Essays & Confessions/Work/Life Balance

How I’m Starting Something New & Scary (Without Letting My Fear Get The Best Of Me)

By | Tuesday, March 27, 2018

This month, TFD is partnering with Skillshare to offer a special, exclusive deal to our readers: two months of Skillshare Premium membership for only $0.99, which can be redeemed by clicking here. The TFD team has had so much positive experience using Skillshare in our own lives, so this month, we thought we’d have Mary share some of hers. Spring is a season of ~new beginnings~, and with Mary beginning in a new role here at TFD, she decided to take on the task of learning some new skills to better prepare her for the job. Here, she shares exactly how she did it:

I took my boyfriend out for a nice birthday dinner last week, and during the meal, we both could feel my legs vibrating under the table. My anxious reaction to simply being out in public wasn’t a new sensation for me — I’ve essentially been in a low-grade panic attack for weeks now. (But in a good way, I promise.) Here’s a bit of news: Two weeks ago, I wrapped up as TFD’s featured writer. And not because I’m leaving TFD! (I don’t think I could — I love it far too much.) I actually began last Monday as our ~official~ Social Media Manager!

This is really exciting for me (duh) and the TFD team in general, because up until this point, we haven’t had someone running social media fully — it was a task that the team all shared in some way or another. Having someone on our team fully dedicated to building our community is new, exciting, uncharted territory. And, as all uncharted territory tends to be, it is also scary as hell. We’re working as a team to build my position from scratch, which is equal parts liberating and terrifying. We have so many ideas about what we’d like this part of the company to look like, but until I execute them, they are just ideas. So I’m stuck somewhere between imposter syndrome, and wondering how truly good I will be at it.

We’re just over a week in, and it’s going great so far — I’m adjusting, slowly but surely, to new duties, and feeling largely less anxious this week, (especially as opposed to two weeks ago, when a light tap on my shoulder might have made me scream and jump and karate-chop the perpetrator). But this isn’t because I woke up on Day 1 of my new job, got dressed happily with the aid of a few singing birds, and suddenly summoned the strength and willpower to confidently and gracefully attack my position. (Quite the opposite, tbh — I think I wore pajamas all day.) A lot of little steps I took along the way over the few weeks between the job offer and the start date helped me feel better. So I sit here today with a to-do list that has been done, some new skills thanks to our friends at Skillshare, and a lot of newfound confidence. Here are the three steps I took over the past few weeks to help me get here:

Plan a LOT.
Everyone hopes to come to a point in their job where it feels almost automated, like they know the material so well they could do it in their sleep. And most people get to that point eventually, but that usually comes a good bit of time after the “fake it ‘til you make it” period. During the week leading up to my start date (and, if we’re being honest, every day still), I’ve found it extremely helpful to overschedule myself. While I try not to get myself into the mindset that the down-to-the-minute daily schedules must be followed exactly as written, having the outline there if I’m feeling a little unsure feels like a safety net, and helps me better understand how my days should be structured in the future. My desktop background is covered in virtual sticky notes; I have to-do lists and already-done lists littered around my desk; my dry erase board is covered in gibberish that only I can understand. It feels a little excessive, and maybe even unnecessary — but it is helping me get to a place where I’ll know what I have to do next like the back of my hand.

Come armed with knowledge.
At risk of sounding like the biggest teacher’s pet ever, I must admit that I was totally the kid in school who always did the readings and homework on time, and then some. I always wanted to come to class with more information than I needed, and stay one step ahead of the game so I’d never find myself overwhelmed when new material was introduced. Unassigned readings and supplementary research were the norm for me throughout my time in school, because I found that my school-related anxiety got out of hand when I felt like I wouldn’t be able to anticipate what was coming next and feel fully prepared for it.

Before my new job duties kicked in, I wanted to make triple-sure that I actually knew what the hell I was doing, and maybe even had a little more info than I needed to get started so I could feel confident and prepared. I had heard about Skillshare a million times (because we do tons of work with them here at TFD!) but never really gave it a shot myself. In a nutshell, Skillshare is an online learning community that has thousands of classes that make learning all types of new and different skills accessible, affordable, and adaptable to your everyday life. I’d always browsed their offerings and thought about taking a class in something — I can pretty much always use a refresher course in something like time-management (an area where I fall so flat most days), and I’ve been toying around with the idea of learning how to code for a while now — but I never actually committed to a class and took it.  However, in preparation for a new job where I knew I had a lot to learn before I even got to Day 1, I decided to sign up and give myself the education I truly felt like I needed. The online class I started with — Context is Key: Social Media Strategy in a Noisy Online World — helped me get a little bit more of a formal foundational understanding of what working in social media looks like in practice, and gave me some tools I wouldn’t have otherwise come to my first day on the job prepared with. But I didn’t stop there! I also checked into a Copywriting Masterclass, and then a class called Create Your Social Media Content Strategy In Under 90 Minutes. Spoiler: I didn’t create my social media content strategy in under 90 minutes. But I did reach the end of that class feeling a hell of a lot more prepared and confident in how I would move forward in doing so. Taking those classes and arming myself with the knowledge I wanted (and really needed) to have before the first day of my new job made me feel so much more relaxed, and so much more comfortable knowing that I was prepared to do what I needed to.

I can promise you that my Skillshare classes were worth it. In fact, the evening after I took my classes, I was out at dinner with the aforementioned boyfriend again (damn, we eat out a lot, don’t we?) and was raving to him about how much I loved it and planned on paying full-price (it is super-affordable at under $10/month anyway) to keep my premium access to all of the classes once my trial expires.

If you’re interested in trying it yourself (and you really should give it a shot — take it from a former nonbeliever) they are have a special offer for TFD readers — 2 months of Skillshare Premium for $0.99! It is honestly worth all 99 pennies. Check it out here and start learning!

Don’t make the boundaries too harsh.
For me, “work/life balance” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “separating your work and personal life with a hard line.” Since I’m transitioning from leaving my house everyday at 8:00am to a work-from-home lifestyle, that simply isn’t realistic. There’s no debate on whether or not I’ll be “taking the office home with me” at the end of a workday because the office is my home. And that’s okay. For me, and perhaps others who work at home, a different balance needs to be struck. I’ve needed to figure out what aspects of my home-life I want to let shine through during my work days, since obviously I’m not going to lock myself into my home-office and pretend I’m not in my apartment. I am still going to make lunch in my kitchen, bring my dog outside when he asks, and maybe even drag my laptop over to the couch to work there for a few minutes when I’m feeling cooped up at my desk. I’ve needed to teach myself that suppressing the fact that I’m a person with an entire home isn’t necessarily the best way to maintain balance between work and personal matters. In fact, setting such strict boundaries while working from my home might make me more stressed and resentful of the lack of geographical separation between the two spaces.

I’m lucky to love what I do for work, and genuinely don’t feel like I’m ruining myself emotionally by writing from my bed at 9:00pm one night if I feel like it, or sifting through old articles after work hours to look for gems that haven’t resurfaced in a while for no reason other than the fact that I enjoy the content on TFD. (Let’s not forget that I was a reader before I was a team member!) I feel grateful to be a part of this team, and to have built up over the past two years to this new and exciting role — and luckily, after a week of heavy preparation and lots of learning, I feel ready.

This series is brought to you in partnership with Skillshare. Check out the other stories to see how Chelsea, Holly, and Annie are pushing themselves to learn new things this month, and use this link to get 2 months of Skillshare Premium Access for just 99 cents!

Image via Unsplash




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