How to Reduce Chaos and Overwhelm

As we prepare for another amazing Pioneering Leader Summit on May 9th in Philadelphia, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an “integrated leader” – a leader who prioritizes creating time for life alongside moving ahead in their career.

Following this path isn’t always easy. In fact, about four years ago, I remember vehemently telling my husband that this would be the “last time” that I would feel so overwhelmed by the demands in my life.  Little did I know, around the corner would be multiple years of elder care, a number of unexpected changes in my team, and a couple of all consuming work projects that simply had no short cuts.  

I can now see that being an integrated leader doesn’t inoculate us from the stresses of work and life. However, it does teach us some habits to better navigate these challenges.  

For most people today, the pace of work and life has sped up beyond what feels comfortable. This trend is especially true for managers and leaders. Does this mean we have to settle for a chaotic life? Absolutely not. It just means we have to accept a certain amount of chaos while also getting smarter around building in buffers.

My experiences are certainly mirrored in the ThirdPath community as well. For 18 months I have been collecting the “work-life scores” from some of the leaders in our community, and no surprise, work often takes up more of their time than they’d like.  61% of the time they reported working “at or beyond” their preferred capacity (a score of 4 or 5).

In contrast, their life scores were influenced by unpredictability. 37% of the time they reported dealing with a “temporary” uptick in life demands (a score of 3).

Yael Schonbrun described a similar pattern in our most recent live podcast. Yes, at times you will feel tension between your multiple life roles – but she also points out that there are many more benefits than drawbacks. (In fact her book, Work Parent Thrive, shows the science behind ThirdPath’s mission and the multiple benefits of living an integrated life.)

So, hats off to a life that includes a little chaos and unpredictability, but please also consider adopting my 5 tried and true buffers for reducing the chaos:

1. Build a strong team at work … And don’t underestimate the work involved in doing this.

Integrated leaders immediately sense the only way to achieve their own work-life integration is to build a strong team at work.  They also quickly learn this work is never done. 

2. Build a strong team at home … Whether you are a two-parent, single parent, or multi-generational household, work and life will always include curve balls. Your team at home becomes your rock to lean on when times are tough.

Yes, my husband and I have moments when we struggle, but ultimately, we’ve become true partners in crafting a life together. Thirty plus years into our marriage, we both became very skilled at managing our work as we travel through every life stage. 

Feeling like you could use some help with your team at home? Check out this article about sharing the mental load. Or click on the YouTube recording of our conversation with authors Eve Rodsky (Fair Play), B. Hibbs (Try to See it My Way), and Yael Schonbrun (Work, Parent Thrive).

3. Create slack time – both at work and at home … A strong team at work and at home helps ThirdPath leaders create more slack time, but it also helps that they’ve honed a variety of work-life integration skills

Eve, Yael, and B also raised the importance of slack time. For example, Yael talked about the value of “subtracting” – learning to say no to things. Clearly this is something we all need to become experts at if we want to make sure we have enough time for rest and recovery.

4. Build in support that lets you acknowledge the messiness … There will be times when it feels impossible, but your community of support will always make it more possible.

Once again, things have been unexpectedly challenging the past few months. But I’m no longer making any promises to my husband that this is the “last time” things will be this way.  Instead, I’m leaning on my circle of support, and reminding myself that this is just a normal part of the landscape of being an integrated leader.

5. Don’t lower your goals … Instead, find ways to learn from the latest challenge.

Here’s the silver lining that will inevitably surface as I get to the other side of today’s challenges – I will likely gain a few insights for how to better navigate things going forward.  And my insights will be added to the collective wisdom of the ThirdPath community.

Want to meet a whole room full managers and leaders committed to success at work AND their lives outside of work?  Take a look at what we have planned for our May 9th Summit. Then connect with us through the “I’d like to learn more” link. We look forward to the possibility of meeting you this May.

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