Many of us have been led to believe that working long hours is the key to achieving success. I held onto this belief for many years. In reality, studies routinely show that people who work sixty or more hours per week tend to be more unhealthy, careless and detached than people who work forty hours or less. Today’s message may not be popular with those who believe long hours guarantee success but I know it will be well received by spouses, children or friends of anyone who has become addicted to working long hours.
For years, I worked long hours, traveled for business, tied my self worth to being able to out perform others and I failed to nurture my personal relationships. Three years ago, I contracted Valley Fever (Google it). For the next two and a half years, I experienced a limited amount of physical energy and was only able to work an average of 20-25 hours a week. Because I was unable to predict how I would feel on any given day, I stopped facilitating live seminars, workshops and retreats which in turn caused a significant drop in my income. I became increasingly frustrated and angry that my energy level didn’t allow me to play the game I was accustomed to playing. In order to experience a sense of significance, I began to focus on accomplishing 3-5 income producing tasks each day, tasks that when completed would move my practice forward. Knowing I only had a 3-4 hour window to complete my 3-5 tasks forced me to develop stronger time management skills.
During the last three years, working an average of 20-25 hours per week, I have been able to create and launch several new seminars and coaching workshops that I now facilitate via teleconferencing. I created a business course that I sell on line, launched a blog and I have written and published two books. Looking back, I continue to be amazed at the amount of time I wasted (prior to my illness) on inconsequential tasks that I convinced myself were of immense value. Today, I am at 90% strength yet continue to employ the 3-5 task strategy 5 days a week. I am enjoying new levels of personal happiness and business prosperity. I make it a priority to set aside time each day to re charge my mental and emotional batteries. You may be thinking to yourself, how is it possible to work fewer hours and be more productive? The answer is… FOCUS. Determine what it is you desire to accomplish and then go after it with determination and laser FOCUS.
3 SUGGESTIONS FOR REDUCING WORK RELATED STRESS…
1. Stop trying to be the office hero! Overwhelming ourselves with “extra projects” or routinely volunteering to spearhead tasks that we simply don’t have the bandwidth for will eventually backfire on us! Over extending ourselves will predictably lead to carelessness and burn out. Focusing on our top 3-5 income producing tasks and delivering consistent results is the best way to receive the recognition we deserve.
2. Work 8 hours (or less) per day. Over the years, I have counseled numerous clients who deeply regret not making family and friends as important as their work. I recently spoke with a client who had just ended his third marriage on the heels of completing his second stint at a rehab facility. “I let work become my entire life. Over the last twenty five years, slowly but surely, I lost everything that truly mattered. I turned to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with work stress and in the end it made it even worse”. As an entrepreneur, I understand that in any new career or start up venture long hours are the norm. With that being said, once we get established, it’s important to take control of our career or business rather than allowing it to control us. FOCUS is the key. The old saying…”work smarter not harder” is sage wisdom.
3. Take all the time off you can. I always encourage my friends and clients to use all of their vacation days, sick days, holidays and any other time that is afforded them. Far too many employees feel “guilty” for taking time off. In many cases, employees are afraid to use their “paid vacation time” because they fear it will hurt them in their quest for a promotion or could be a reason they are let go. If you work in an environment where you fear using your vacation time…FIND ANOTHER JOB! If you are an employer I encourage you to HONOR your employees by encouraging them to take time off. Rested, re charged employees are far more productive than their counterparts. This advice also holds true for the business owner. Our creativity is thwarted when we are mentally and emotionally taxed. FOCUS on your mental and emotional health, your worth the investment!
There you have it! As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.
As a coach, “I just want to be happy” is something I hear on a regular basis. Happiness is relevant and means different things to different people. One person may be extremely happy because they received a promotion at work while another person is equally happy because they are able to move off the streets and into a shelter. In reality, most of us define happiness based on the level of comfort we experience in any given moment. I have found in my personal and professional life that when I focus on the following 5 suggestions, my life and business thrive. When I deviate from them, I tend to experience discomfort and frustration. Let’s take a closer look….
1. Be PRESENT. When we dwell on the past or obsess about what may or may not happen in the future, we are missing our present moment experience. We problem solve from our past, we create in the present. Most of us have a pretty good present moment going on and the only way to ruin it is to jump back into the past or zip into the future. Stay focused on NOW and observe how your “happy meter” skyrockets.
2. Check the facts, don’t make assumptions. At one time or another, all of us have been guilty of making assumptions about someone or something. For example, we may have “assumed” that our boss was out to get us, our spouse was having an affair, our neighbor was a drug dealer or our teenager didn’t like us. By asking questions rather than making assumptions, we may learn that our boss’s decision to give us more work responsibility is because he is grooming us for a promotion. Our spouse is actually working late to earn extra money to surprise the family with a European vacation. Our neighbor works from home and because he met all of his sales goals he treated himself to a brand new BMW. Our teenager is actually being bullied at school and doesn’t know how to express their sadness and fear. By asking better questions and checking our facts, we can save ourselves and others a great deal of unhappiness and confusion.
3. Run your own race. Comparing ourselves to others only distracts us from reaching our full potential. Far too many of us base our success on the perceived success of others. The key word is “perceived”. I have known quite a few people who lived in gorgeous homes that were in foreclosure or who drove beautiful cars that were on the verge of repossession. On the other hand, I know numerous people who live modestly, drive older model vehicles and enjoy 7 figure portfolios.YOU CAN’T JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER SO STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS AND RUN YOUR RACE!!!
4. Happiness is a CHOICE. I am not going to be a Pollyanna and pretend that bad things don’t happen to good people or that life is all wine, roses and chocolate. Life can be very challenging. Choosing happiness means that we look for the blessing in every adverse situation we face. The blessing is there, our job is to find and embrace the lesson.
5. Listen to and learn to trust your inner voice. Our inner voice is a divine voice. When we listen to and trust our inner voice we are listening to and trusting our creator. We have all had those moments when we kicked ourselves for not trusting our gut. We knew something didn’t add up but we forged ahead anyway and lo and behold something was indeed wrong. We can save ourselves a great deal of unhappiness and regret by simply learning to trust our inner voice.
I hope these 5 suggestions will help you enjoy more happiness and less stress in your life and career.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.
I routinely hear clients express their frustration with their inability to find balance between their work life and their personal life. They tend to become equally frustrated when I explain that for most of us, achieving total balance in our personal and professional lives is a myth. In order to maximize our effectiveness in any area of life, we must be able to maintain focus and channel our energy into the task at hand. For example, when we are at work we must be focused on work. When we go to the gym we must be focused on our work out. When we are at home we must be present and focus on activities that involve our family. It’s impossible to be physically or mentally at two places at the same time. It’s also impossible to block out all of the distracting thoughts that roll through our mind in any given day. For example, if a family member is battling a disease we are going to carry this worry to our workplace. Likewise, if we are having significant challenges at work, we are going to bring them home with us. The key is to remain present and simply BE with the task or challenge at hand.
Below are a few suggestions to help keep us focused in life and business.
*Leave work at work. When we fail to turn off work we are effectively stealing from the emotional bank accounts of our family and friends. Our spouse, children and friends all deserve our undivided attention. For example, my wife and I will allocate 5-10 minutes at the end of the day to re-cap our work related experiences and then we shut off our work conversation and focus on BEING together.
*When at work it is important to focus on our 3-5 most important tasks. Don’t add anything else to the list until the last one is complete. This keeps us focused and free from creating long, meaningless “to do” lists.
*Stay out of office politics and refrain from participating in gossip. Gossip is like Cancer, if not cut off early, it continues to spread and grow and before long it infiltrates every area of our lives.
*Delegate. Delegation is freedom. When we routinely “do everything ourselves to ensure that it is done right” not only do we eventually burn out but we send a strong message to those in our charge that they are not capable. Delegation frees us up to focus on the tasks that truly need our attention. Focus on your strengths! Someone is strong where you are weak and vice versa.
*Use your vacation time. Every year, millions of Americans fail to use their paid vacation time. Vacation time should never be left on the table. If you are afraid that using your vacation time could put your job in jeopardy then it might be time to look for a new job. Vacation is good for the soul and allows us to recharge our mental and emotional batteries.
In our personal life…
*Date nights. Regularly scheduled date nights are a great way to stay connected and keep the spark alive in our relationship or marriage. There is only one rule for a great date night…DON’T TALK ABOUT WORK!
*Planned family activities. The family that plays together tends to stay together. Family activities effectively open lines of communication between parents and children which in turn builds trust. When enjoying family activities it is important to disconnect from technology in order to focus on and truly enjoy the experience at hand. Growing and deepening our relationships with friends should also be high on our priority list.
*Nutrition. What we put into our body goes along way toward determining the quality of our life experience. Good fuel=energy and focus. Bad fuel=sluggishness and apathy.
*Exercise. Movement is good for the body and soul. For example, a brisk 30 minute walk can significantly boost our mental acuity and improve our mood due to the “natural high” that comes from the release of endorphins and serotonin. Become a mover and shaker!
*Become a life long learner. Not only is learning fun but studies have shown that as we get older the consistent use of our cognitive function may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.
By focusing on these suggestions we can’t help but become better partners, parents, employees and friends. In today’s fast paced, high tech world, finding balance between our work life and personal life is “pie in the sky”. Our goal should be to focus on our present moment whether that involves work or play and let life unfold accordingly.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.