Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

The Secret To Kicking the Habit Of Overwork

Chapter 10: Embrace People First Part 6

Corporate idolatry brings a habit of overwork, and in many ways it can be looked at as an addiction. Part of the complexity is that working can feel really good.  For example, Flow is a state of immersion  and enjoyment doing a task, and the best parts of a job involve flow.  Healthy aspects of work turn into idolatry when the company becomes the most important thing in your life, and can become an addition when there are not sources of flow outside the workplace. And the body can become addicted to the constant adrenaline high of a hectic pace. (See this article for more on being an adrenaline junkie.)

So how to kick the habit?

I interviewed a man who worked for years at a hectic pace in corporate sales, and has struggled after he took a more relaxed job.  “I’m going crazy Greg.”  It’s called withdrawal, and it will pass. He went cold turkey for health reasons. He missed the early signals, and a health crisis hit in his late forties’. It is far better to take a slow and steady pace to recover your time.

It took me a year to go from 90 to 60 hours a week.  The more extreme your overwork, the faster you’ll start to see the benefits. It’s a tipping point kind of thing – retaking the hours at the extremes will help you feel better right away.  For example, if you review the 90 hour week time profile in Chapter 7, you’ll notice that I wasn’t getting enough sleep. So, the first place to recover time is around bedtime.

I suggest two practices to set boundaries:

  1. First, make your bedroom a sacred space.  No work, email, or electronics.  The bedroom is for sleep and sex. Less work in the bedroom is guaranteed to bring you more and better sex.
  2. Stop all email between 10 PM and 5 AM. If work wakes you up during these hours, jot a quick note on paper to clear your mind. Avoid Facebook or other electronics too (except Kindle for reading only.) I guarantee you most of what you are doing during this time is crap anyway. Every 2-4 weeks, expand the time of the “no email zone.”

It is important to have 1-2 hours without work of any kind before bedtime to allow you to unwind. This made a huge difference in my life, because it opened more time to spend with my wife after the kids went to bed.  And, it gave me more time to read and watch some tv shows I really liked.

Increasing the time every day for rest and renewal will make you feel better, AND more effective at work.

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