Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Feeling Like What You Do Is Never Enough

Why are you working so much?

C'mon, I know it's true. You're on your Blackberry at the dinner table, you get up at 4 a.m. just to answer a few e-mails and you've never been in a car without the cell phone to your ear. This is above and beyond the long hours you put in at your desk.

So, again I ask you: Why are you working so much?

Some of you are going to claim it's because you have no choice. You will say it's to please the boss, keep up with the workload, further your career or simply because you have no idea what to do if you're not working. You're worried what someone else will think of you if you're not working. Bottom line: You're scared not to work.

But here's what happens when you work too much: You get anxious. You get mad and depressed. And then you look for someone to blame.

That means you start fighting with your spouse, you yell at your kids, you begin to hate the guy in the cubicle next to yours and you begin to ignore the boss, who you hate more than anyone.

But I've spoken with some very successful people over the years, and whether they're entreprenuers or work for Fortune 100 companies, they've provided some good insight into making sure you control the work, not vise versa.

Some tips:
· Avoiding the “never enough” trap. When surveys ask people how much more money they need to be financially comfortable, without fail they answer 20 percent to 40 percent more than they are making – whether they have an annual salary of $20,000 or $100,000. We always seem to want more, and when we don’t set limits, we can get caught in compulsive behaviors, such as working more hours. But if you don’t set the limits, no one will. Determine what you need to do to be satisfied, and stick to it.
· Evaluate your work. Look at your job from an objective point of view – what would another person you respect say about what you accomplished in one day? Would this person judge it as adequate? If the answer is yes, then you have done enough for one day.
· Make choices. Pick the one or two events outside of work that are most important, and bow out of the rest. While the choices you make may not please everyone, remember that there is nothing in life that pleases everyone.
· Working for completion. If you stick to the thought that you can’t go home until all your work is done, you’re going to be at the office until your body is found covered in cobwebs by co-workers. Keep in mind that the long hours may mean you have some inefficient work habits, such as forgetting to prioritize the most important tasks each day. At the end of your work day, only unimportant tasks should be left – and those can wait until the next day.
· Something came up. It always does. Last minute emergencies do happen, but if they're a regular thing, you need to evaluate what -- or who --is causing it and try to find a way to head it off in the future or remedy the problem so it's not a continual one.

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Anonymous said...

My rule is that if I have to work late (or, early) by an hour for a week, then I'm doing something wrong during my work day that needs to be fixed.

It may be priorities need changing, not being effective or focused while working, having too many meetings that need to be trimmed back...whatever. Something needs changing. Otherwise, burnout happens.

Anita said...

I'm many hours a week do you typically work? And, is that about the same amount you've always worked or have you seen it increase or decrease as you've advanced in your career?

Anonymous said...

I've mostly worked about 45-hours a week. Exceptions: some ending of projects when I was managing them to make sure they completed on time.

I've also done that most of my career.

The deal for me is that if I am hitting 50-60 hours a week for more than about two weeks, I really burn out.

I still tend to get more done than most, however, because I am much more focused while at work than many other employees. If you are wasting two hours a day doing stuff not related to your job, it's tough to argue about working too many hours in a week!

Anonymous said...

I communicated with a college student this week who says he will have an $800 student loan payment every month for the next 20 years! ($80,000 in debt for UNDERgraduate school.)

He was making the argument that college students paying a lot for their educations were therefore more motivated to excel. To me, this seems like a classic burnout setup.

I spoke to someone else this week who told me a story about a doctor who is a real businessman. He writes book, speaks, has a practice - works a huge number of hours a week on a regular basis. When she asked him why, he said, "I never realized the impact of $200,000 in student loan debt."

Miriam Salpeter
Keppie Careers

Anita said...

Miriam, boggles the mind to think of facing that kind of debt right out of school. I was broke when I got out of college, but never that far in debt. This could partially explain why so many GenYers job hop...they may feel they have no time to waste. They've got to find that next big opportunity, and that bigger paycheck. But you're right...they're risking real burnout as a very early age.

Anonymous said...

45-hours work in a week is couldn't be more normal.we've always give the best on our work! To me, I spend at least 60 hours on my work.