As a business analyst, it’s not uncommon for me to get way over-invested emotionally in my projects and my work. I’m guessing a lot of you have a similar challenge. In today’s world, we are so connected, that it is really difficult to break away from work – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I used to check email at 11 PM and wake up thinking about my meetings for the day, the questions I had, and tricky project challenges. It was like my mind would never shut off, thinking about my BA work.
And to be honest, that made me really frustrated, especially when I was working for executives and boards that I didn’t feel like respected me or care much about doing good in the world.
But you know what, this was not healthy for me, nor did it make me a better business analyst to be so anxious and “on” all the time. A lot of the personal growth I’ve experienced has come because I’ve been able to manage my emotional investments in healthy ways.
In today’s video, I share 4 strategies for managing your emotional investment in your work. If you’ve ever felt anxious, frustrated, or like it’s all not worth it, be sure to check it out.
For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:
Today I want to talk to you about anxiety and emotional investment as a business analyst and how this could affect our productivity, our lives, and how it can take away from the fulfilling enjoyable work that we come to business analysis for.
We just finished the launch of the Data Modeling for Business Analysts course. I’m sure if you’ve been a part of the community, you noticed what we were doing and saw that we launched a new program. That kind of work, to me, is always so tough emotionally to put a new creation out to the world, to run a big launch, to get visible about what we do at Bridging the Gap. I just kind of wonder who’s going to buy? Is anybody going to react well to what I have to offer? It’s a time of emotional investment, and I’ve learned a lot of ways to manage that, and they’ve been critical to my personal growth as a human being, as a business owner, and as a business analyst.
It kind of brought me back to that time when, as a business analyst, I would get so invested in what my work was, the outcome of the project, and all the nuances and issues that were coming up and who thought what about everything. I would get so caught up in a lot of those details and it would result in unhealthy activities. Things like working until 11:00 at night and getting up in the morning and having all kinds of ideas floating through my head about my project and never really feeling like I got to rest.
So, I wanted to share with you some of the strategies that you can use – four specific things – to be productive and manage your emotional investment in your projects.
Let’s jump in with the four different things.
#1 – Find some time to turn off work
First, is just finding some time to turn off work. This can be hard.
- It might be instead of turning it off at 11:00, you turn it off at 9:00. Baby steps.
- It might be maybe you can go to 6:00.
- Maybe, if 6:00 is not a great time because you have a family and from 6:00 – 8:00 is family time, or should be family time.
Not too long ago, I talked to somebody who said, “My laptop is always on. It’s at the dinner table with me while I’m trying to talk to my kids and my husband.” So, maybe it’s creating a space from 6:00 – 8:00 at night that is no laptops allowed, and then checking in later, if that works for you.
Whatever it is. It’s finding a space where you detach and it’s okay and safe not to work. Super, super important.
Once you get that done, I would challenge you to go to a step further and find that 24-hour period over the weekend where you’re also detaching and not working. It’s important just to have that emotional space to do the things you want to do and not be thinking about work. I guarantee you will show up for work more energized, more productive, your ideas will be better, the way that you can handle challenges will be better.
When you do this, at first, you might have to replace it with something else. I like to do a lot of my personal development in the evenings. That’s when I read books; I take courses. I also like to have some fun activities, too. I like to do puzzles. It’s a great way to keep your mind busy, but still not be doing work. Find a habit or a fun activity, like doing puzzles or crafts so that you’re engaged in some way. But, again, a little bit detached from work.
That’s the first thing, find that space.
#2 – Practice self-care
The second thing to be thinking about is practicing some self-care. When I was in a corporate environment, as things got busier and my responsibilities got bigger, I went from being good about working out every day and eating good foods to, slowly, the workouts became less and less and I was going out to lunch or having people bring me lunch. I didn’t even have time to go out to lunch.
Before I knew it, I wasn’t even drinking water or taking time to go to the bathroom. It was crazy. It was this slippery slope of not taking care of me. I can tell you that as a corporate manager, I was not always the best role model for my employees. If you are a leader in your space, this is a place where you can step up and lead, visibly, within your work environment as well.
So, how could you do that? Start by drinking the water. If you don’t have to go to the bathroom, it’s probably because you’re not drinking enough water. Drink the water, take some space to go for a walk, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes. Get outside during your workday. Bring healthy nutritious snacks to work.
Think about how you can take care of you because somebody who takes care of themselves is better able to help others. I guarantee you, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re missing things. You’re missing connections, you’re showing up to meetings frazzled. I know when I have to go to the bathroom, I’m not listening very well. I’m not showing up as my best self. That is happening to you too. You’re not helping anyone by being a martyr. Find some ways to take care of you.
That brings us to step 3.
#3 – Cultivate awareness for what triggers you
When you start taking care of yourself, you’re probably going to be able to be more aware of what’s triggering you. What’s happening? When you go out on that walk and you’re like, “Gosh, I was really fired up in that meeting. I was really upset about how that stakeholder challenged the requirements.” Or the way that they were connecting with each other, not connecting with each other, that somebody showed up 15 minutes late to my meeting again and that really irks me. You’ll be able to generate that awareness of the places in your work that trigger you emotionally.
It’s so important to say, “Oh, there it is showing up again,” and start to see those patterns. What are the things that bother you and why are they bothering you? Allow that space to cultivate that awareness for yourself. You don’t, necessarily, have to do anything about it, just stopping enough to notice is going to go a long way to help you deal with it more productively and come up with some alternate solutions.
Just cultivating that awareness. Like, “Oh, I’m kind of upset about this. I wonder why?” You have to be curious about your own being and think about your work in a different way. Once you do that, you can then focus on what can you control in those situations. You can’t control if somebody chooses to show up late. You can’t control a lot of what happens at work. What you can control is the quality of your work, the expectations you set with others, the boundaries you set for yourself, and your reaction. That’s what you can control.
#4 – Focus on what you can control
In some of these situations, there is something that you could do to change. If I sent a reminder the day before, or the hour before, maybe people would be more likely to show up. If I structured my meetings in a different way, maybe people would be more likely to show up. That is just one issue because that comes up a lot for BAs. It can be any challenging issue that triggers you and causes those emotions. Just looking at that, focusing on what can you control, you can set a boundary.
There are times that I, again, on the meeting front, have said,
“If certain people aren’t here by five minutes after or 10 minutes after, I’m canceling the meeting. We’re all walking out. We’re going to do something else.”
Or maybe we’ll refocus the agenda on something that the group that’s there can handle, and then it becomes a very visible delay in our project because I’ve set that boundary about how I’m going to be treated as a business analyst and how our meetings are going to run, and how we’re going to respect the time of the people who show up in meetings.
Think about, then, what boundaries you could set, what can you control that’s going to generate a different outcome in the future. But, again, you can’t control much. You can’t control what other people do, you can’t control how they treat you, you can’t control their reactions when you do set a boundary, you can’t control what they think, how they feel. There’s so much that’s just out of your control and you can let it go.
It’s safe to let it go and to focus on what you can control. When you do that, these problems, sometimes, just start to solve themselves. You start to show up as a better more proactive awesome BA who’s shining as a leader, and who people want to work with because you’re happier emotionally and you’re more fully available to everyone else on your team.
When you start to put these pieces in place, magical things start to happen. I’ve seen it in my own personal growth. I’ve seen it in the people that are doing well in the profession, both in corporate and those who own their own businesses. I want to see it for you as well.
This has been one of our longer videos. It’s a touchy topic. There’s a lot to cover here. I could talk about this for hours. And if you have questions about this, please leave a comment below. I would love to have a conversation about this one.
Just to recap, though, the four things are practicing self-care, having times that you totally detach from work – that was #1, self-care at work was #2, cultivating awareness – just paying attention to what triggers you emotionally is step 3, and focusing on what you can control is step 4.
I hope these help you manage that emotional investment you have in your work.
20 thoughts on “How to Protect the Emotional Investment You Make in Your BA Work”
Thanks Laura, excellent and relevant topic and I’m glad you shared your insights with us! I know the stress of BA or similar jobs can be very debilitating in life and work. When we’re in these uncomfortable situations we have the choice of either toughing it out in the hope that it will improve, or pivot and change projects or jobs. Your advice is a good way of managing anxiety and being able to better deal with the situation in a healthier more productive way.
Hi Laura, I really enjoyed this content. I want to be more of a human “being” instead of a human “doing”. I sincerely appreciate these crucial reminders and tips to managing underlying anxiety as well as finding/keeping balance. Thank you!
At the same time, you do need to find a way to maintain documentation of your achievements. If you are in an office politics situation, where your boss gets marched off the premises and you’re next because the new incoming boss has his own people, you will need to be able to a) tell a convincing story in your interviews, and b) remind yourself of the good you did. You need to vaccinate yourself against self-doubt.
It’s not at all uncommon for companies to use the trumped-up “suddenly stupid” and similar approaches to clear out people for office politics reasons who were actually strong performers. In addition to the severe financial and professional consequences of job loss, you deserve to preserve the good you did, both in interviews and in your mind. Some companies may have a “no-reference” policy (they claim) and others may treat you as the bad guy just to beat you down and get you out the door at the behest of the new manager.
I advocate measures like keeping a journal and getting your work samples and other records saved discretely offsite. Email trails are also good to have. Not to do anything illegal but to – in general terms – tell a convincing story of the very real benefit you can provide another company. Navigating transitions like this is a major skill for people in “employment at will” situations.
Very well put Laura the 4 points can make you a better person on personal & professional scale as well.
Laura, I was nodding my head while reading all the points you have mentioned. You have truly described the scenarios so effectively and suggested the approaches beautifully. It feels good to know that the above areas are not just my personality traits but real problems. I specifically liked points #3 and 4.
Thanks very much for this article. Keep up the great work!
I am go happy you got this video out, it has great information. This is something I have recently in the last 3 months struggles with greatly. And how you described yourself is where I am right now. Thank you for the reminder! BA need this support.
Great peice of info shared. But, in my initial days my manager use to put me and my colleague in a competition mode. She always ask us to do BA activities seperately . Never a team work. That time I was always worried. But it turned into my favour as I feel that gave me much needed confidence
That certainly sounds like a challenging situation, and I’m glad you are able to look back on it and see the value in your career. If this surfaces again in the future, I hope these tips help you maintain your well-deserved confidence.
Thank you for all the wonderful words and comments. This is such an important topic and it was time for me to start my contribution to it. Here’s to a future where BAs claim their value and do their best work because they are taking care of themselves first.
Each of you is part of the movement. We can start making changes today.
Thank you so much Laura, I can definitely relate and I appreciate your contribution.
Best summary ever of this topic, well done Laura!
I agree with Rafa and Penny – you have really invested yourself tirelessly over the year and given so much to society for free, a legacy you can be proud of.
Thanks for raising some healthy children:-)
Great article Laura. It’s very insightful. You’ve hit home on some very key points. Especially the focus on what you can control. Placing energy in areas beyond your control can be taxing in more ways than just emotionally, physically, time, and etc. Focusing on things you can control also embodies the other points. Great outlook!
Laura, Absolutely fantastic article and thanks for raising the awareness. This topic seems to be covered often in recent years, interesting to see in ‘esteemed’ publications directed at senior levels. It makes me think that this is such a pervasive struggle for all of us. Perhaps the Twitterverse will erupt in a hashtag movement and turn the tables, and finally a healthy work/life balance will become mainstream, and the statement “I work all the time” will no longer be seen as a badge of honour to be proud of, rather as something unhealthy to change.
On a more general note, I’d like to echo Rafa’s comments about all you do and offer. This is my first time commenting — your site and resources are a wealth of info that I recently found – will be spreading the word. Much appreciated.
Hi Laura, thanks you for sharing those thoughts (twice!) on personal development at work and beyond work. As it’s usually the case with the little things, these 4 steps seem to be easy to follow, but actually — in my opinion — they aren’t.
With this comment I just wanted to say hello and thank you for your emails, your insights and your site’s content, it’s great and digestable enough forma all of us who are learning the ropes of the Business Analysis and the tricky sides of the BA role.
And of course thank you also for your patent mastery in making your knowledge and expertise workable enough.
By the way, I’m curious about what you have to say about the other comment! It seems to be a reoccurring issue among BAs, isn’t it?
He!lo, Laura. One thing that threw me recently (and caused significant angst) was a total lack of respect for the business analyst role. Although I tried not to take it personally, experiencing constant disrespect from the project’s lead engineer for eight months finally caused me to walk away from an otherwise cherry assignment.
And now I have to explain to potential employers what happened — while keeping my speech and body language completely devoid of any emotion whatsoever. Am I wrong to expect decent, common courtesy from my teammates? His negative attitude toward the business analysis process eventually poisoned my entire contribution to the project’s success.
Keep on walking! It happens quite often to newcomers and even experienced people that join new teams.
A newcomer is expected to assimilate all the knowledge gained by system analysts or engineers over many years instantly. I call it transfer of knowledge by osmosis:-)
It’s mean and it’s a form of bullying emanating from a weak self image. Keep your composure – you can get rid of the stress in the gym later and you will soon be cracking the jokes when they see how you have documented the system.
Good luck and best wishes!
Great suggestions Cornelius. Lisa, I am also so sorry to hear you had this experience. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon. What I would focus on when speaking to this experience in an interview situation is that you were in a position where the BA role was not respected and valued, but here is what you managed to achieve. So keep the negative characteristics as neutral as possible by focusing on the role, not on your. And speak to whatever positives you can. Then shift the conversation to a different role where you hopefully had a better experience.
Thank you very much. This material is truly useful
I wanted to thank you for this post. As someone who does work a lot and is stressed a fair bit of the time about that work, your suggestions are really relevant. What’s more, I already practice several of the some, but find myself slipping off my dedicating to them periodically. This post, then, has been fantastic validation that I was doing the correct thing to disengage and to remind me I have slipped again. Time to sign-off!
Thanks for your comment Doug. You definitely have a lot on your plate and it is important not to forget to take care of you. I’m glad I could be the source of some healthy reminders for you.