Most workaholics dismiss taking a break as a waste of time. I know, because that was how I approached my work. Fortunately, after finishing up in hospital, I learned to change my ways and I was no longer a chronic workaholic. Here are 7 things I did. You should do these too if you really want to get out of the workaholic spiral. Get a life!
1. Don’t work long hours
Take a leaf out of Nick Francis’ book. He is the CEO of Help Scout and he and his staff close their laptops at 5.pm and they go off and have a life. The reason he does this is because he found that when they were working double the hours, the productivity did not match all that input at all. The results were dismal. His conviction is backed up by research too. Studies have found that working 60, 80 or even 90 hours a week resulted in a short burst of productivity initially but then faded away. Tiredness, distraction and poor decision making reared their ugly heads. The longer you work, the less productive you are. You can read the International Labour Organization study here.
2. Work smarter
Here is the way I coped with all the distractions and endless requests for the deadly ’10 minutes of your time’ syndrome. Learn how to say NO to all those extra meetings and ad hoc requests which will rob you of your valuable prime time. Having a list of priorities for the day helps you to get these into perspective and they will usually be way down the list. Respond accordingly and work smarter. Remember that urgent phone calls and pressing deadlines are great ways to extricate yourself from these requests. You can even get an app on your phone which will send you a fake call, if your colleagues are really intruding too much.
3. Take a real break, even a 10 minute one
An Italian friend of mine who is working in London as an architect has noticed that her colleagues are workaholics. In addition to talking only about work, they also tend to have lunch at their desks.
My advice is to get out of the office for lunch, if you can. The walk to the restaurant, the fresh air and the sunshine (if you are lucky!) will more than compensate for the time you have lost. If lunch outside takes too much time, opt for a ten minute walk outside just to get some air or have a coffee.
4. Use an app to rest your eyes and joints
Workaholics also need to rest the parts of the body that get overworked while at the computer. No surprise that repetitive strain injury (RSI) has increased by over 30 per cent in the last year in the UK. This is costing a bomb in terms of lost revenue and productivity according to a Microsoft report. So, before your wrist and hand freezes up, use an app to make sure that you are resting the joints and your eyes at regular intervals.
These apps can help to:
- Dim your screen and tell you to do a few eye exercises.
- Longer breaks will disable your screen for a set period.
- Tailor your breaks as regards frequency and length. Decide on which sounds to alert you that a break is about to happen. They will also advise you on the ideal position of your monitor and so on.
- Other apps will show you stretch demos so that you can give your limbs a well deserved break.
5. Lock your work up in the office
This is the hardest test of all. Most workaholics bring their work home and even check their messages in the bathroom! When you do go home, give yourself, your loved ones and the dog a break. Switch off your phone and try to become a normal person again. They will love you for it!
6. Change your mentality about breaks
The problem is that our society has a sneaking regard for workaholics because they think it is a sign of a great work ethic. Breaks and naps are regarded with distaste. It is time to change this outdated concept and you have to start with yourself. Go ahead companies are now providing nap facilities.
7. Don’t become addicted
Nothing wrong with hard work. But when workaholism becomes all consuming, then it really is time to call a halt. Have you thought about your other life? Are you putting your relationships and your kids at risk, simply by not being there or through neglect?
Do you recognize the symptoms:
- You are not frightened by more and more work
- You think about work all the time
- Work is the only thing you are passionate about
- You find it impossible to take a break.
In the short term you may get promotion. In the long term, you will risk your health, happiness and relationships. Time to step back and discover the real meaning of being happy at work. You can start by taking a break!
“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.” – Lao Tzu
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