Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Watch Out for this Workaholic Behavior

Dr. Greg & Steve Harrison at Quantum Leap

Dr. Greg and Steve Harrison at Quantum Leap meeting

I almost let a cool and flattering opportunity derail me from my most important deliverables. I was in Philadelphia at Steve Harrison’s Publicity and Publishing Workshop. As is generally the case at one of Steve’s events, I met amazing people. The second night, I had a chance to pitch literary agents about my new book.

New book? Yes I’m working on a new book, and this time I plan to write it quickly. The working title is Mussar: The Ancient Jewish Philosophy for Personal Ethics (A Beginners Guide). Mussar is a thousand year old spiritual practice that was almost lost in the Holocaust. Mussar teaches how to find those things inside you that always get you into trouble, and enables a series of small adjustments to bring your life into balance.

Two of the agents were excited about the book, and want to see a book proposal. I was so jazzed that I was ready to stay up all night and write the proposal. I’m really glad that I didn’t. In the morning I had a video shoot planned, and if I’d stayed up, I would have been a wreck. In fact, I left the event early to get to bed. But on the flight home, instead of sleeping, I worked on the book proposal.

Watch out for this workaholic behavior!

Sound familiar? A new exciting opportunity comes up and bam, off you go to make it happen.

I’m sorry to say this is one of my unhealthy workaholic tendencies. I tend to chase the shiny new object, especially if someone has given me a nice piece of personal validation to motivate me. “Amazing idea. I like it a lot.”

Not good Greg, you needed that rest. And didn’t you just make a plan last month to only work on your top 3 professional priorities?
You know, you’re right. Last month I did set my top three professional priorities:

1. Make sure my clients are successful
2. Write the book for a fall publication (see note below)
3. Line up speaking engagements

The agent who was most interested assured me it would only take me nine hours or so to get together a good proposal.

A small voice in the back of my head whispered I don’t see writing a book proposal on that list.
“No worries,” I told myself, feeling some anxiety. “You can squeeze it in, it may delay the book a bit…”

Thank goodness I have a writing coach (also through a Steve Harrison program). She set me straight. Mishael reminded me that the agent has a different agenda than I do. It’s no skin off his back if I delay the book. He gets paid under the old publishing model. I decided to independently publish my first book because I did not have a large enough platform to interest the traditional publishers. The same dynamic holds today. More likely than not, I would delay my efforts for months, only to go ahead and self-publish anyway. Plus, even if a publisher did buy my book, it would not be out for at least a year.
So, I’m back on track.

Sorry Mr. Agent, you’ll have to take a number and wait your turn.

Update I wrote the book proposal in December 2014, and submitted it to the agent in January 2015. He liked it, and I signed a week after sending it to him. 

If you like this post, you’ll like my book  Busting Your Corporate Idol: Self Help for the Chronically Overworked, a 5 Star Amazon Best Seller in the Work Life Balance Category. Learn more.

Five Books For Overworked Corporate Moms

Mother’s day is almost here. Wondering what to get that career mom who is working all the time, and wishes she could have more time with the family without quitting her job? There is no reason why a woman can’t have a career she loves and at the same time a fulfilling home life. Here are five books that can make it happen.

  1. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington. Huffington’s main message: there is more to life than getting promoted and making money. She argues that our well-being is a key third metric for living a successful life. Many women are in the habit of thinking of the needs of others (at both work and at home) before taking care of themselves.
  2. Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine. Teach is follow up to the Price of Privilege, in which Dr. Levine reminds parents that overworked kids from affluent parents are in trouble, with high rates of cutting, suicide, drug use, and have trouble with attachment to people. Dr. Levine’s main message is that values and coping skills are more important for a child’s long-term success than grades or a fat envelope.   In my experience, overworked parents have a tendency to put pressure on the kids to get into top schools and to overschedule their lives with activities. This is a thoughtful book full of solutions.
  3. Busting Your Corporate Idol: Self-Help for the Chronically Overworked by Dr. Greg Marcus explains the root cause of overwork, and offers a series of small actionable steps to work fewer hours and spend more time at family without consequences at work. Dr. Greg shares his personal experience of cutting his hours by a third without changing jobs, as well as many stories and anecdotes to illustrate how anyone can make a similar change.
  4. Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. Main message: stacks of research and personal accounts from hundreds of women show that women don’t ask for what they need at home or at work. This book teaches what to ask for, how to overcome fears and guilt, and then teaches how to negotiate without being a jerk.
  5. Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel. Nice Girls is newly revised, and has been instrumental in changing the careers of several amazing women I know. Many of the same mistakes that limit a woman’s career, like avoiding politics, also will lead her to work longer hours. The more senior you are, the more leverage you will have to set your own schedule and boundaries.

What Does the Fox Say At Work?

What does the fox say? It’s a question 144 million plus have been asking on YouTube over the last few months. (And if you really want to know the answer, you can see it here.) The song describes what a fox looks like, and runs through a bunch of gibberish versions of what a sound the fox makes. Is it funny? Yes, a bit. (Although if you ask my tween daughters, they will tell you it is hilarious.)

When I hear the song, I think of a different kind of fox, the fox in Aesop’s fable the Fox and the Crow. This kind of Fox is a flatterer, someone who can convince you of anything. In this respect, the song “What Does the Fox Say” gets it right. When we are watching the video, we sing and laugh along, and we may even parrot what we hear to others. But if we stop and think about it, we say to ourselves Huh? It no longer makes any sense.

Have you ever had the experience at work of being talked into something that turned out to be really stupid, either for you or for the company? And then, the person who talked you into it is nowhere to be found. I write about the Fox in Busting Your Corporate Idol, because the consequences of trusting the untrustworthy are monumental.

The Fox is particularly dangerous, because he or she will say whatever you want to hear. The Fox is primarily out for him or herself, but unless you have dealt with this type of person before, you may not be aware.

I worked for years with a Fox, but didn’t know it until things got rough, and I was left holding the bag. In many respects, it was my bag to hold, BUT the Fox had advised me what to put in the bag, and where to carry it. So when the Fox went out of their way to point the finger at me, I wanted to cry fowl.

I stood up at a meeting to explain it all, and all that came out of my mouth was “Ring ding ding ding ding dingeringeding.” It made sense when the Fox said it to me. I should have known better.

Help! I’ve Fallen Into Work Idolatry

Book collection via flickr I am running a contest design the cover for “Busting Your Corporate Idol.” The average contest lasts seven days, and gets 100-200 total designs. This one has over 300 designs in just 3 days.  Many are outstanding, and picking the winner will be hard.

The contest runs through July 2.

But how do I pick? This isn’t really about me, it is about readers. This book would be no where without the 15,000 of you who read the blog. THANK YOU!

Would you like to help find the best possible cover? This is an eBook only, and I need something that will jump off the Kindle page and pull people in.

It is pretty cool- see for yourself at 99designs. You can leave feedback by design number below in the comments through July 2. I am having polls on a regular basis, where you can rate covers 1-5 and tell why. Keep an eye on comments for the latest info. I will send your feedback directly to the designers, and they are very responsive.

Here is how 99designs works. You write a creative brief describing what you want in the design, designate prize money for the winner, and begin a project. Designers from all over the world submit covers, and then revise based on your feedback. If any of you ever worked with me on a creative project in marketing, you know that I have a lot to say. I am having a blast. I always liked working with creatives on ads.

Some people feel 99designs and other sites like this are exploitive, because only one person gets paid, and the rest are working for free. I don’t see this as exploitive, any more than submitting a blog to the Huffington Post is exploitive. Everyone knows the conditions, and people submit for a variety of reasons. In some parts of the world, the $299 prize is a lot of money. Many are building a portfolio, while getting feedback every day.

There is a personal downside to the fun I am having. The book cover and editing has taken over my life. In the last 3 days, I’ve missed turns when driving. I got confused about when to pick up my daughter from camp, and had to pay for being late (literally and figuratively). Last night I started cooking dinner 45 minutes, and had to cram some food down to get my daughter to an event. I kept look at designs while a tape ran in the background. You have to stop and start cooking. You have to stop and start cooking. We are running out of food because I haven’t gone to the store. 

Yes, I am having a mini-outbreak of idolatry, because my work is getting in the way of my primary job as stay-at-home parent.

Looks like I need to read my book again before this week becomes a lifestyle.

Is the Era of Work Over People Coming To An End?

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 16 (Conclusion)

Busting Your Corporate Idol (Conclusion)

I’m incredibly optimistic that the era of busting corporate idols is upon us. Look to the millennial generation – they grew up watching their parents work all the time, and want something better for themselves.

And more and more, those of us in middle or the end of our careers want a better life too. Even senior executives are starting to publicly admit that it doesn’t have to be this way. Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable that an executive from Goldman Sachs would condemn the company’s values in a public resignation letter. But that is exactly what Greg Smith did a year ago.

In 2007, it would have been unthinkable that Erin Callan, then CFO of Lehman Brothers, would one day write about the regret she feels for putting the company first. Yet that is exactly what she did last week. Callan wrote

“I didn’t have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn’t have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn’t have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place [CFO] with at least some better version of a personal life. Not without sacrifice — I don’t think I could have “had it all” — but with somewhat more harmony.”

None of us can have it all, but we all can have people who love us. It’s just a matter of values and priorities.

Wherever you are in your life, whatever you have done in the past, it is never too late to shift your focus, to bust your corporate idol, and to start putting people first.

The people are there, waiting for you with open arms.