We Manage Work Or Work Manages Us

It all started with our darn parents. They said we couldn’t have dessert until we were done with our dinner. They told us we could not go outside and play, until all our homework and chores were done. Today, can we get all our work done in a day? If we wanted to work a 24-hour day could we? Our parents didn’t have internet and couldn’t even comprehend the idea of working 24 hours a day.

For many high achieving people, being addicted to work is not a problem – after all, look where it got them! They may even proudly refer to themselves as a workaholic, as if it is a badge of honor. Any descriptor we use of ourselves which ends in “-holic” is not good. The definition of “-holic” is abnormal desire or dependence on. Family, friends, and physicians likely think working too hard is regularly working beyond expected hours, and constantly thinking about work during our leisure time. Overwork will make us ill – and then we have to deal with being sick! Why do we work so hard? Well, it’s mentally challenging, personally fulfilling, and professionally gratifying, which makes it worthy of powerful recognition and compensation.

I had a friend who used to go into the office on Saturdays because he liked the quiet, and could use the silence to get even more work done. There seems to be an unspoken but understood clean plate club at work, and once you get everything done, then you can relax. It’s just not that simple.

Success magazine recently reported that when we choose to manage our work versus our work managing us, we are onto something. Work-life balance has been a catchphrase for decades. People everywhere complain that they don’t have it, experts expound on how to attain it, and medical research says it’s a requirement for physical and mental well-being.

Harvard Business School surveyed 4,000 executives worldwide and found that the most successful leaders consciously manage their time and priorities to maximize their professional and personal lives. Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and a mother of four, says, “It’s important to make time for relationships and personal pursuits even if you’ve got an intense job. Not only will you be healthier if you take care of yourself, you’ll be more productive, as great ideas come to you when you consciously step back from work for a bit.”

To better manage your time, Vanderkam suggests these steps:

1. Track our time for a week. Identify when we are most productive at work and when we are primed for rejuvenation.
2. Make a list of things we’d like to spend more time doing, so that when we do have downtime, we can feel satisfied knowing we’ve spent it on meaningful activities.
3. Manage our technology. Set aside specific times to respond to email and catch up on social media. Turn off our cell phones during personal time.
4. Define success for ourselves. If quality time with our family is an important part of that definition, adjust our schedule so we can accomplish that goal instead of spending more time at work or simply clocking unfulfilling hours at home.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself:

1. If I could leave a legacy right now, what legacy would that be?
2. Why is this legacy the foundation to my success?
3. How will I know that I’m living in alignment with my legacy?
4. How can I start achieving my definition of success?

Sometimes it takes a dedicated effort to reconnect with aspects of our life that deep down we know are important – that we love or enjoy.

We have to train ourselves to ACT on the things we SAY are important to us.


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