This week I returned to the office after a three month-leave of absence. I work at a medium-sized non-profit and had been in a senior management role for the past five years. During my leave, I worked with our chief program officer to revamp my job responsibilities, and we jointly decided that I would give up the management work and focus on business development (grant-writing, client meetings, informal marketing) as well as leading research teams in my specific area of expertise. The big idea is to 1) not work all the time and 2) spend most of my workday on the things I’m good at and really like to do.

Here’s what’s been nice so far:

  • My colleagues gave me a very warm welcome back to the office, surprising me with flowers and posters and balloons; I was amazed and felt so appreciated.
  • I’ve already had several successful client meetings, which have reminded me how much I love meeting with clients, helping them clarify what it is they really want/need, and trying to find a way we can help them within their budget and timeline.
  • I have explicitly told people that I will be working on setting boundaries because both they and I need to get used to me in a new role, and for the most part, they have been very receptive (we’ll see what happens when it’s their request I turn down!)
  • Wednesday I politely and successfully said no to two requests. I used my” Let Me Think About It” tool, and then with the extra time, concluded that the requests weren’t appropriate for me right now. Minor victory!

And what’s been hard:

  • alarm_clock_10Waking up to an alarm clock. For most of October, November and December, except while traveling, I just slept each morning until I woke up. I am learning to go to bed earlier, much earlier, than I really want to.
  • I have to reign myself in to keep from working at night, after work. There is always something more I could do on my projects, and working at night saves my clients money (because I can only bill for 8 hours a day, so anything extra is “free” to them). But I tell myself, I only owe them what is in the contract.
  • I can feel the pressure as well as the tension in my colleagues, many of whom also work too much and sleep too little. I am trying to sneak little five-minute meditation breaks into my day to keep from getting too wound up.
  • I can’t help wondering if I’m going to be able to work as such a fast-paced place anymore. I already have doubts, but I try to tell them to wait a little while and gather more evidence before making up their cynical little minds.
  • In order to make a deadline that was imposed on me Wednesday night, I would have to work 8-10 hours this weekend. I’m not willing to do that, so I will not make the deadline. That’s okay though. The world won’t end.

So. I’ve got lots of mental work to do to create a new reality for myself at work.