Living to work is a dangerous trap that we all easily fall into as work pressure mounts, as we climb the ladder, and as we take empowerment from owning whatever it is that we do. Easier still is not realising we've fallen into this mode of autopilot until it's too late.
Over the past three months I've spent an average of 65 hours a week at work, with countless hours on the phone to other management team members in addition to that—all outside of 'hours'. I feel clouded.
At first this would appear to be a problem with the system; employers are taking advantage of unsuspecting employees and asking them to work well above their weekly expectation. Surely unions, human rights groups and more would be picketing to bring an end to such slavery! The reality however is that it is us as individuals not accurately managing our own time, and not looking after our own sense of wellbeing in the workplace.
I'm particularly good at what I do, and I posses a desire to continually be a natural problem solver, so when presented with issues it feels natural that I can box, categorise and work, work, work until the task is done. I throw myself into the pressure cooker, I'm not forced.
This unrealistic idealism and inability to manage up (for the benefit of myself) resulted recently in some significant—and sudden—life changes. It was a rude awakening to the fact that I've been so head down in work I haven't seen the world around me.
But, can we be ambitious at work, successful in our career and maintain a healthy balance of life?
I suppose that depends on the commitment we have to ourselves, and the commitment to ensure that we are the most important person in our lives; even before loved ones, friends and most especially work.
Without over thinking it, what I can do is approach this as if it were a habit:
- I need to spend more time in my own head
- I need to be present (i.e. not on my phone)
- I need to understand that people around me want to see me (and let them!)
- I need to focus more on quality over quantity
These are quantifiable objectives that can have a measurement applied to them, which means that I can outline a plan of things to do each week, and each day. Then, I can marry the plan of things that I want to do with my workload and social commitments (not that social commitments couldn't be in the plan).
This approach may at first seem overtly structured and regimented, though in reality we're trying to break, and make a habit. In order to do this we will need structure, we will need commitment to the cause.
It's only once we make this habit that we can relax the structure and schedule.
And then, we're working to live.