Taming the workaholic within

A few months ago I read a comment from a favourite entrepreneur of mine, Lisa Messenger.

It was light heartedly but pointedly talking about wanting to meet the person who decided that we needed to work 9-5, 5 days a week and, well, not giving them the kindest reception.

Decades ago an 8 hour day seemed to be sufficient, and would provide the wage to support a family and stay at home wife if needed. They’d be able to afford a home, and when they left work, for most people, their work would usually end.

Now with technology it never ends. Nor does the expectation of us to be on top of everything minute by minute.

I was once reprimanded by a manager for a mistake that was made by a member of my team at 10pm on a Sunday.

What happened in that moment was nothing that my bosses had hoped. I was left asking myself why my team was being asked to do work at 10pm at night, and why I was expected to be overseeing something so late on a Sunday night.

The expectations of perfection, connection and commitment are essentially 24/7.

Perhaps it’s my digital marketing background but my entire working life has been about checking social media even at 2am on a weekend night to ensure that no trolls had posted inappropriate content, knowing that if I didn’t see it there would be ramifications.

This habit, as much as I was determined to leave it behind, reared its ugly head even when I was my own boss.

If I finished work late into the evening, there was a high level of guilt even if I allowed myself a half hour sleep in. Or if I wasn’t working all weekend, why not?

I had started out with such a harmonious balance, working efficiently for a certain amount of hours a day and then taking a break for some exercise. Then I’d do a final burst of work before using my night to do whatever I needed.

At the first sign of a crisis, that went out the window and I really struggled to get back into my chosen way of thinking about work again.

Every minute I spent not working I felt guilty, knowing that my business needed my attention but being resentful as I was so depleted myself.

What falling back into this societal expectation created was an unhealthy relationship with a business that was my passion, multiple health crises and a spiral that was draining the colour from my life.

One day after a friend delivered me a cold hard slap about the situation I’d gotten myself into, I spent over a week trying to find the golden ticket.

How on earth was I going to get both my health and my business back? Each took so much time and effort, and where was a wage going to come from while I worked on even just these two things?

Finally the penny dropped. My life shouldn’t be squeezed into the time I have left, my business needed to work around my life.

We’re only here for a limited amount of years, and I’ve given too many years already giving myself almost entirely to my employers with a tiny amount of energy spent on my health and even smaller amount given to enjoying myself.

Honestly, wake up we’re here to live! I’m in the lucky position to be able to control my hours, but even if you’re in a desk job is 10+ hours of overtime really necessary?

Have you set yourself up as the one who will always go above and beyond? Do others match your input or do they coast off your hard work? If it’s the earlier, are you really in the best workplace for you?

An employer should respect that people have lives too, and be wise enough to know that happy employees are the most productive anyway.

I wrote 2016 goals around treating my staff to monthly massages and a delicious team lunch. I also vowed to recognise when they went above and beyond in a way that resonated with them.

Had I done any of these things for myself? No. Had I been exactly like the totalitarian bosses who said that anxiety attacks were a sign that we were doing a good job. No!!

I left all of that behind, yet somehow those voices, those expectations and the need to overexert myself reared their head as soon as I wasn’t looking.

Thankfully, I’m back. I have a more tangible understanding of how to create this in my life that I actually didn’t have when I stumbled upon work life balance earlier.

That had been for self preservation, after working 80+ hours for too long juggling agency life and starting a business. I was on the brink of a major health crisis and that was the real cause for my commitment to balance.

Now, it’s because I am here to live a life. It’s because I deserve to enjoy myself, and because I’m no longer a slave of someone else’s selfish desire to get the most out of me for their own benefit.

I am the master of my life and I’m going to have one. A real life.

I may still do more hours, but knowing that I’ve taken care of myself first and foremost gives me that fuel in the tank to make an informed decision after weighing up all of my and the company’s needs.

I feel like I’ve just smashed through a coating, and can see the ties to the old way of doing things crumbling around me in every area. And it feels good!

Even if it starts with taking one lunch break a week for you, you deserve to come first too.

Much love,

C

Your destress point

On our bodies there are various physical points that destress us – but what is yours in life?

By this I mean what activity can you do that melts everything away and makes you feel human again? And how often do you do it?

It’s easy to forget about relaxation in the hysteria of our lives. And the irony is that the more we need to destress, the less it’s on our minds as we try and squeeze every second out of the day to maximise our output. That’s my unconscious reaction anyway.

In my new role as an entrepreneur my task list seems to be growing faster than I ever imagined.

The difference with me is that I flat out refuse to lose my focus on creating balance for my mind, body and heart while I do this. And the more work activities that get added the more other fun activities I need to balance them out.

I’ve been failing a lot at balance lately.

At some ridiculously early hour of the morning as my mind kept whirring I decided that the only way to end this was to put exactly where I’m choosing to spend my time into a form that I can see every day. Then at the end of each day, week and month I can see what I’ve created.

It’s easy to reset each week and say that next week will be better, but when it’s a constant backwards and forwards, with more backwards in many areas, it can all add up to a giant out of balance.

My answer is what I’m calling my Balance Board.

My Balance Board is going to be a large piece of card on my wall with all the activities that I want to include in my week, and some that invariably will enter like a whirring mind.

This is helping me keep track of what my time and energy is going towards, and more easily help me see where needs attention.

There will be things like working, exercising, friends and fun, but it will also be broken down much more specifically based on what I know I want to track. Things like thinking about work, restlessness, heart activities/things that I love, mind activities/meditation, yang exercise/strength training or cardio and yin exercises/stretching or yoga. Is it obvious I’ve been studying Chinese medicine again?

These are the sneaky ones that are the key to me creating a balanced and happy life.

I’ve realised that I am the number one asset in my company and for that reason I need to keep myself at my peak. And this is more than an early night as they usually turn into me continuing to think about work or other stress triggers into the early hours of the morning anyway.

Without me my company will fail and the vision I have of creating change won’t happen, or at least not in the way I see is missing from society.

This pull to create change on a large scale makes me serious about pulling myself back into balance faster and faster. I’ve been chipping away at this for a while but a near return of my chronic fatigue and glimpse at having the choice to build my business taken away from me shook me into action.

This will not fail. I will not fail. When we are playing a big game sometimes it takes something physical to help us keep all of our balls in the air.

A simpler version of this is write out a naughts and crosses board with your top nine things that you want to include in your life. Put it somewhere that you see it before bed every night.

This activity helped me endlessly for a long time to see when things like exercise, fun or mind body connection were falling out of focus.

If you are out of balance and missing what really matters to you in your life why not give it a try? Or let me know what helps you keep balanced, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Much love,

C