Many of us in the communications fields refer to ourselves as being “Type A” or having “Type A” personalities. The term has become a catchphrase for those of us who tend to be high-energy, driven, ambitious, goal-oriented, competitive perfectionists with a sense of urgency in nearly everything we do.
HISTORY: The term “Type A” originated in the 1950s when Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman observed that those most likely to suffer a cardiac event also tended to have more driven, impatient, high-stress personalities, and the term propagated after their 1974 best-selling book, Type A Behavior And Your Heart, was published.
At the recent PRSA Midwest District Conference, one of the sessions I attended was with Lynn Ingrid Nelson, principal at Lin PR, and author of the book Getting Your Life into Balance. She talked about PR pros often running around with their “hair on fire” due to the urgent nature of our work, and that learning ways to handle this constant state of urgency improves our well-being and our effectiveness. In public relations specifically, our stressors tend to be clients, bosses, continual deadlines, round-the-clock demands, cranky journalists, and constant multitasking. This session was interesting to me as I have been the epitome of “work hard, play hard” most of my adult life, but in recent years found it not working quite so well for me anymore.
Not sure if you need to bring your life into balance? Nelson suggests you begin with asking yourself these questions:
- Does anxiety, workaholism and/or a sense of over-responsibility get in the way of getting what you want out of your life?
- Do you stay busy to appease your restlessness?
- Are you obsessive compulsive about work and other areas of your life?
- Do you do more than your fair share at home, at work, in volunteer activities?
Still not sure? Check out this Huffington Post article, 16 Signs You’re A Little (Or A Lot) Type A.
If you answered yes to many but aren’t sure just WHY you should focus on life balance, Nelson suggests you’ll have more compassion and better understanding of others, more energy for activities (less drudgery), more creativity/play, more intimacy, possibly better health, and more overall satisfaction.
Nelson suggests creating a sort of journal she called an “intentional time diet” where you record how you spend your time now (anyone who’s worked in a PR agency should be familiar with this drill), and then distinguish between discretionary and required time.
She spoke about clarifying your intentions by asking yourself things like: what are your three most important goals, what do you want to do less/more of, and are you willing to make the changes that would be required to meet those goals. Estimate much time are you willing to spend on what. Then, determine what you can do now to shift toward better balance. “Find your own shade of gray,” Nelson challenged.
Through her own struggle, she shared many things she’s learned. A few of the ones that really resonated with me were:
1. Going out of your way for everyone does not lead to good balance.
2. There is little upside to being the most responsible person in the group.
3. “Muscling” through tough situations is less of an option as we age. Intentional is a much better solution.
While I already had some things set in motion to simplify my life and make me more productive and less stressed, this session validated that I’m moving in the right direction.
What are you doing to find your shade of gray?