Work to live, NOT live to work!

Last week I read an article by an Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, who said that many of her patients had indicated their regret at spending so much of their time on the treadmill of a work existence.

Which begs the question, “Do I live to work, or do I work to live?

Think about it, in today’s working society we are expected to be available twenty-four hours a day! Our customers demand we respond to their e-mails and be on call all the time and our bosses expect us to react to any message as soon as they issue it. I recently worked on a project where the manager only slept four hours a night and would WhatsApp me at 06:00 hrs in the morning with a list of things he wanted done when I got in. Needless to say, I moved on!

I know that we all feel the pressure to meet deadlines and we all want to deliver the best service that we can, but deadlines should be realistic and not arbitrarily imposed by someone who doesn’t fully understand the effort needed. How often have you heard of people working all weekend to get a proposal out? Why? If it’s a genuine mistake then we can all pitch in and help out, but if somebody forgot to tell your team until Thursday ….? One of my old Sergeant Majors’ often quoted, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine, Sir!”

Life integration

These days, I don’t hold with the work life balance concept – I actually believe in work life integration. You only have twenty four hours a day – during which you have to balance a number of things that need to be done and things you want to do as well as sleep. So, you need to make choices about what you should and will do, don’t let somebody else decide for you. If you have dinner with friends or dinner with an important company client – You make the call – not the boss. It’s your life and you need to manage your own accountability and your own expectations.

Pic 2 By KVDP, Shokunin, Aungkarns (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most managers I coach will allow their team members to take a couple of hours at lunch time to go to the bank or to get some shopping as long as they don’t abuse it. They all support self-development and encourage family time. Help them to help you by sharing your integrated calendar with them – have only one calendar.

Make it clear to your boss so there are no disputes about what you have planned in your life. Work with the premise that there is one you, one life, one calendar.

Compartmentalise

Another great trick I learned is to compartmentalise. Often we set about a task and we don’t quite finish it. The presentation that you just keep having to revisit and polish, just a little bit more. DON’T! Set yourself an hour or two hours and focus on just that job. Get it done and then put it down. You are done, move on! If you are genuinely not done, then you have to reschedule some time but that comes at a cost. Seriously, if you choose to be present and to really focus on the task you have set yourself, you will achieve it and any amount of subsequent polishing won’t make much difference.

Burnout is not good

In my role as a business management coach, I have worked with managers who think it is part of their job to make people work longer hours or over weekends without considering any extra remuneration or time off in lieu for the workers, because they believe this benefits the company.

As a young software engineer working in the banking industry during the dot-com years, I often heard tales of Silicon Valley software engineers burning out and in the military, they call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Surely in a world where so many people are available to work, the occurrence of burnout or stress related disorders should be decreasing. Managers are under pressure to reduce costs but that doesn’t mean people should have to work longer hours for the same pay – we need to educate people to work smarter and more efficiently rather than longer.

Be Assertive

So next time you are asked to perform additional work, look at your current workload and your calendar and if there is not enough time, be assertive with your boss and ask, “If you want me to do this, then when do you want me to do these other tasks or who shall I pass them onto?”

We all have lives outside of the work environment and we have families and friends who also need our love and attention. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your job is the only important thing in your life. Don’t regret spending so much time on your work treadmill that you ignore your other life influences.

In our society, most of us need to work to earn money, but, “Work to live, not to labour on the treadmill of work all your time.”

If you are stressed and need to find some time in your busy life – get in touch. I can definitely help you.

Mike Jackson is a recognised Business Management, Project Management Coach and Motivational Speaker with an active practice in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – you can contact him on +973 36784782.