I've been asked many times by people I coach, "How much work is too much?"
Here's a "life or death" test to know if you're allowing your work to suck the life and energy out of you, keeping you from the things that matter the most, and making you miserable.
Are you a workaholic? Take the "life or death" test
- Does your current pace bring you life? Is it serving you well, or are you serving it?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, what would you say your stress level is right now?
- How much work time do you think would be a healthy, balanced, sustainable pace? Pick a number and ask trusted friends and family what they think?
- What emotions do you have on Sunday night or Monday morning when you start thinking about going back to work? Does that feel like life, or death?
- What do you really want in life right now that work keeps you from doing?
- If you went three more years at the pace you are living now, what would that mean?
- Imagine for a minute that other people in the office are copying your lifestyle - they're taking on your stress level, your workload, your diet and exercise patterns, your sleep habits, etc. How would you feel about that?
Now that you have something to ponder over, find out what's the powerful driver to your relentless pursuit of overwork that lies beneath the surface. Is it because you want to live up to someone else's expectations? Or escape from other problems, like a bad marriage? Figuring it out can be liberating, and set you on a new work pace.
5 steps to bring yourself back to a healthy work rhythm.
Now that you have that figured out, here's the cure for your workaholism.
1. Don't place your identity in your work. Our culture puts way too much emphasis on career success, climbing the corporate ladder -- achieve, achieve, achieve! It's easy for us to define ourselves by what we do, and immerse ourselves in it to an unhealthy level. If you live to work, instead of work to live, your priorities are misplaced. If work was taken away forever, what would be your new identity?
2. Have a philosophy of rest. Our overachieving nature to do, do, do, and be, be, be, makes us feel guilty when we try to take a day off, go on vacation, or just cut back a little. Choosing a day of rest is often uncomfortable but it is exactly what we need: We can spend more time with family, take up a new hobby, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. In Old Testament literature, the Jewish Sabbath was a great antidote to the causes of overwork. You should try it sometime.
3. Prioritize and delegate
If I could just flip a switch in the brains of my clients to convince them that all they need to do is work smarter, not harder. Make simple adjustments to your workload, like picking the three most essential and reasonable tasks, then focusing intentionally and intensely on completing them as your goals for a normal 8-hour day. The rest? If they don't require your expertise, delegate, delegate, delegate! Now your using your time wisely, and also demonstrating to your team that you can produce great work that will advance that big, hairy, audacious, goal.
4. Leave your work at work.
In other words, resist the urge to bring it home. In this 24/7 digital world, take up this challenge: As soon as you walk in the door and kiss your wife and kids, shut off all electronic devices. This will ensure that you are giving the proper attention to the people that live under the same roof, who want your attention! Make them a priority by being available to them, and unavailable to your daytime "family."
5. Take care of No. 1.
To fight off your addiction and compulsion to work may take some time. Your starting point? At the risk of sounding like your mother, this is really common sense but it amazes me how often people neglect self-care: Give your body the proper sleep it needs to recover, don't skip any meals, eat right (in other words, avoid fast food), and exercise three times per week (or more). Your body needs fuel to function at a high level and give you the physical and mental stamina to focus.