This is the goal planning stage and where you break down problems into smaller chunks. You then focus on one action at a time which helps lead you towards a specific end goal.
For example, you may have identified that an increase in workload makes you view your boss and work negatively and this, in turn, has caused you to doubt whether you even like your job anymore. You rush through work to get it all done and find that you make mistakes more often now because you are stressed.
You realize that your boss may not realize that the workload is unmanageable so rather than continue to struggle or quit your job you decide to take the following positive steps to resolve the problem.
Step one: Create a spreadsheet over the course of one week detailing all of the tasks you need to complete as part of your given workload, and how long each one takes you to do.
Step two: Schedule a meeting with your boss where you show them the spreadsheet and explain that the workload is too much. Agree on a solution.
Step three: Continue to monitor your workload following any changes i.e. your boss reducing your workload, over the course of the next two weeks. A reduction in mistakes is another way to track whether you are handling your workload better.
Step four: Schedule a follow-up meeting at the end of the two weeks with your boss to discuss whether the change has helped and if not, then what other solutions can be implemented.
Goals in CBT should always be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound). The example above is a SMART goal.
While my situation had numerous areas requiring improvement, I actually found that many of the problems were linked, or the resolution of one would automatically resolve another. Therefore, I agreed with my therapist that a six-week time frame would be sufficient to achieve my end goal which was to have a 35-hour workweek.
There were a few things that had come up throughout my sessions that I kept in mind when deciding what I needed to include to reach my end goal.
- There will always be more work to do or put another way, there will never be enough hours in the day. Realizing this is the first step in setting a cut-off point between work and home life and creating a routine you are happy with.
- Focus on what you can control not on what you can’t.
- Creating a routine that accommodates uncertainty is a good way to approach your day when your workload is affected by things outside of your control.
- Identifying whether pressure is internal (you put the pressure on yourself) or external (others put pressure on you) is important when trying to reduce stress. Internal pressure may be unfounded and you need to question whether you are being unnecessarily tough on yourself. External pressure can be alleviated by having open conversations with managers and/or colleagues about routine and workload and what is manageable.
Baring these points and my end goal in mind, I looked at the ways I could implement positive changes. Here is just one area — work schedule — that I previously identified needing improvement, and how I broke it down into mini-actions.
The biggest issue for me is working evenings and weekends just so I can contact other staff who are uncontactable during the day. However, this is only in order to complete tasks quickly; tasks that now, on the whole, have flexible deadlines. Therefore, there is no real reason why I cannot just email colleagues during 9–5 working hours and just await their response.
In the beginning, when I first started working from home, I found the main issue with this was that some colleagues would take days or sometimes weeks to respond to me, and this was what fuelled my need to work evenings and weekends. However, returning to 9–5 working should not reflect badly on me as I am still doing my contract hours.
However, my manager and colleagues have now become used to me being available all hours, so this will also need to be addressed.
Step one: Contact my manager and all colleagues to reiterate my working hours as being 9–5 and that I am not contactable outside of this time.
Step two: Create a spreadsheet of all tasks, including communication and deadlines. This is to create order and alleviate the need for me to remember every single thing I am working on. Especially, with the expectation that some tasks will now take longer to complete and will be harder to keep track of unless properly documented.
In addition, it will record any reasons why tasks have been unnecessarily delayed and will show how I have actively chased for resolution. This can be used as evidence if there becomes an issue with multiple missed deadlines.
Step 3: After a one-month period, or before if necessary, flag any serious issues with task completion and missed deadlines with my manager so they can follow-up with the relevant colleague(s) and find a suitable resolution for all involved.