Eventually it happens to the best of us. Something occurs in our personal lives that is so devastating, we have difficulty concentrating at work. It may be the death of a loved one, a divorce, a financial crisis, or serious damage to our homes. When our personal lives are in chaos, it can be hard to focus and get what we need to do done.
Unfortunately, bills still have to be paid and work still has to get done. If you're an employee, you have to show your boss that you can be relied upon no matter what. If you're the boss, your team counts on you to lead, no matter what's you're dealing with after hours. Here are three tips for remaining professional even while your personal life seems to be falling apart.
Some people are great at compartmentalizing their thoughts. Work can even serve as an escape from the problems they're experiencing elsewhere in their lives. For others, however, it can be extremely difficult to focus, whether they're in meetings or seated at their desks.
When you have trouble focusing, sometimes forcing yourself to be organized can make a big difference. Make a list each day and force yourself to tackle the items on that list in an organized manner. You may even find it helpful to make deals with yourself. "Once I've checked four items off this list, I can take a break and think about my problems." This type of compartmentalization serves as a good stop-gap measure in staving off thoughts of your personal crisis until that crisis shrinks in importance.
Give yourself permission to take breaks to deal with your personal crisis. Whether this means making the phone calls you need to make, researching things online, or just taking a walk around the block occasionally to clear your mind, feel free to do it. When you know a ten-minute break is around the corner, you can more easily throw yourself into your latest project or a conversation with a colleague.
Your break could extend to entire days off. Your boss, co-workers, and clients will completely understand it if you need a week off to deal with your issues, especially if you return with the full confidence that you've taken care of some things and can now focus on work.
Confide in Someone
As soon as you see that your personal crisis will be an issue, talk to your supervisor or a trusted co-worker about it. This person can help you make arrangements to ensure your work is covered throughout the period of time you're going through your rough spot. If you have a boss, that boss will likely appreciate your candor, especially if you phrase the conversation in a way that makes clear you're ready to come up with a plan to make sure your work gets done.
Your behavior after this conversation is crucial. Even someone you trust will expect you to pull it together after a while. Employees and supervisors will be sympathetic and compassionate but after a time, you'll likely find that people begin to lose patience if you continue to neglect your work duties or beg out of important meetings. Allow yourself a brief amount of time to grieve, then do what needs to be done to keep your job and make sure your business continues to thrive.
Everyone suffers a personal crisis or two from time to time. When you show you can weather these crises without letting it dramatically affect your work, you'll likely find others respect you and look up to you as someone who can work through any situation. Most importantly, though, you should remember to take care of yourself, no matter what you're going through. Force yourself to eat three meals and take time off every now and then to make sure you stay healthy.