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What Do Lemonade and Overworking Have in Common?

You're thinking: Well I want a glass of lemonade when I'm overworked. Me too (especially if it's from Chick-fil-A) but that's not quite where I'm going with this.

We’re in a culture where overworking and over-stressing are celebrated, and taking time for yourself or not working a minimum of 10 hours a day is shamed. Why do we do this to ourselves? My guess: it makes us feel a sense of worth and purpose; it makes us feel important. If you don't see this in our culture, I STRONGLY urge you to look again... because it's probably happening in your life and you don't even realize it!

Don’t get me wrong, I've been there. Starting a business, making changes in your life, or striving for something greater definitely take time and hard work. It takes sacrifice, extra hours, and some looooong nights. But after years (yes, years, and I'm only 28!!) of consistently putting my work above my mental health, saying yes to projects I couldn't handle for fear of looking inadequate, and staying late or coming in early to prove I'm a hard worker, I've had enough!! E-NOUGH.

Shame on me for falling for it. Shame on those companies for enabling it. Thankfully, I'm in a place now where the second I feel my mental health slipping, my personal relationships cracking, and my energy running empty, I know I need to take a step back... no matter what job I have, what dream I'm chasing or what change I'm making. How did I get there? Well, keep reading...

Imagine you have a full pitcher of lemonade. You can easily share your lemonade with the people around you—just pour a little here and pour a little there. But as you keep pouring, your pitcher starts to get pretty empty. Suddenly you have one sip left, four more people begging for lemonade, and you haven’t even had a glass yourself. How do you decide who gets the last sip of lemonade? You can't make everyone (including yourself) happy! If you try to continue living like this—rationing off what little energy you have to others—you will never have enough to truly fuel yourself.

So take a step back. Let people know how much lemonade you have left. In the working world, this may sound like:

"I'd love to explore this project further, but I don't have the bandwidth right now. Can we touch base in a couple weeks?"

"If this is timely, how can we reprioritize our existing projects so everyone is working towards the same goal?"

Then go to the window sill and make some more lemonade. Re-fill your pitcher and take a drink first. Yes, it's okay to fill your cup first!! In fact, it's encouraged. Then, continue to share with others. In the working world, this may look like:

Declining a meeting that was scheduled extremely early, during lunch time, or in the evening. (Unless under very special and rare circumstances, there is no reason for a meeting to take place before 9 am, between 12-1 pm, or after 4 pm. Be respectful of your colleagues' time!)

Asking for a day off to take care of YOU—no vacation or sickness necessary.

What I’ve learned (and honestly am still learning) is that it's going to be okay. For the most part, setting scheduling boundaries, asking to reprioritize projects or asking for a day off is not going to get you fired. If it does, it's a blessing in disguise. I PROMISE YOU. Any company or manager that is going to fire you because you're saying that you're overworked and need help, does not have your best interest at heart. You can do better. You deserve better.

If you're still struggling with this concept (trust me, it took me years and a lot of support from mentors, peers, and incredible managers to get comfortable with this), think about it in two general choices:

  1. Empty Pitcher, Empty Glass. You can come in extremely early, sit in front of a computer for 15 hours to force an acceptable yet lackluster piece of work. Then go home, completely spent and too drained to do anything for yourself. All to "prove" that you are a hard worker; or...
  2. Refreshed Pitcher. Full Glass. You can set boundaries. Come in at a reasonable time, step away and refresh your mind when needed, then come back and complete a better quality version of that same work in just two hours. Leave when your work is done and have the time/energy to go on a hike, play with your dog, cook a new recipe!

Which one do you want to pick? Number two sounds pretty good, huh? Working hard is important, but overworking yourself to the point that your personal health and life suffers? Then it doesn't matter how much/what work you're doing, because you physically and mentally won't be able to do it much longer. 

It's cliche, but life is truly too short to drink sour lemonade (or not drink any at all)!! Pour yourself a glass first and enjoy it before you start pouring into other cups.

Now off to Chick-fil-A for a lemonade...



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