Last week clients asked me how to. Colleagues asked me what I knew. And I was living in the swirl of too much to do, seemingly all important… and feeling a bit out of control. Organizations and sub-units of organization set the tone for the work climate. Let’s start off by saying that you alone cannot change a culture of 24/7 email, back-to-back meetings, and fewer resources than required for the accelerated desired results. Unless you are the CEO, of course. Think about why you are so out of control. What drives you? A need to perform? An adrenaline high? It’s all you’ve known? It’s funny. When I find myself sending emails on Sunday night, it’s either about one of two things.

  1. I want to get the item off my list (I love checking things done).
  2. Or, I intentionally send it then because I am trying to send at a time that my email will get some attention from you. Like “not Friday afternoon, wait until Sunday morning.”

This weekend, I sent no emails and must admit, my send finger feels a little itchy. So what can you do about your day that feels jammed with meetings, little time to prepare, no time to think about the big stuff, and half-a-mind presence with your family? First, print off the past four weeks of your calendar and color code the importance of each meeting and the importance of your attendance.

  1. Don’t go to meetings that are not mandatory for you. If you have to go and can’t delegate to another person–take notes on another important topic during a low importance meeting.
  2. Identify slices of your day that you could plan to get the “important work” done–and, schedule one.
  3. Notice whether you are ever  home with your family without your email attached to your forehead. Create a no-work zone in the evening and weekend.

Trust me, I’m not saying to “ditch” the company’s culture. Work within the structure. Just don’t yourself be enslaved to it. Exercise some control for yourself.

Second, turn that same thinking toward your team.

  1. Protect them from one-more-meeting.
  2. Help and encourage them to take a break from the grind and work on something future-thinking oriented or problem-solving in nature. Make sure that work isn’t done in the “grind” mode.
  3. Resist sending emails in the evening or weekend. Can’t they wait until 7 a.m. Monday or the next day?

Oh, and don’t forget to notice what you appreciate about your team and tell them. It’s so easy to enter the workplace and get on the “grind conveyer belt.” You can take back some of the control for yourself and your team.