“Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.” –Stephen Hawking, English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author
Family caregivers struggle. And those that also hold down jobs experience extreme stress and anxiety. Juggling work and caregiving duties cannot help but impact their productivity and job performance.
Working family caregivers also, at the same time, want to experience a measure of happiness and contentment.
Is this possible?
Consider just a few of the many consequences to working caregivers, according to a recent National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study:
- 6 out of 10 (61%) caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving such as cutting back on hours, taking a leave of absence receiving a warning about performance or attendance.
- 49% arrive at their place of work late, leave early, or take time off.
- 15% take a leave of absence.
- 14% reduce their work hours or take a demotion.
- 5% turn down promotions.
- 4 % choose to retire early.
- 3% lose job benefits.
- 6% give up working entirely.
- 39% leave their job to have more time to care for a loved one.
- 34% leave their job because their work does not provide flexible hours.
When it comes to productivity:
The same National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study found that the costs of informal caregiving in terms of lost productivity to U.S. businesses is $17.1 to $33.4 billion annually.
You Can Improve Your Productivity with These Three Simple Daily Routines
Relax and clear your mind.
A clear mind leads to greater focus and increased creativity.
- Substitute unwanted thoughts for desirable ones (affirmations, daydream)
- Write your feelings out in a journal
- Call a friend
- Exercise/get out in nature (walk, run, aerobics)
- Breathe deeply (try the 7/11 breathing exercise: count to 7 as you breathe in and count to 11 as you slowly breathe out)
- Turn off technology
Our most valuable resource is time.
Having a strategy to organize your day will increase your productivity and help you avoid time-wasting activities; a reasonable amount of order prevents anxiety and reduces stress.
Plan your tasks the night before you go to work (my favorite strategy). This strategy is simple, and it works. Otherwise, you could spend hours debating what you should do at the beginning of your day, which is a time-waster.
Why not wake up, relax and clear your mind, and begin your tasks immediately.
There are many formulas to organize your work.
Try the “Eisenhower Box”:
I will not recount the many accomplishments of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, and a five-star general of the United States Army, but he did a lot.
And his methods for time management and productivity have been studied at length.
The Eisenhower Box
Understand the difference between urgent and important tasks. What is important is often not urgent, and what is critical is usually not significant.
Urgent tasks, for instance, could include emails, phone calls, and text messages. However, essential duties contribute to the long-term mission, values, and goals of the company.
The Eisenhower Box makes it simple to separate urgent/not urgent differences. However, making the distinction over and over again, day in and day out consistently can be tough.
Tip: Never check email before noon. Use the morning to do what’s important rather than responding to what is “urgent.”
Multitasking is a time waster and does not work! You will not accomplish more, in fact, just the opposite. Having fewer priorities leads to better work. You can’t be great at one task if you are dividing your time seven or eight ways.
Thus, multitasking is counterproductive.
According to neuroscientist Dr. Jordan Grafman: “We cannot focus on several things at the same time; something has to suffer. Hence, multitasking can result in superficiality and poor retention. Also, the rapid-fire switching of attention causes people to make more mistakes and takes more time to get jobs done than completing them sequentially.”
The fastest way to get something done is to eliminate the task from your to-do list, which is not always possible.
You must force yourself to delete any task that doesn’t move you forward to accomplish your mission or lead toward your values or goals.
So be prepared sometimes to make hard decisions and delete tasks when possible.
Don’t do “busy work” for the sake of being busy.
The myth of multitasking is that being busy is synonymous with being better.
I like this quote from Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek:
“Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
In this regard, you should find the Eisenhower Matrix helpful. Using the Matrix will help you eliminate the things that waste your time each day.
You will be more productive at the more important things.
Tip: Never be afraid to let others lend a helping hand; delegate.
How to Find Joy
Yes, it is possible to alleviate the pain of the ups and downs of your job responsibilities as an employee while fulfilling your demanding family caregiver role.
Happiness is a choice you make.
There are ways to create a deliberate positive emotional state.
There are ways to feel at peace and have joy.
- Express gratitude—daily; count your blessings.
- Force negative thoughts out of your mind.
- Concentrate on positive things.
- Talk about positive things.
- Surround yourself with positive thinkers.
- Find purpose in your caregiving role; you are helping others.
- Maintain a good social circle.
- Smile, laugh out loud!
Follow the example of evergreen trees:
In Canada and the northern United States, you can find hundreds of miles of evergreen forests. During wintertime, these trees endure intense weather conditions, such as heavy wet snow and freezing rain and ice.
But the evergreens thrive. Why?
Evergreens bend, flex, and adjust to their circumstances. They thrive not out of resistance, but through acceptance of what they cannot control.
So, dear working caregiver, how will you bend and flex with your life’s circumstances? How will you refuse to let worry and anxiety steal another moment of your happiness and contentment?
There is strength—not weakness—in learning how to bend and adjust when storms come our way.
Source: A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions
Notice Dr. Wayne Dyer’s description of happiness as a journey in his book, Pulling Your Own Strings:
“Instead, wake up and appreciate everything you encounter along your path. Enjoy the flowers that are for your pleasure. Tune in to the sunrise, the little children, the laughter, the rain, and the birds. Drink it all in, rather than waiting to get some always-future point where it will be all right for you to relax.
“Indeed, success—even life itself—is nothing more than moments to enjoy, one at a time. When you understand this principle, you will stop evaluating your happiness based on achievements, and instead, look upon the whole trip of life as something to be happy about. Or to sum it up, there is no way to happiness, because happiness is the way.”
Family caregivers perform a heroic and crucial role in our society.
When the family caregiver must also hold down a job outside the home, this can lead to extreme stress and anxiety.
The working family caregiver pulling “double duty” often experiences anger, resentment, and frustration.
Caregiving harms the worker.
Caregiving responsibilities have shown to contribute to reduced employee productivity.
Employees with caregiving responsibilities cost their employers billions of dollars more per year in healthcare costs than employees without caregiving responsibilities.
I could go on and on.
If you are one juggling work and caregiving, I hope you have found the ideas presented in this article that focuses primarily on productivity and organization, helpful.
Be assured; you are providing labor of love under challenging circumstances.
But you can feel joy no matter your situation in life.
“You can’t always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”—Wayne Dyer