gossip—and you may soon find your secrets known all over the office, distorted in odd ways. You don’t want co-workers to treat you differently or keep you out of projects.

  4. Take a few mental health days off so you can get yourself back on an even keel. Better a day or two of PTO than a series of mistakes it takes longer to fix than you would have taken off in the first place.

  5. Isolate yourself from others. If you can still perform as long as you aren’t overly distracted, remove yourself from potential disturbances—especially if you work in an open plan office. This will decrease your sensory input and help you tighten your focus. You may find workplace “tunnel vision” calming. After letting your team lead know where you are, slip into an unused conference room, a break room, or a distant cubicle to do your work. Wear noise-canceling earphones to block out the din, and sit where you won’t see any motion, even peripherally. If you have your own office, either close the door, or face away from high traffic areas.

  6. Do something that usually cheers you up. When’s the last time you and your friends went out to a game, a movie, or the opera? When did you last hit a few at the batting cages, or exchange volleys with another tennis player? Whatever you like to do away from work, get out there and keep doing it. It’s better to go out in public than to stay at home, even if your favorite thing is normally a solitary activity; but engage with your social network if you can.

  7. Set boundaries between work and the rest of your life that you’ll respect. Use these boundaries to keep the negative emotions at bay. This may mean boxing up your feelings to make your workdays more productive. However, don’t leave them locked away long-term. You need to be able to push through them, to feel them fully so you can think of solutions—or come to terms with them until time dulls your pain.

You’ll inevitably have bad days. But when into your life some rain must fall, you can’t allow it to poison your productivity. There may be days when you should avoid work altogether, though only briefly, as avoiding a problem won’t fix it. Burying yourself in work might actually be best for you; try it if you must. Take these tips to heart, and it will be easier to steer yourself back onto the course of high productivity.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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