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.