Have you ever asked yourself Why do I work too hard? Are you someone who volunteers to take on extra work, who sets themselves tight deadlines, who seems to be addicted to work and life at a very fast pace.
That was me – I was always being asked “why do you work too hard?” Gradually I’ve gone through recovery.
Partly this is down to getting older but also to being forced to do nothing when I got rushed into hospital.
I have always put far more pressure on myself than anyone else, and it’s part of who I am. I think part of this is learned behaviour from my childhood, and some of it a coping mechanism to stop me thinking about painful events in my life. (I dealt with an unhappy marriage by studying for a masters’ degree part time).
- I was the one who when a client wanted a rush job would say yes even if it inconvenienced my family.
- I was the one who signed contracts for 2 books to be completed a couple of months apart without even discussing changing deadlines.
- I was the one who worked on holiday because a client needed a CV and an application reviewed that day. Why did I let her lack of organisation put me out?
All these are examples of how my choice to work too hard impacts negatively on me.
I wonder if partly it was down to me being very overweight? I used to weigh 22 ½ stone and although I’ve lost around 10 stone, people may have thought of me as fat but also as nice and helpful. I also think being morbidly obese meant I lacked assertiveness and didn’t want to have to challenge people.
I think I’m now in recovery from this need to work too hard and to work at such a fast pace.
Today I didn’t get into my office till just before 9 as I wanted to finish reading a book. It was a nice morning so I sat in my garden.
Most things are not urgent, we just make them so.
We dance around to other peoples’ demands, and put ourselves last. Or when we do focus on us its still about being busy.
What I noticed was that although I had me time this was spent
- At the gym
- At the cinema
And what I wasn’t doing was being!
So I’ve picked up on meditation/mindfulness and this is helping me to be calmer and to recognise that not everything needs to be done right now.
If you know you are the type of person who will work too hard, perhaps the following will help
- Notice the amount of time you spend working, and giving to others against the time you have for you.
- With your personal time, how much is spent on being busy and how much on more restful activity, where you can chill/ relax/ just be. I class a stroll in the countryside in this category but not power walking/jogging. You want to reduce the amount of time where you can be seen as someone who chooses to work too hard.
- Don’t overfill your diary – remember you need to allow time to prepare and arrive at a meeting. Not just the journey but to allow time in your head to focus on a meeting. As more of us attend online meetings it’s easy to keep responding to emails even through the meeting has started. It does help to allow some time to switch focus and to make sure we are present in this new meeting. We also need time afterwards to deal with our action points, if not then – when?
- We don’t have to say yes to everything. Yes you may have space in your diary today but are there tasks that need to be done? It helps to diary in time to write a report/ prepare for a meeting/ clear the inbox. I’ve learnt, and teach my clients to say we need to check diaries as we need to look at the bigger picture over a week or longer rather than just one day.
This is not an exhaustive list and I’d love to hear on strategies you use to stop yourself working so hard, or if you need help ask a question. Let’s get a discussion going here on my blog or Facebook
An earlier version addressing the topic of Do you work too hard, can be found here