Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

The Second Step Towards a Life In Balance

Choose your date wisely

Choose your date wisely

The people you choose to be with are a strong predictor of what you value and how you live.

As I wrote in the last post, a shift in identity will start you down the path towards a balanced life.

However if everyone around you is bragging about how many events they missed because of work, eventually your hours will start to creep back up. To make the changes last, you’ll need a community of people to support you.

First and foremost, if you’re in a relationship, you’ll want to get on the same page with your partner. Does he/she support people-first values? Most of the time, they’ll be thrilled to have you around more. And if you are both on email till midnight together every night, you can start to make the change together. For example, checking email during dinner can be a pernicious habit. But, it is also is a clear behavior that is easy to modify if phone free time together is the priority.

However, if getting a new BMW every year is the most important thing to your partner, they may not support your change in priorities. Mismatched values like this are a red flag for the relationship. Some people work long hours as a way to avoid an unhappy relationship. Could this be you?

And whether or not you’re in a relationship, you’ll need people outside the family to support your change. One great place to begin is by finding a weekly activity to bring you out of the office. I’ve known many people who picked up a class or joined a team just as a way to get out of the office. There, they met their future spouse.

If you are at in Tuesday night volleyball league, everyone else there has decided not to work and to spend time on volleyball too. This is a great place to get to know people who don’t talk about work all the time.

Finally, be on the lookout for a community opportunity, meaning that if someone invites you to do something, say yes! A mindful approach to develop contacts outside of the workplace will increase your flexibility, and decrease any emotional dependency on the work pseudo-community.

What has your experience been with getting out of the office?

Previous Post: The First Step To Create a Life Of Balance

How To Think Less About Work and More About Life

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 14

Have I convinced you that there is something to this Corporate Idolatry thing? Maybe or maybe not, but in either case, I hope you see the world a little differently.

The first time I presented the outline for Busting Your Corporate Idol, the writing class was split. Some people thought it was an amazing idea that spoke to them. Others were viscerally upset, arguing that the book attacked the basic work ethic, and was anti-corporation. It took me only ten minutes to present the outline; we discussed the idea for forty-five minutes.

That class was a safe place to talk. I hope you can find a safe place to re-examine who you are and what is most important to you. An outside perspective can really help. If you play your cards right, you can get your company to pay for an executive coach, for “professional development.” Once you are behind closed doors, you can ask the coach to help you get your life back into balance. Coaches tell me this is very common.

Maybe you want to change, but are afraid to start. The first step is the hardest, so let me give you some help. Say to yourself  out loud “My company will no longer be my idol. I’m going to start putting people first.” And thereafter, begin each day thinking or saying “I am the kind of person who puts people first.” You’ll start to see the world differently, and you’ll start to make different decisions.

This may seem hokey, but if you really want to change, what do you have to lose?  Does it seem scary to pull back from work? That is understandable too. You may also feel like you are the only one who has doubts about the corporate life. Believe me, you are not alone.

There is a secret army of people who are starting to speak out, and starting to make changes.

What do you think about Corporate Idolatry? Please comment below, and then click through to read the conclusion to the book in the next post.

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The Cure For Stress Hidden In Your Back Yard

Chapter 8: Secure Your Community Part 13

We met Sebastian Tate, the balanced achiever, in Chapter 7. Sebastian takes his career seriously, and always wants to work at an interesting company.  “I would struggle working for a company doing cosmetic surgery just to get rid of wrinkles.” For Sebastian, work is decidedly not his community, and over the years he has surrounded himself with people who share his values about the relative importance of work and the rest of life. And every August for the last 20 years, they all get together for a men only camping weekend.

It started with friends he grew up with, and has “evolved to be group of people across different companies.”  Sebastian explained that sometimes “guys want to get together [only with] other guys.”  Sure, they hike and drink beer, but what I found particularly interesting were the intense discussions about life.  And I think it was the natural setting that facilitated the intensity of the community feeling.

There is something about nature that promotes tranquility.  People have a biological affinity to become more relaxed and healthy in a natural setting than they do in an urban setting.  Sound like an exaggeration? In 1984 Ulrich showed that patients with a window facing a park have a faster recovery from surgery than patients facing a wall.[i] Since then, numerous studies have shown  that access to green space reduces stress, improves cognitive function, and strengthens the immune system.[ii]  And green areas with water seem to have a bit of an extra benefit.[iii]

Of course anyone who has been on vacation to Maui knows that an ocean view costs more than a mountain view, which is more expensive than a “garden view.”  In this case, market-defined value matches what the science suggests are the most valuable traits for wellbeing.

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[i] View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Ulrich RS. Science. 1984 Apr 27;224:420-1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6143402

[ii] Green environments essential for human health Phys.org April 19, 2011 retreived December 23, 2012

http://phys.org/news/2011-04-green-environments-essential-human-health.html

[iii] In the green of health: Just 5 minutes of ‘green exercise’ optimal for good mental health by Michael Bernstein.  Phys.org  May 21, 2011.  Retrieved December 23, 2012 http://phys.org/news191999867.html#nRlv

Ten Tips To Reduce Your Work-Related Stress

Ten Tips For Stress Reduction Featured Image

Cold Friendship by Hamed Saber via Flickr CC

 

Today I’m taking a break from Busting Your Corporate Idol to share some stress reduction tips that were inspired by stories I heard while researching the book.

 

Three ways to relieve stress at work by putting yourself first

  1. Put your health first.  Take time during the business day to exercise.  If you are suffering from chronic stress, you are probably working too many hours.  If you take time away from work to exercise, your stress will go down and you will become more productive, which will more than make up for the 90 minutes at the gym.
  2. Put your time first.  There are always people asking you for favors, and to do extra things.  If you are good at what you do, there are an infinite number of things you could be doing.  Make sure that you put your time first by learning to say no.  Having fewer commitments will reduce stress
  3. Become a winner at politics.  Are you the type of person who says “I don’t care about the politics, I just want to get it done.”  This is a recipe for being taken advantage of.  Politics is a fact of life, and no one is above it.  If you aren’t playing at least to defend yourself, you risk being played.

Three ways to relieve stress at home by putting people first

  1. Put your health first by stopping all work by 9 PM to give you an hour or two to decompress before bed time.  Sleep deprivation is a guaranteed way to increase stress.
  2. Put your health and family first by having a Sabbath, least one day a week with no work or email at all.  You will be amazed at how refreshed and more creative you feel.
  3. More sex at home.  The research is pretty consistent – people who have sex more often are happier.  And stress leads people to have sex less often.  Use those goal setting skills to have sex at least once during the workweek and once on the weekend.  This will lead you to stop working earlier, and will directly combat feelings of stress.

A key to preventing stress at work is to reduce your workload.  If your boss asks you to do more, here are four things to help you say no.

  1. Don’t feel guilty. There is only so much time in the day, and your health and family are more important than whatever the boss is asking you to do.
  2. Make the boss decide the business priorities.  Your time is a finite company resource.  Explain the trade off decision, and why you think another use of your time is more important.  If the boss insists, ask for his or her support in explaining the changed deadline to the stakeholder whose deliverable is being pushed back.
  3. Offer an alternative solution.  Sometimes the boss is asking for more than he or she needs.  Offer a quick and easy solution instead.
  4. Suggest someone else to do the job.  Your boss needs a solution, but it doesn’t necessarily need to come from you.

If you find at least one of these suggestions helpful, please share using the buttons below.

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