That Guilty Feeling

We've all been there- it's 5pm and you want to leave work and head home but something inside you tethers you to your desk. You know, deep down, that your family is as important as your work but still, tethering. You can see the sunset outside your window and you imagine putting U2 on the radio for the ride home but something keeps you at work just a little bit longer.

Guilt. It creeps into our hearts and minds each and every day.

If we allow it to.

I know of a school leader who is religious about leaving campus at the same time every day. It could be that he was an addict to watching Judge Judy or simply that he realized that nine hours was enough work for one day. I'll let you decide on that one.

Whatever the case, we should learn from people like this who have mastered the art of automation. We can't automate everything of course. Imagine a physician in the ER telling the person with the bleeding hand, "Sorry but it's time for my break- be back in 30 minutes." Or, take the mom who is caring for children at home. One of the munchkins needs to be tended to and the mom puts up her hand as if to say, "My shift is done, sorry honey."

I don't think so.

Guilt creeps in when we allow ourselves to think that we haven't done enough. It also captures our heart when we link all of our value into what we produce. This is defeating because we can always do more in any given day.

A staff member at a previous school once told me that she was stressed at work. When I asked her if she got all of her work done each day, she replied, "Absolutely, but I'm stressed all day long while I'm getting it done." Not sure about you but I would kill for a day in which I got all of my work done.

Wondering how to cope with guilt? First, realize that you are more than what you do. Take into account your family, your hobbies and your history of success. Second, begin to create a manifesto of sorts. Mine includes inspiring lines that make sense to me such as:

"Care less about what others think of you"

"Remember who you are"

You get the point. Keep your manifesto simple and in a location where you'll revisit it often. A simple text file will do. I keep mine in an active file within ByWord.

Finally, talk to yourself. I'm not joking here- tell yourself before you begin work that you are amazing and talented and gifted. A little bit of SNL's Jack Handy can be helpful here. When you are tempted at the end of the day to linger and stay tethered to your desk, repeat these statements and I promise, they'll work.

How are you coping with guilt and the times when you leave work?

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici