Did you know that one in five people work an additional 7 hours a week in unpaid overtime on top of their paid hours. Is that dedication or folly! If you find that you come into this category, reflect for a moment on what else you could do with an extra day each week. Do you ever wonder if work is too important in your life?
Clearly work is an important part of all our lives, it provides us with purpose, challenge, occupation as well as necessary income, but, as the saying goes, 'no one ever said on their deathbed that they wished they'd spent more time at work'.
For many people work is about providing a roof over their heads, the means to take care of their children and family, support their hobbies and interests. Whilst it's important for us to do something meaningful and satisfying with our time, it's also important that we nurture and safeguard the essential relationships and personal aspects of our lives too.
So, with that in mind, let's reflect on whether work is too important in your life.
- Do you regularly agree to take on more work than you can handle? I knew a top female executive whose job was in a male dominated environment. She refused to say 'no' to her boss when asked to take on additional tasks as she was concerned that she'd be regarded as weak or unequal to the job. She frequently worked late into the evening and over weekends.
After addressing her confidence and self-worth she became more positive about her abilities and skills. One day her boss approached her about some urgent work he needed doing. She replied that she'd be happy to do it, but that she had several other projects in the pipeline; what order would he like them doing in, how would he suggest she proceed? It turned out that he was unaware of the extent of her demanding workload, was simply checking to see if she had any spare capacity and was happy to pass the task on to someone else.
Learning to communicate better, remain calm and be appropriately assertive is the key to dealing with an excess of requests.
- Do you fear that you're not up to the job, are going to be 'found out' and because of this spend a lot of time double-checking your work? Do you take on an increasing number of tasks in a desperate bid to prove your worth to your boss? Doing a good job is important but being motivated by fear and anxiety is counter-productive and results in stress and anxiety which often causes more mistakes.
In these situations it's important to consider if extra training or education is needed to improve your confidence in your abilities. Reflect if is this the best job for you or are you under too much pressure? Question how frequently mistakes are made and whether or not they're serious. We all make occasional mistakes. Being kinder to ourselves allows us to be less than perfect, and reduces the fear and stress factor.
- Are you afraid to delegate? Some people work longer and longer hours because they're afraid of letting go of control, are concerned that others may do a better job or that they'll lose status or seniority.
The reality though is that teaching others to do some of our work encourages enthusiasm and work satisfaction in our staff, provides opportunities for them to suggest ideas, innovations and improvements and frees us to do other, more important work, perhaps developing different areas of the business. It may even allow us to have a little free time!
- Remind yourself about the reasons why you work so hard; your family, friends, the important interests and relationships that you enjoy. These are probably a significant part of your motivation to work as hard as you do. Just because work shouts loudest, is important and demanding doesn't mean that you should ignore or relegate the other areas of your life into second place. Free time spent with the important people in your life, doing the things you enjoy enables you to recharge your batteries, reduce your stress levels and feel happier about yourself and your choices.
Nurturing your important friendships, relationships and interests whilst maintaining a good work/life balance means that you're better able to resume your work-related duties feeling refreshed and recharged, with better concentration and renewed vigour. Finishing work at a reasonable time, taking breaks and allowing yourself time to wind down after work all help you to successfully manage stress and burnout.