My husband thinks I’m nuts. Why? Because I love my job. I thrive in my role as CEO of SkyeTeam. I'm positively giddy with excitement when working with our clients and I get energized when I’m collaborating with my team. Monday mornings can’t come quick enough for me.
Having a healthy passion for work is one thing. However, it's a fine line between having a passion and a full-blown obsession. If you’re someone who has to be surgically removed from your smartphone or computer, works through lunch and dinner, can’t remember the last weekend where you just kicked back and did nothing, have enough vacation days to last a lifetime and constantly thinks about (even dream about) your job, then your passion may just have become an obsession.
Common sense (and experience) shows that the consequence of working too much, for too long, results in stress, burnout, poor physical health, and work-life imbalance. Yet we are all guilty of it at one time or another. Common sense doesn't always result in common practice.
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Do you need to slow down?
Here are 10 questions that may indicate that you need to slow down.
- Are you more excited about your job than about family, hobbies or anything else?
- Do you neglect your health (eating well or working out) because you're busy at work?
- Have friends and family complained that you work too much?
- Do you work longer and harder than most of your colleagues?
- Are you ‘always on’ answering email or your work phone anytime, anywhere? In bed? On weekends? On vacation?
- Do you lose track of time, thought "I'll just finish this one email" only to look up and find two-hours has gone by?
- Is work your main topic of conversation?
- Do you believe that working long hours is OK so long as you love what you're doing?
- Have you missed family or social events because you were ‘too busy’?
- Do you think about work when others are talking, when you are ‘off-duty’ or dream about work?
Five steps to slowing down.
If you’ve answered yes to some or all of these questions then you may be guilty of overworking and need to slow down. Here are five steps that may help you to take back some semblance of balance and control.
- Prioritize. Just because it’s a good idea doesn’t mean you need to follow through immediately. Just because it could be done, doesn’t mean a task should be done. Take a critical look at your to-do list, and prioritize it. Focus on the items that are important and stop wasting your time on anything that’s not truly necessary. I’ve started an "ideas folder" where I record all my "shiny object moments." I review this monthly to identify ideas that may need to be moved to real life, some will never make the transition however it is now an informed choice rather than simply chasing the shiny object in the moment. Instead I can focus on the important tasks and projects knowing that the new ideas aren’t lost, but are waiting patiently for the right moment to show them the light of day.
- Hire more and delegate more. The biggest trap for me was trying to do too many things at once and trying to do it all myself. As a small business owner budgets can be tight and the old chestnut of “it’s just quicker to do it myself” is a sirens call. My “to do” list never shrank, in fact it just kept growing. So I would try to work fast, work late (I have a home office) and through the weekend and canceled dancing and going to orchestra because “I was too busy”. It wasn’t sustainable and the breakthrough was realizing that by delegating or hiring experts I could get results more quickly, often better results and I didn’t have to work myself into the ground to do it. What can you delegate today? Where might tapping into another expert help you?
- Set boundaries. It seems to me that work will always expand to exceed the time available. There is always another good idea or project that could be added to your endless to-do list. After a particular long stint of working every weekend I decided that I would no longer work on Saturdays. A small win that worked for me. I’ve since added a gym workout on Sunday mornings to expand my "I don’t work all weekend" window of time. You can train yourself to take time off.
- Do not disturb. It took me five years to work out the "do not disturb" setting on my smart phone. It is now set from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and prevents any notifications, flashing lights, bings, ringtones etc. for anything but my immediate family and close friends. It’s amazing. No longer am I disturbed in the night by email notifications going off. Try it, you may find that you can actually get a full nights sleep!
- Choose a hobby. Find an activity outside of work that bring you pleasure. Whether it’s going to the gym, date night with a loved one, or an evening reading at your local coffee shop it doesn’t matter. In my case it’s ballroom dancing and playing for the local symphony orchestra. Both activities energize and challenge me in a different way to my day job, and more importantly, get me out of the office and interacting with a different circle of friends.
Working too hard may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s real, and addictive. However, you can change your habits and take the first step to regaining some semblance of control. You’ve finished reading this article, don’t wait, seize the moment and consider this your first step to balance. Get up, get out, and smell the roses, take 10 minutes to marvel at the outside world, I promise that the sky will not fall in if you do!