My wonderful client Laurie is a senior level project manager with a major construction company in the Chicago area. She has been working for the same company , virtually doing this work for almost 15 years now. She finds herself lately sometimes working until 2 or 3AM ( seriously) to attempt to keep up in one way , shape or form to stay on top of the tsunami. Her days feel like the fire hose aimed directly at her gains more velocity . Here is an email I got from her earlier this week:
I am leaving work. I spent 4 hours in meetings today and 8-9 hours mostly working on two large change orders, two budget updates - all for the same big project.....one of five huge ones going on at the moment. I hate to say it but after being in the office for 15 hours ( email arrived at 11PM) I don't feel like I accomplished much. Pretty insane....huh?
I am going to have to postpone a meeting I have scheduled on Thursday that is also important because I simply have to get two more of the big deliverables done.
I have been tired all week. I can't work another 13 hour day - at least this week.
And on and on it goes. The sad truth is that so many of us can identify with Laurie these days.
Where are the answers? What can we do about it?
We discovered that some of this feels like an addiction to her inasmuch as a sense of accomplishment is such a driver that she will risk her very health for it. She also recognizes that she doesn't have systems in place which impacts how inefficiently she works sometimes. This is something she wants to address immediately and sees the benefit of taking the time to create simple systems.
One of the first things we did was to clear away a space on her desk where her calendar lives. Just taking the action and clearing off that space gave her a great sense of comfort and hope. She knows that she will have to do it routinely and that is OK with her because she now truly has experienced the value.
She also is embracing the idea of "slowing down to go faster" ( are you nuts?????) which is enabling her to actually get more done by pausing to think and think through before impulsively just taking action after action.
It all starts with the willingness to recognize that this type of work regimen- without boundaries- is not sustainable and that her very health and sanity are at risk and she is the only one who can make the necessary changes. Fortunately for Laurie, she does.