When the personal is professional

The better I get to know myself, the more I realize that work-life balance isn’t really a thing for me (or others). From a cognitive and intellectual point of view, I understand the idea of striving for total presence in whatever you are doing at the moment.

  • When live chatting, zoom in on the customers you are interacting with.
  • During a 1:1 with a team member, focus on that person.
  • While playing with the kids, restrict your phone usage to playing German children songs (OK, that’s maybe just me).

The thing is, emotionally, that might not work quite as well as theory wants you to believe. While I can leave my phone in it’s designated charging space out of my reach, that doesn’t work so well with my brain – or my heart. Where do you place emotional turmoil?

Indulgence as self-care

Self-care in the support industry usually relates to getting back on track after an especially draining customer interaction. Processing the negative emotions as quickly as possible allows you to continue your work without impacting upcoming chats/tickets/calls. But what about positive emotions that make their way into your day-to-day work from the outside? Being on an emotional high can also manifest itself as an utter impossibility to focus?

On the one side, I don’t want to get rid of the exhilarating giddiness brought upon me by maybe/maybe not falling in love*. On the other side, I don’t have the patience (with myself) to fall behind on my own commitments and plans. How do you ride the emotional wave while keeping an eye on the to-do list?

The truth is: you don’t.

But you can set a timer for riding the wave and define upfront when you are leaving the water to get some food (a.k.a. structure) that can sustain you for the next wave.

The Daisy strategy

You might know the “She loves me, she loves me not” petal picking game that is supposed to tell you whether your love interest is into you or not? While the predictability is questionable, it does have a huge advantage: once all the petals are gone, you can start to focus on other stuff again – until you encounter yet another daisy to pluck apart.

This works surprisingly well, especially if your Daisy plucking includes some kind of physical activity: whenever I catch myself daydreaming, I get my notebook and put my thoughts into handwriting. It helps me to discover and untangle my real desires and needs without squashing the emotions. I can indulge for a brief period of time while figuring out if I want to act or stay in the delicious limbo of not knowing.

After 3 pages or 10 min – whichever comes first – I get back to whatever I was doing, with renewed focus. Until a message comes in, an email triggers me, or a song sparks memories of bittersweet experiences. Time to pluck another daisy.

But – isn’t that inappropriate?

Is it inappropriate to be happy? Is it inappropriate to be content? Is it inappropriate to enjoy being alive? Or is it merely inappropriate to sing at the top of your lungs while at a co-working space?

Your emotions are never inappropriate. They are what makes you human. Ride the wave, and use that little bit of critical awareness that’s left to make sound decisions around your to do list. Even if that means you’ll put off that non-urgent task for another week.

*to be defined.

[This post is part of my journey with my career coach Stephanie Vora, a perk offered by Automattic. You can find all posts here.]

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