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PACE yourself and stop work overload - or else!

Over the past few weeks I have become concerned at the number of my coaching clients who have been telling me about how their workload has become a lot worse while working from home, and how they are working 14 and even 16 hour days with no break at the weekend. All are sleeping poorly, unable to switch off the to-do lists in their heads, one coachee told me about seeing floaters in her eyes, and all are snatching food on the go. They have almost given up on a social life, and those who have partners and families are suffering from guilt at not being there for them.

They recognise, too, that the quality of their work has been badly affected.

It is vital that we stop the work overload and we can do this through PACE. Just like marathon runners must pace themselves over the whole distance, we must all pace ourselves for our daily challenges.

The body and mind can only take so much pressure. We are not machines that can work without a break 24/7. We need sustenance: nourishment, social contact, relationships, and rest to regenerate body and mind.

Physically, intellectually and emotionally we humans wither if we do not have a balance between stimuli and regeneration time. We need variety in stimuli, we need order, but we also need surprises, treats, and excitement.

We cannot do our best work if we are exhausted. At some point, something will give; our physical or our mental health, our work output or our relationships.

PACE yourself


PLAN what you need to do, including recreation and regeneration time.

ACCORD with colleagues, family and friends

CALENDARISE everything: food, social activities with family and friends, exercise (walks, runs, gym), personal downtime (reading that novel, listening to a jazz session or playing the saxophone, taking a virtual museum tour, going for a walk along the canal), learning time (professional development), life admin, future planning, sleep. Design coloured categories so that you can see how much time you devote to each. Make sure to put a hard stop at the end of each working day.

EXECUTE – stick to the calendar. Try not to cheat. If you cheat you are robbing yourself of regeneration time which is fuel for productivity, efficiency and creativity. The equation won’t add up. Learn to regard all these time commitments in your calendar just like work commitments. You have to show up to them. Very occasionally you will have to shift something around, but make it the exception.

As you move into PACE mode, share your approach with those around you: your manager, your colleagues, your family and your friends. Ask them to help you PACE.

At first, my coaching clients are sceptical about being able to cope with the workload they are constantly being burdened with by their demanding managers, let alone ask them for support with the new approach. But on reflection, they realise they have fallen into the trap of the “yes” pattern and see that they themselves are “guilty” of playing the game: they never say they can’t handle the amount of work. The vicious circle must be broken. We can, of course, give managers the benefit of the doubt; they need to produce results, they themselves are under pressure. But we must also take responsibility for our own well-being – and the results we are expected to produce.

Most managers will see the sense of adjusting the workload and, if necessary, the goals. If your manager is resistant, you may need to take other steps, including considering whether you are in the right place. For the sake of your well-being.

PACE for a month – and see how different you feel.

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