How to Stay Focused at Work Amid a Personal Crisis

staying focused

The temperatures are dropping and the holidays are coming and so is…disaster? Unfortunately, the winter season also frequently brings a personal crisis. From the alarming number of deaths that occur around the holidays, to a marriage on the rocks (after-holiday divorce rates are high), to other types of personal crisis which have nothing to do with the season at all, but happen to land when you have plenty of other things on your plate: how do you stay focused at work?

Work and personal life are supposed to stay separate, and yet when a personal crisis takes your attention, requires you to take action, causes a lack of focus at work, or otherwise makes working difficult, what do you do?

First of all, take a deep breath. We’ve all be there. Then, take action.

Step One: Write It Down

The first step in any high-stakes, high-stress situation is to get clearer-headed about the situation, rather than to just feel generally awful and unable to concentrate.

List making works well. Write down the situation, as well as any known steps you need to do to handle it. For example, in a personal health crisis, write down the situation, appointments you may need to make, upcoming dates that will require you to miss work, or anything else that you already know. Also, write down anything that you do not yet know, but you know you will need to.

Get organized to get ahead of a crisis.

Step Two: Make it Known

Yes, work and personal life should be separate, but if you have a personal crisis going on, it might be a good idea to make it known at work. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. Go to the appropriate person in your organization (your boss, the HR person, or whoever would need to know), and state the situation. It can be as simple as, “Jackie and I are separating. I’m taking steps to make sure it doesn’t distract me at work, but I wanted to let you know what was going on.”

Share with that person what your plan is, and you may also find you have help in your corner.

Step Three: Divide Your Time

January is named for Janus, the Roman two-headed god who could see in two directions of time, the goddess of change. In a crisis, be Janus. At work, you have one face, focused on the work in front of you, but you will also need to allow yourself some time to focus on the personal crisis. Maybe that will be entirely in your off hours, but if your personal crisis will require some of your working hours, clearly outline those times.

If you are not able to focus on work, take a short focus break, stretch your legs with a short walk, and then get your head back in the game.

Step Four: Get a Support Team

They say that a crisis shows you who your “real friends are.” More likely, there will be some people who just do not know what to do about the situation you are in, even if they do value you and your friendship.

But you do need emotional support in a crisis, so reach out to a good friend or two. Meet up for coffee. Go on a hike together as a distraction.

Continue to support your emotional health with friendships amid a personal crisis.

This Too Shall Pass

Human beings are amazingly resilient. When you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you traverse many miles. Eventually, the horizon looks different.

Keep going.

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