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.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Overworked People Make

woman in a hurry on emailMore than one in three people say that they are chronically overworked. And more than 30% of both men and women would take a pay cut to spend more time with their children. Here are some of the most common mistakes overworked people make when trying to achieve a balanced life.

 

Mistake Number 1: Not Having a Plan

Few of us get into an overworked lifestyle overnight. Usually it is something that builds up over time. We have to change the habits of overwork, and that all can’t happen overnight. Instead of trying to change everything at once, pick one area to make a change. Stopping work earlier at night to get more sleep is a good place to start.

Mistake Number 2: Not recognizing your true values and priorities

There was a time when I was working 90 hours a week. If you asked me, I would have told you that I was a family first person. In reality though, I couldn’t be family first when I was working so much. I was a work first person. Our values are demonstrated by what we do, not what we think. To work less, we need to recognize that we have made work our highest priority.

Mistake #3: Not taking stock of who you really are

All of us are many people. I have a career identity, and I am a father, son, friend, husband, soccer coach, football fan… When I was working 90 hours a week, my identity revolved around my job and career. Working fewer hours involved cultivating my other identities, which led to different decisions over time.

Mistake #4: Not enlisting help

An identity as a people-first person can help make changes in the short run. But without a community of people to support our changes, we will gradually fall back into our old habits. A good place to start is with a spouse or significant other. How can they support you to make a change? Friends, parents, and siblings are also great places for support.

Mistake #5: Not letting go

For many people, success to a certain point has come from hard work trying to keep all the balls in the air. But there are an infinite number of things that we can’t control. And in reality, we control far fewer things that we think we do. Realizing that busyness is not the same as effectiveness can be painful. “You mean that all this time I’m putting in has no impact?” That is exactly what I’m saying. I had more impact when I was working 60 hours than when I was working 90 hours. And I was more effective working less than 50 hours when I was working 60 hours.

Knowing these common mistakes and how to avoid them will surely change the way you look at your life balance. But it’s not enough.

Not only do you have to know what NOT to do, but you also have to make some positive changes to really cut back your work hours. After all, if having a balanced life were that easy, everyone would have more time for the people they really care about.