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Addicted to work: Breaking the habit

Addicted to work: Breaking the habit

It’s 8am, and you’re about to dial into your first conference call. You have back to back meetings all day, with some double, even triple bookings. There are 50 new emails in your inbox, and you’ve got 5 voicemail messages. A colleague asks you how you’re doing, and you reply with “I haven’t even got time to stop for lunch today!” to which your colleague looks suitably impressed and walks off, under no doubt that you are very busy and therefore clearly adding lots of value to the business.

We’ve all been there, right?

In today’s working society, being busy has suddenly become the new yardstick in the workplace, the key measure of a person’s success and contribution to the business. If we don’t look very busy, we worry that people might think we’re not working hard enough. We pride ourselves on being too busy to take a vacation or relax, and taking on so much that we risk getting ill, all to prove just how hardworking we are.

Being busy is not cool, and here’s why…

You risk health and happiness. When we’re busy, we become consumed by what we’ve got to get to, and feel guilty about the things we couldn’t get to. The day passes by without you acknowledging or enjoying any part of it. There’s so much to do that we don’t sleep, eat or even go to the loo. We cancel dinner appointments, and choose to work late instead of going to the gym. Eventually, we reach that dreaded burn out phase, and have to take time off work because we’re too ill to come in.

You miss out on opportunities. If you’re busy, people think you’re not able to take anything else on, and automatically skip over you when an opportunity comes along. Once you realise this, you work even harder to prove a point, and the best case scenario is that we get upset because we can’t get to everything, and we feel like we’ve significantly underachieved.

You don’t work to your potential. It’s always great to strive for efficiency, but then there’s just plain rushing. If you have too much on, you end up sacrificing quality and you don’t prioritise effectively. You don’t have time to do things properly, and you end up producing output that doesn’t hit the mark at all.

Break the habit! Make time for the important things in life.

The good news is that we can break this cycle, and get back to focusing on the things that really matter in life, rather than worrying about how busy we are.

Make time for the things you love. Taking a vacation or time out is a good thing! Learn new skills and do the things you enjoy; play sport, read a book, or listen to that new album. Spend time with the people you love. Remember that we work to live, and need to get that work life balance right.

Live for the moment. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” (Bill Keane). We can learn from the past and influence the future, but don’t dwell on it; we can only really experience the present moment for what it truly is. Focus on the here and now, and take pleasure in what you are doing at this moment in time.

Be kind to yourself. We’re great at encouraging those around us, taking time to support family, friends and colleagues. It is even more important to help ourselves; when we’re too busy it’s easy to forget what we’ve done well. Take time to reflect on your successes and achievements, and give yourself praise and recognition for these. Give yourself that well deserved pat on the back.

These are just some of the things you can try to get more out of your day, feel productive and enjoy the journey… Today, do something for you, and take pleasure in it.

Read my previous blog on Lessons in Leadership.

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