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Smarter Living

4 Reasons We’re Frazzled at Work

Identify your attachment style
and take control of your time.


Your better mind knows exactly how to
manage your time better at work but a
primal, seemingly uncontrollable urge
to do the opposite overtakes you.
You know you should say no when
you’re asked to take on that new
project, but you say yes. Or you know
your boss said your report was good
enough, but you work until midnight
perfecting it. Or you’re just stuck —
wanting to do better but unsure that
trying will help — so you do nothing.
If you are frustrated with your seem-
ingly irrational behavior, the root issue
may be deep subconscious program-
ming known as your “attachment style.”
Your attachment style dictates how you
relate to other people, particularly in
situations that trigger stress.
Attachment style discussions typical-
ly arise in relation to the bond between
parents and children or romantic part-
ners, but in my work as a time manage-
ment coach, I’ve seen that individuals
can also “attach” differently in the
workplace. Here’s how to identify your
attachment style, and take control of
how you manage your time.
Anxious Preoccupied Attachment
A fear of upsetting others drives indi-
viduals with an anxious preoccupied
attachment style. This fear-based ap-
proach leads to counterproductive
behaviors — for example, struggling
with a compulsion to check email inces-
santly to make sure everything is “O.K.”
from an anxious attachment style, you
will have at least two major time man-
agement struggles. The first is that
your attention will get hijacked when-
ever you experience a perceived Dismissive Avoidant Attachment less and work fewer hours, there will be This leads to your trying to avoid all of setting healthy boundaries and pushing
Individuals with dismissive avoidant times when you are better off listening it and escape, get lost in social media, back when necessary, and you do not
“threat.” You will feel negative bias —
attachment at work tend to think they to and doing what other people say. To try organizing and reorganizing your often engage in fear-based behavior.
the email from the client must be a
are smart and everyone else is stupid. make this shift, you may need to con- desk, and perpetually think about how
complaint and the lack of acknowledg- WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT If you have a se-
Well, maybe not exactly stupid, but sciously work on your emotional intelli- to explain why your work isn’t done.
ment from the boss means she is al- cure attachment style at work, you are
ready looking for my replacement. definitely not as smart as they are. gence, including recognizing that an
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT If you fall into this most likely managing your time well
Although these thoughts may be true, They most likely decide what they idea different from yours is not neces- pattern, you’ll need a two-prong strat- and achieving good work-life balance.
they likely are not. But your anxious should do and then ignore what others sarily wrong and that there is value in egy. The first involves reducing your Stay secure but be aware. Regularly
brain jumps to negative conclusions want. This leads to conflict and mis- working harmoniously with others. fear response. Try some of the calming ask for direct feedback so if there is
and gets obsessed with issues until they trust. This mistrust can lead to others strategies we suggested for people who something that you need to work on,
Fearful Avoidant Attachment
are resolved. attempting to micromanage and moni- have an anxious attachment style, such you can make changes. Also, if you
The second time management issue tor them, which just makes them more “Stuck” is the best word to describe as positive self-talk and support from notice something seems really off, for
is a severe allergy to setting bound- annoyed and more likely to dismiss those with a fearful avoidant attach- colleagues or friends. example a big downgrade in the quality
aries. The idea of saying no may terrify input. ment style. They have the fear of those Then you will need to take gentle of communication with your manager,
you. with anxious attachment without the action to get your work done. Set some
don’t dismiss it as, “Oh, she is just
confidence that they can make things goals for yourself. It may start with
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT To improve your around you, your biggest time manage- stressed.” Do a quick follow-up either in
right. Someone with anxious attach- opening one email a day that scares
time management, you’ll need to calm ment issue is most likely that you miss person or via email, saying: “I noticed
ment would quickly open a potentially you, or with working just 15 minutes on
your nervous system to get out of fight- deadlines and don’t do the work that that we’re not communicating as well
“threatening” email and reply to it as a project you have avoided for weeks —
or-flight mode every time something they consider most important. as in the past. Is there anything I’ve
quickly as possible to avert danger. or longer. Small bits of progress where
happens at work. From your perspective, the biggest done that’s contributed to that shift?”
Someone with a fearful avoidant attach- you realize you can do something and it
The best calming strategies include time management issue tends to be Although attachment style is not the
ment style would see the email, freak didn’t kill you lead to greater success
positive self-talk and peer support. In working late. Long hours usually arise only factor influencing your time man-
out about it and then never open it. later.
terms of self-talk, it may sound some- when you get fixated on doing a partic- agement, it may play a significant role,
Never reading the email creates a
thing like “Let’s wait and see what particularly if you find yourself repeat-
ular project really well. Or they can compounding paralyzing dread. They Secure Attachment
happens” or “Everything will be O.K.” If edly compelled to act against what you
happen because you want to work on fear bad outcomes so strongly they Those with a secure attachment style at
you still feel agitated, you may need to “know” to do. As with attachment style
what you consider to be important first never discover if the email from a client work take tasks as they come, do what
ask for support to get clearheaded in your personal life, attachment style
and then you also have to complete was simply an F.Y.I. or a full-out tirade. they can and address issues that come
enough to move forward. That could at work can vary based on situation or
mean addressing the situation directly work for others. They don’t trust themselves or the up easily. They work hard and do not circumstance. In one job or with one
with a client or colleague or talking to system, so there is an undercurrent of fear saying no when they feel they need
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT To make a change, particular person or project, you may
an outside person for reassurance. “why even try?” in their day-to-day to. They know they are capable, and
you need to start by acknowledging have an anxious attachment style, and
work. they are confident that others will
And when it comes to setting bound- that other people may have a point. You in another circumstance, you may
may not agree with their stated priori- respond well to them.
aries, you can start with something HOW TO TELL IF THIS IS YOU You tend to display more secure characteristics.
subtle like staying off email after you ties, you may think you know better, spend most of your time in a state of HOW TO TELL IF THIS IS YOU You generally Wherever you find yourself, improving
leave the office. That way you don’t and you may even think that the work being overwhelmed because you fear fare best when it comes to managing how you manage your time starts with
need to say, “No, I can’t do this tonight.” is stupid. everything and feel very little power to your time. You are comfortable pri- identifying what kind of attachment
You simply don’t know about the as- But if you want to achieve greater do anything about your fears (much oritizing tasks and asking for help when style you have and then taking steps to
signment until the next day. success, have people micromanage you less the work that is also piling up). you need it. You also feel comfortable address it.

Tip of the Week

Lose 100 Pounds? Run 20 Miles a Week? Get Real

By NUSHRAT RAHMAN self when you’ve failed and when you
slip up. When we drop the ball on a
How to combat the
Setting New Year’s resolutions can be a
daunting task, and even more so when couple of mini goals, we’re going to back-to-work anxiety of
statistics say that a vast majority of us think, “I’ve failed enough already so I
fail in our attempts. But choosing the should just give up.” But failing and the ‘Sunday Scaries.’
right goals and creating a solid plan can slipping up is part of the process.
keep you on track. One other thing that can help a lot
I talked to Tim Herrera, editor of internally is trying not to get too swept
As Maroon 5 famously crooned, “Sunday
Smarter Living, the Times section that up into too much positive thinking. It
may sound counterintuitive, but a study morning, rain is falling, steal some cov-
helps readers live a better, more fulfill- ers, share some skin.” It’s a solid plan for
ing life, about goal setting, habit-build- showed that a lot of times when people
think about resolutions and goals they the second weekend day until you look
ing and the importance of carving out
time for laziness. tend to confuse optimism and positive at the clock and realize Monday is com-
thinking with achievement. You want to ing. The ensuing anxiety has been clev-
Why do we all seem to set goals around make sure that while you’re staying erly called the “Sunday Scaries,” and
this time in the first place? positive and optimistic, you’re not los- yes, it’s a real thing. Just ask Twitter.
It’s an arbitrary resetting date. From a ing sight of the things that you’re actu- Such scaries are triggered by antici-
practical sense, it doesn’t really mean ally trying to obtain and achieve. Try to
pating the end of our precious, limited
anything. It’s kind of silly, but I think stay positive, but realistic.
free time and soon having to tackle the
any time that gives us a convenient
You’ve written about giving yourself a responsibilities of the week ahead, ac-
excuse to re-evaluate where we are in
complete day off and not doing anything. cording to New York-based psychologist
life is great.
I graduated in May and I started a Melissa Robinson-Brown. These anxi-
A lot of people live by their planners, like GEORGE WYLESOL full-time internship. Then that internship eties are heightened for people who are
I do. Throughout the year, I use Sunday ended and I find that I don’t know what to
You might be setting goals that are with ourselves about the goals we’re unhappy in their jobs, so intensely feel-
to figure out what I’m going to do for the do with my time. I’m trying to give myself
completely unreasonable and unattain- setting is the best thing we can do to permission to not be too busy and not do ing Sunday Scaries is a good reminder to
rest of the week. So, on a larger scale,
doing that for the next year can be able. These are the kinds of goals that actually succeed. Once we have the anything. check in with yourself and where you’re
helpful, too. even in the absolute best conditions and ideas in mind about what we want to Being deliberate and specific about at with your career.
best-case scenarios, you’re not going to achieve, change or quit, there are prac- carving out laziness time in your sched- That said, Sunday Scaries can just as
Right. One of the weird things about achieve. For example: Wanting to lose tical steps you can take within that goal ule is a really important way to keep easily happen to people who are happy
adulthood is that after you graduate
100 pounds or write a book are both to maximize your chances for success. your sanity after graduation. Taking a with their jobs. It’s a type of low-level,
from college, you never really have
great resolutions, but are they realistic? One method I’ve heard a lot about is couple of nights off is just as important
another stage where you, and everyone background anxiety that can hit anyone
Setting unreasonable goals is a simple Smart goals, which stands for Specific, for your overall development and pro-
around you, are evaluating things in as Sunday afternoon sunlight recedes
way of setting yourself up for failure. Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and ductivity as job hunting and searching
life. There’s never a collective occasion behind the horizon.
to set a goal, but New Year’s provides a The other way we set ourselves up for Time-Bound. for internships. If you’re not allowing
failure is by trying to have goals that we To combat the Sunday Scaries, plan an
very convenient excuse to have those yourself time to decompress and regain
don’t really believe in. A lot of the time, Smart goals are great because they enjoyable (preferably offline) activity or
conversations with yourself and people energy, you’re going to burn out.
these take the form of goals that we break down your goals — which often outing, whether it’s as simple as taking a
you know. Everyone likes to trash New The worst thing for productivity and
think society says we should set, like can seem so massive and unachievable walk or reading a good book, and if it
Year’s and talk about how silly resolu- getting things done is burnout. A lot of
trying to run 20 miles a week. I think — into bite-size pieces. I’m always very
tions are, but for a lot of people it does times, busy stuff is not productivity, it’s helps you unwind, leave the phone at
being really, really honest and realistic lofty with my goal setting and one thing
help. Whatever works is great. just busy work. That’s time that could home. Staying mindful about what’s
I’ve tried and found really beneficial is
have been better spent relaxing and happening around you will distract you
What would you say are the best ways to having an accountability buddy. seeing friends or watching TV or sitting
ONLINE: NEWSLETTER from anxious thoughts about tomorrow.
set goals? Having that kind of support system is around with a book. A lot of the times
Every Monday, Tim very important: friends and people in As the day winds down, set intentions
I think it’s important to recognize a those blank spaces in our calendars can
Herrera, Smarter Living your life who are going to call you out be the places where we find the most and goals — professionally and in your
couple of reasons we fail at goals in the
first place, because I think the answer editor, emails readers with when you’re slacking or reach out to inspiration. It’s recovery and recupera- personal life — for the week. These will
to setting good goals is buried in that. tips and advice for living a you when you’re not feeling great. But tion time that can make you better at help you regain control of your worries
We usually set one or two goals, neither better, more fulfilling life. there are a lot of things that you can do the things that you want to be working and look forward to conquering the
of which has a very good chance of Sign up to get it in your internally to help you stay motivated. at or that you want to be productive week rather than fearing it. KATHLEEN
success. inbox at One is being really accepting of your- around. WONG