Reaching Goals Versus Self-Care: Achieving a Balance

by | Aug 1, 2020

The other day, I was speaking with a colleague who shared some concerns with me.

“I don’t know,” she said. “The work I used to do seems completely overwhelming now. Something that used to take me 2 hours is now a 5 or 6 hour project. Maybe I’m just burned out.”

“Or maybe,” I said, “you’re living through a worldwide pandemic.”

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about self-care lately. And with good reason. Most of us aren’t doing too well. According to a Kaiser Family Family Foundation Poll, nearly half of Americans say the coronavirus is damaging their mental health.

You don’t have to be a professional to know that motivation is difficult to find right now. Stress and uncertainty are affecting work performance. Optimism has taken a hit. And we don’t, yet, have an end in sight.

As a business owner, you suffer, perhaps more than most. Because you have the health and well-being of your business and your people to consider. You already carry more worry and concern than you should.

And at some point in time, the stress, uncertainty, and irrational sense of failure is going to be too much. Unless, you take the steps now to create a balance between caring for yourself and your employees and achieving your goals.

Here’s how:

Recognize Productivity Is Down

An online survey (conducted between April 6th – April 9th, 2020) revealed:

“25% of respondents say working from home has had a negative impact on their productivity.”

Another study, done by Aternity showed:

“The United States actually saw a 7.2% decrease in productivity since in-office work declined.”

Yet another study (this one done by NORDVPN) found:

“The length of the average workday has actually increased by almost 40% in the U.S. This means that Americans are working an extra three hours per day, adding up to 11-hour days, but are being less productive despite the added hours.”

There’s a good chance you didn’t need to read these statistics at all. Because you’re experiencing the same thing. Despite working, almost non-stop, since the coronavirus hit, you’ve discovered, like my colleague, that it’s taking you much longer to complete tasks.

And that makes goals nearly impossible to reach. Which is why you might want to…

Reassess Current Goals

Deciding to update or modify your goals does not mean you have failed.

It means you have a realistic view of the current situation. It means you recognize you’ve been negatively affected by our circumstances. It means you have compassion on team members who desperately want to do a good job but who are weighed down by dozens of unusual concerns.

It means you’re human.

We’ve had a few months to work this out. By now, you should have a solid handle on what you and your employees are able to accomplish – and how quickly you’re able to accomplish it. Modify your goals with the assumption that current production will continue through the rest of the year.

Based on that information, do you need to make your goals more achievable? Do you want to reset this year’s goals as next year’s objectives?

These are all things to consider.

Now, I highly recommend bringing your leadership team (and possibly all employees) into the discussion. What do they think is manageable? Simply acknowledging the mental health of your people may give them enough reassurance that they’ll push harder and do more for you.

But if they don’t…

Acknowledge Even Minimal Effort

I recently saw an article (from a concerned parent) that I think applies to this situation. This parent said that most schools, for legitimate reasons, had implemented a “Perfect Attendance” system that rewarded attendance…no matter what the cost. But the cost of always being present was too high. It encouraged kids, who were sick and should be home, to appear at school. And incidentally, spread their germs.

I see similar situations in business settings. We reward accomplishment without really giving much thought to the consequences.

It’s great when you have an employee who goes above and beyond. But if that behavior becomes the expected norm, your other employees (who are not in a position to give you 110%) will likely suffer. Productivity may be lost. And resentment may build.

Instead of continually recognizing those people who, let’s face it, are slightly overzealous, show appreciation to ALL of your employees. And allow them a little leeway as we figure out the future.

For the next few months, determine what level of production you’re willing to accept. Factor in the declining mental health of your people and then determine the bare minimum requirements for their job description.

As long as a team member stays above that line, keep them. Support them. Encourage them. It’s much harder to replace your employees (and find another good fit for your culture) than it is to ride this out.

Along those same lines…

Offer People More Support

You’re going to be balancing this fine line between nurturing your people and pushing them to reach their goals.

One way to make the balance easier is to support general well-being in your team. For example:

  • Do you have a system in place for checking on everyone’s mental well-being?
  • Do you ask for and then address employee concerns?
  • Are your people supported when they say they can’t meet a particular deadline?
  • Do you provide additional resources for those struggling to hit goals? (Note: they need help, not added pressure.)
  • Are you communicating frequently and transparently about the health of your business so your team members feel less apprehensive?
Business owners who are trying to maintain “business as usual” are not going to reach their goals. Because our people might not be mentally strong enough in the current environment to maintain their usual productivity rate.

If you offer additional support in the form of days off, one-on-one check ins, and mental health programs, your people will be more likely to reach their goals. Because they’ll have the strength to keep going…even though things are tough.

Celebrate Your Achievements

Celebrate your achievements. Even if they weren’t the ones you wanted to reach this year. You have to remember this: so far, you have survived. And that is better than a lot of businesses out there.

Positivity is often the difference between a goal being met and falling a little short. Keep things positive (without being over-the-top) in your business. When you reach a goal or a milestone, celebrate it more than you ever have before. And bring the whole company in on the celebration. It will do wonders for your ability to keep moving forward.

An article in Inc.com said:

“When we focus on the good stuff it sparks the reward circuitry of our brains. This causes a change reaction as the brain releases chemicals that stimulate feelings of pride, excitement, and happiness. It makes us want to dig deeper into our next achievement.”

Choose positive behaviors (like celebrations) frequently. While it’s difficult to lift frightened, stressed, tired people from the pit they’re in, choosing positivity will win out. Plus, we’ll find better ways to cope with what we’re experiencing.

If you hit every goal you made this year…you’re doing incredible! But if you don’t, it’s okay. Take care of you. Take care of your loved ones. Take care of your people. Those are the actions that will see you through this. And we will make it through!

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