Work occupies a significant part of our lives. For many of us, it gives a purpose and makes us feel important. However, just because you like working doesn’t mean it’s always good for you.
Most of us put in at least 9-10 hours on weekdays to keep pushing things forward. Many even work on weekends. In a society where ‘working on stuff’ improves social status and prestige, being a workaholic might not seem like an obvious problem.
However, when was the last time you had fun?
We work hard to pursue our dreams and our career gains momentum. Success brings in responsibility and in order to be more focused, we give up everything that’s not related to our career. Eventually, our life becomes filled with work, leaving no room for anything else in life. This kind of trajectory can adversely affect your health and relationships, and even take a toll on your loved ones.
How do you break this cycle of working long hours and constantly checking your emails?
Here are five ways you can overcome your addiction to work without compromising performance.
- Redefine the meaning of success in your life
Start by thinking about what you really need to achieve for a successful life, instead of just a successful career. It’s fine to go after professional achievements but it’s also important to remember that work is only a part of your life. There are other vital components too, such as your health, family & relationships.
Have a purpose and draw a boundary line that respects your health and family life. Your self-worth should not revolve around only your paycheck and professional status. It should also account for your physical and mental well-being, the quality of your relationships, and engagement in your community.
You don’t have to be the best at everything. At the same time, don’t neglect things outside of your work. The key is to be involved in all the important aspects of your life so you achieve a good work-life balance.
- Refocus your attention
Take a step back and think about how you want to spend your time and energy. As you advance in your career, your attention will become your most precious asset.
There will always be more work to be done, but it’s also important to consciously spend time on other aspects of your life – like your family, friends and community.
The easiest way to do it is to simply stop multi-tasking – focus on one thing at a time. If you’re out having dinner with your spouse or at a baseball game with your kids, resist the temptation to take a call from work, or check your email. You may get some minor credit for the prompt response, but it will be at a huge personal cost.
Give the people you’re with your full attention for that specific amount of time, and then give yourself a five-minute break to deal with your work. It will not only help you relax with your loved ones, but you’ll also find them to be more supportive and understanding of your career, leading to a better performance and higher productivity.
- Set the right expectations
If you find it difficult to disengage from work, try reaching out to your friends, colleagues and family for help. Reset the expectations with your boss and colleagues by clearly telling them what changes you’re making and why you’re doing them.
It’s also important to explain to them how they’ll benefit if they let you disengage. You can’t simply ask them to help you spend more time with your family. After all, even they’re in a similar situation.
You can say something like,”Next month, I’ll be offline for an hour after 6 PM every Friday. It will help me perform better because it will allow me to take care of some personal things and be less distracted at work. After a month, we can talk about how it worked for both of us.”
For example, one of my colleagues would disconnect at 5 PM everyday to take his dog out for a walk, and my project manager would be unavailable from 8 – 9 PM every night so he could put his kids to bed.
Be upfront and direct about your plans. Create a time slot in your daily/weekly schedule when you can’t be interrupted. This will allow you to manage your schedule around your ‘offline’ time slots and create the right expectations with your team.
- Try a digital detox
It’s easy to become a slave to your smartphone but when you’re physically present and psychologically absent then you’re indicating to the people with you that they’re less important.
There are various ways to digitally detox yourself, so you’ll need to experiment and see what works for you. Here are some ideas:
- Keep your smartphone away – The easiest way is to keep your smartphone out of reach, once you’re back from work. If that’s not possible, at least, keep it out of sight. You’ll be surprised to know that studies have shown that the mere presence of a phone can adversely affect the quality of conversation between two people. Communication tends to be shallow as people know they can be interrupted by a call or a message any moment.
- Stop using your phone to kill time – Most of us turn on our phone screens the moment we get some free time – whether it’s while waiting in a line at cafeteria, or between conferences at a networking event or in the meeting room before everyone arrives. Instead, do something that you enjoy, like making conversations with new team members, or reading a book.
- Set an example of better office manners – It doesn’t matter who does it or how important it is, but tapping away on your phone when someone else is talking is disrespectful. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set an example of good office manners that your team can learn from and emulate in front of clients and others.
- Practise Mindfulness
There’s a growing body of research which suggests that focusing one’s awareness on the present moment – known as mindfulness – can help people become more mentally agile and make better decisions. It’s a great technique for those looking to break the habit of working all the time.
By being consciously aware about your environment and people you’re with, you can avoid the tendency of working unconsciously even when you’re not at work. It will also enable you to devote full attention to the task at hand, when you’re actually working.
For example, if you’re creating a report, you can give it your 100%, instead of thinking about who got promoted, or who had an argument with your boss. Even if your mind wanders, you’ll be able to quickly bring your attention back to what you’re presently doing.
The above five steps will help you be more productive while having fun. Working towards your dream career is a great habit unless it keeps you from fully enjoying your life. The key is to remember that building a career is like running a marathon. You’re in this for the long haul. So you need to be in good shape – physically and mentally – to reach all the milestones along the way.
Written by: Sreeram Sreenivasan has worked with various Fortune 500 Companies in areas of Business Intelligence, Sales & Marketing Strategy. He’s the Founder of Ubiq BI, a cloud-based BI Platform for SMBs & Enterprises.