that work life balance

It has been about 8 months that I have made the career jump from HR to data analytics. I once wrote about why I made the jump and in the process, I learned that I am somewhat resistant to change. I don’t embrace it readily and would think my past experiences were better, even if it was not the case.

For the first few months in my new job, I felt like I was walking on thin ice. I suppose it was because of the venture into something new, for which I knew I was not as technically good as the others. Though I had some basics, this hung on my shoulders as such a burden.

Secondly, I do not instantly warm up to people. It takes time for me to feel more comfortable around others and I would wonder if things I said or did would come off wrong. It’s funny how when you start at a new company, the first day comes with the same sort of awkwardness as if it had been your first day at school.

I am glad things are much better now, I get along with the colleagues and understand my boss and the expectations better than I have.

There were times though where events seemed magnified. I would wonder “How could this have happened?”, “God, I am so dead”, “How do I explain myself?” and would spend hours double-checking everything I did and pushing myself into the wee hours of the morning but I realized some very important things.

  1. No matter who you are answering to, always under promise. So you can over-deliver. 
    I know we would like to reach the moon and the stars, but more often than not, work decisions require you to be realistic. Yes, you should stretch yourself with new challenges but do not overly promise something you are not sure you can actually achieve. Deadlines tend to motivate me and I tend to procrastinate when it comes to starting the execution bit, but I find that having a good think about how you would go about achieving what needs to be done helps a lot for when the stress kicks in. When you do deliver, be sure to give it some added value so that it shows you actually put some real effort and thought into it. Also helps to not compare your successes and failures with your colleagues’.
  2. Don’t be afraid to keep learning.
    There is this Malay phrase called “bodoh sombong”, which means to act like you know something even if you don’t and to not ask. I used to worry that my questions would seem stupid and we all know how people react to seemingly stupid questions. What more, how they may think. As a result, I would nod my head like a bobby doll in meetings as their buzzwords and catch phrases would zoom over my head but I left the meetings feeling a lot less intelligent. It tends to happen a lot in my culture, but it is a pity to let it shadow your potential. Just ask and if you are scared in a group setting, go ask individually. Just ask, don’t be ashamed of not knowing. What helped was to think of what important questions there were to ask and who I could ask first. Because I did not know some of them well, I would try to gauge who seemed to be more knowledgeable AND approachable. I would approach slowly and buy free coffee after they had offered their help and knowledge. It may seem like a small gesture, but it goes a long way to show that you are willing to learn and are appreciative.
  3. Talk to your support circle about it. I mean, friends and family. If something is niggling you at work and it seems difficult to be objective, talk to someone you know to help give you some perspective. I know some people say have a clear distinction between work and being at home and that is true to an extent. It helps me alleviate stress to talk to Mr Grumpy and close friends (sometimes with angsty Whatsapps and journal entries) for a few minutes and get it out of my system. I then become more rational at work and try not to take things personally. In the end, work should not make you bald or anxious all the time.
  4. Know when to switch off. Some may say it shows you are not committed to not reply texts/emails at the exact moment you receive them, but if it can wait and it is my family or home time, I switch off. When things are urgent, I do not do this but other times, I would. You tend to come across stories of how people wish they had spent more time with their families than worry about work and I cannot help but feel it is true. A lot of management teams will say everything is urgent or berate you for not being at their beck and call, but if you do not set limits for yourself, they are likely to take that for granted. Not switching off also makes you more prone to burnout and who likes walking into work everyday, wishing that they did not have to? Also, have you tried working with a toddler at home? I think they try typing on the keyboard more than you do!

There really is no ideal job, and I don’t mean it disrespectfully. You could get a great job with bad colleagues/boss or vice versa, maybe even a job with notsogreat pay and benefits. As a mother who does housework and cooking too, I found that it is important to not get so easily burnt out.

There are trade-offs but instead of worrying too much about balancing everything ever so perfectly, I try to be a bit more patient and pace things out. When work gets too crazy and I leave mentally drained, I am blessed that I can tell Mr Grumpy “Hey, I am not cooking tonight, let’s buy dinner”. Other times, I know I can leave my work thoughts till the next morning and enjoy my time at home.

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