The trials of personal life will ebb and flow over time. Most days are pretty normal, but occasionally it seems like the universe conspires against us in the worst ways possible.
It could be the loss of a loved one, illness, relationship issues, injury, money problems, children problems, any number of personal events which can cause us to lose focus on our career and be forced to spend an inordinate amount of time on our personal lives.
How do you keep the plates spinning when your personal life falls apart around you?
This is the question I was left asking myself when my wife was put on bedrest until our third child was born. How could I care for my two children (who weren’t yet in school), help my ailing wife, and still work a 40+ hour workweek?
Sure, we’re masters of technology. But can tech and automation really fix everything and make it better? Sadly, no. It can help, but it doesn’t make your todo list any shorter. If anything, technology has increased our daily responsibilities. So when personal life takes over we end up with a ton of stuff to do each day we can’t just rely on our smartphone to save us.
While I’m not sure that I have any definitive answers for you, I have some thoughts which I hope will help.
Accept Where You Are In Life And Stop Frustrating Yourself
First thing, it is important to accept that life can sometimes overcome your work-life for periods of time. As a worker who is regularly willing to work morning, day, and night, the thought of taking time to focus on personal efforts was a foreign concept to me. It took me months to rebalance my expectations of daily life. 90% of my frustration was in my mind. It wasn’t that I was unable to complete my work for each day, but that I had to cut down the time I had set aside in my mind to focus on work. Ramp-up time spent reading various news outlets, answering emails at length, planning my day or week was cut down and I spent more time just focusing on the essentials.
And the essentials were more minimalistic than I had realized.
Streamlining Professional Life
- Way back in a different life I had learned about the Covey method for organizing your time. For daily tasks Covey recommends assigning tasks to three categories of A, B, and C tasks in descending order of importance. Instead of having two or three A tasks each day, I have found myself giving priority to only one task each day. That way I can relax once I know I have done the most important thing on my list instead of stressing constantly over missing work.
- I also put to use Tim Ferriss’ email techniques which he outlines in The 4-Hour Workweek. Email is opened, checked, and then closed. I check email two-three times per day instead of constantly hovering over emails coming in. My reaction times may have dropped from millennial-generation expectations but I still answer all the emails that come through. And I spend only about a third of the time in my email.
- I changed my sleep schedule and did the majority of my daily work during off hours. Either late at night or early in the morning are both good times to get some work done without constant interruptions.
These three things together brought the work I was doing in 8 hours a day down to about 2-4 hours of heavy lifting. The important factor here is that I started silencing interruptions in my day. Normally, it is important to focus on customers, answer emails quickly, and respond rapidly to issues going on in the world around you.
In the world of Managed Services communication is key. At Network Depot we use the phrase “We are a Service Organization that happens to do I.T.” But when the world starts crashing down it is ok to widen your personal SLAs a hair and setup “crunch times” so you can get your critical tasks done without interruption. (Don’t take this as an excuse to ignore your clients, though. Make sure you continue to communicate, even if it is “I’m going to get to you shortly”).
Realize that no one makes it in life alone.
Finally, sometimes you need to ask for help. I had to ask my clients for understanding, ask my employees to step up their game, ask my family for help around the house, ask my friends to bring by some food so our family didn’t starve while I was trying to get some work done, and more. I even had to ask our neighbors to come over and help me reorganize some furniture so I could build a home office! Our family was built around a stay-at-home Mom and suddenly we didn’t have one anymore. So life had to change rapidly to fill in the massive void that my wife had left after being placed on bedrest.
I’ve used the words “fiercely independent” to describe myself. I think that is one of the reasons why I have always been attracted to entrepreneurship. The idea of paving your own way and not needing to put your life in the hands of anyone is appealing. I would imagine that many MSP owners are in a similar boat to me. They are chasing personal freedom as well as financial freedom.
Unfortunately, we aren’t always in a spot where we can do it all by ourselves. It took a lot to suck up my pride and ask for help. But it has been a huge relief, and when your life is falling apart around you, you should know it is ok to ask for help as well. Sometimes it takes a village. And the people around you are often willing to step up and help in ways you would never expect of them. Don’t let your pride get in the way of asking for help because you will struggle unnecessarily.
Live with Purpose and Control Your “Mindshare”
When you find that your life is crashing down around your ears it is important to begin living with purpose. There are books and books written on the topic of “mindshare”. When you enter a state of overwhelm you need to lower your expectations of yourself and clear your life and your mind as much as possible of the fluff so you don’t go crazy. Make sure there are no dishes in the sink, enforce a “zero inbox” policy on your email, keep your kitchen table clear, try to empty off your “chronological file-piles” from your desk and office floor, keep doing your laundry. Clear the space around you so you have as much brainpower as possible to apply to getting your daily tasks done. You want to keep your peace of mind.
But most importantly, know that this is only a season in your life. There is a beginning and an end. Stay focused and try your best to keep up your morale with exercise or other things that help you feel better. Even 10-20 minutes a day where you can just “let go” and relax will help you get through the rest of the day and keep all the balls in the air.
What have you done?
Of course this has all just been my own personal experience and thoughts. What have you done to keep your MSP running when facing extreme circumstances? Be sure to leave a comment below! We’d love to hear any tips and tricks that you have to share on this unique and often ignored topic.