How to Stop Your Personal Life from Impacting Your Professional Career

June 2, 2016

We lead two lives – professional and personal – and while it is ideal for the two to never intersect, it’s almost impossible to keep them separate. The very fact that the professional work day is sandwiched between the very personal moments of our lives means that one will directly impact the other. It’s almost inescapable. 

Last year, I experienced three very negative moments so personal that it was inevitable for those moments to seep into my work life. For some, it may be a death in the family and for others, it might mean the end of a close friendship. Maybe you broke up with your significant other and maybe that significant other was an office romance, which will most certainly have an impact on work. Regardless of the personal difficulties you face, there are ways to stop them from negatively impacting your day and creating problems at work.

Take Some Time Off: Sometimes you need a personal health day, even if you’re not actually sick. If you’re feeling a bit off or are dealing with something that will hinder your productivity in a significant way, you might just need the day off. When you experience a tragedy and go right to work, it is almost impossible to stay focused on your tasks. You’re sitting at your computer constantly thinking about what you could have done differently, wishing you could speak to a friend, or just wanting to lie in bed and have a good cry. Sometimes, you are better off just taking the time off to collect your thoughts and recharge your batteries. And while you shouldn’t take too much time off, one or two days could get you through the initial problem and allow you to function better when you return. 

Let It Out: If you’re sitting at your computer and you feel the tears coming, holding it in may actually be counterproductive. If you have an office, shut the door and just deal with your emotions in the immediate. If not, step away from the screen and go to the bathroom or take a walk to clear your mind. It’s important to let your body acknowledge emotional pain before you can start feeling better. Resisting the urge to confront your mental state will inevitably delay any progress you can make. The more you struggle, the harder your brain will fight and the more distracted you will become. Give in. 

Isolate Yourself: And by that, I mean disconnect yourself as much as possible from the digital world while at work. This means not making any phone calls, staying away from texts and keeping your eyes off social media sites.  Leave your phone at home if you have to. The ones who really matter to you will know your work number if there is an emergency. But we all know how even the ones who mean well can bring the drama when you are trying to stay focused at work. In the case of a breakup, all it might take is a message stating, “Did you see what your ex posted on Instagram?” to make you lose your train of thought and have you stalk social media feeds to understand why your ex is determined to ruin your life. The best way to avoid this unnecessary drama is to remove it from the equation. You are at work for a reason so do everything in your power to keep from allowing yourself unnecessary distraction. 

Talk It Out: Chances are your supervisors notice when you are distracted and it may be better to be honest and tell them you are dealing with a personal matter and apologize for letting it get in the way of your work while assuring them it is only temporary. The majority of supervisors are forgiving, but will not tolerate your behavior if you make a habit of it.  The best bet, when dealing with an emotional trauma, is to seek help from an impartial observer – a therapist. Some of the most successful professionals seek help from therapists when dealing with stress and most insurances cover mental wellness for a reason. Taking care of your mental well-being is just as important as physical health. Talking with someone completely removed from your day-to-day life will allow for an outlet and a new perspective and, if it helps you deal with your personal issues, then that’s all you should really care about. 

Do Something Fun: Sometimes, all it takes to snap yourself out of a funk is to do something that makes you enjoy life again. Go out with some friends, catch a ball game, go to the movies, or do whatever it is you would typically do. Forcing yourself to get back to social activities might put your stress in a new perspective and remind you that moving on is a vital part of the challenges we face. While you probably won’t be able to do this during the workday (although an hour lunch may be all you need), the minute you realize your personal woes are impacting your professional life is the time to take action so the problem doesn’t persist over time.

Life sometimes sucks, but life would suck a whole lot more if we lost our jobs on top of it, so follow these tips to keep your personal drama out of your professional space.

by Jon Minners

Chicago river at night
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