Career Advice
January 6, 2022

Slow down and reflect: How I stopped working as hard and got promoted

Slow down and reflect: How I stopped working as hard and got promoted

When you work for a large company, it’s easy to feel like you’re just another cog in the wheel. I wanted to stand out, to shine. Luckily, at a large company, there are a lot of opportunities for growth, which is a core value of mine and why I’ve stayed as long as I have. However, it’s also easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities, over-commit, and not make tangible progress.

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That was my story until I recently made a change.

I thought that being successful meant being part of a lot of different activities. Going to a lot of meetings meant that I was being busy and productive. I believed that working on building out a variety of different skills at the same time would make me stronger. So, I dove into facilitation without recognizing that trying to manage so many different personalities drains me. I spent so much of my time on calls that I had no energy to do my best work. I took on side projects, which meant that I ended up doing poorer quality work all around.

In short, I spread myself too thin.

What’s worse, I was glued to my computer ALL DAY. I started developing neck and back pain and poor posture. My eyes felt fatigued and I started getting headaches. My wrists hurt. There’s only so much ergonomics can do if you’re not changing your position frequently.

I had to make a change.

The changes I made were actually quite simple, yet made a drastic difference.

I started backing out of things. I said no to a lot of projects and meetings. It felt wrong somehow. Like I wasn’t being a team player. Corporations have such a meeting culture that it feels like you’re doing something wrong when you don’t go to them. It’s not that I stopped completely, but I became more selective and intentional with my time.

When I go to meetings, I actually pay attention. We get things done. I can’t say the same for my behavior in the past or how I see so many of my colleagues behave in meetings now.

I take breaks in my day to get outside and move. Mostly, I enjoy going for long walks where I leave my phone at home and really disconnect. I’m so grateful to have a manager that understands this is what I need to do my best work. If I don’t respond to a Slack message for an hour, I never feel penalized by them. There’s still a little of my own internal guilt I feel, but that’s programming.

Less truly is more. I stopped stressing about standing out and focused on doing my core job responsibilities. I asked my manager how she’s measuring my performance and made my focus be on excelling in those areas. I stopped spreading myself thin.

I’m so much happier now with my work. By making this time for myself, I’ve been able to reflect on what I truly enjoy doing. After getting clear on this, I’ve worked with my manager to shape my role in that direction and fulfill my responsibilities in my own style. A style I enjoy and find fulfilling.

And what do you know? I got promoted! My promotion didn’t come when I was overworking myself and spreading myself too thin. It came when I stepped back, slowed down, and focused on what I want.

Rachel Miles (ADPList Mentor)
UX Strategist at IBM
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