I used to be a classic workaholic,

and after seeing how little work and career really mean

when you reach the end of your life,

I put a new emphasis on things I believe count more.

These things include: family, friends, being part of a community,

and appreciating the little joys of the average day.

– Mitch Albom

We live in an era and a country that seems to be in constant celebration of the workaholic lifestyle. Just think about how many people you have heard brag about staying up all night working or never taking a vacation day. This kind of thinking boggles the mind.

Studies have shown that a person’s productivity goes down significantly long before most of the call it quits for the workday. If you find that you are working a lot of hours, you are likely getting a lot less done per hour the longer you stay.

There are some things that you can do to keep your work from sucking the life out of, well, your life.

1. Set a time boundary. To the extenet that you have control, it will help matters if you put a finite limit on your workday, like heading for home at 6 pm. Or put a limit on a specific task, say one hour. Having a schedule helps to keep you focused. If you know in advance that a particular task has to be done by a specific time, you will focus your energy on that.

2. Disconnect from the Internet. Perhaps one of the reasons that you are working all hours of the night is because you have been wasting too much time online. Harsh, I know. While some tasks require an Internet connection, there are many, if not most, that do not. When it’s time to work, do your work. Then when it’s time to have fun, enjoy it!

3. Get a hobby. Find something to do that you really enjoy. Ideally this should be something that has absolutely nothing to do with your work. People who work a lot don’t usually think they have time for a hobby. If you have a good reason to not work, or a time that you have to be somewhere else or that you need to focus on something else, then you will generally spend less time at work.

4. Spend time with your family and friends. Your family is a big part of the reason that you are working so hard to begin with. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to ignore them so that you can spend more time working. Think about it. Your kids will be gone and out of the house before you know it. And, another harsh reality is that you cannot use presence to make up for your lack of presence.

5. Spend less time working and get more done. Are you working longer hours because you can’t get enough done during your regular business hours? If this is one of your challenges, perhaps you are spending an inordinate amount of time on tasks that simply don’t matter that much in the overall scheme of things. Allocate most of your time to the most important tasks, first.

If you set a real time limit, you will be forced to focus your attention on the most important things. Get the big stuff out of the way first, and then move on to as much of the little stuff as you can manage within your pre-set timeframe.

6. Focus on your health. Working too much is simply an unhealthy habit. Between the stresses, lack of sleep, and poor food choices, a serious toll is taken on your body, health, and emotional well-being. Give your health the priority it deserves and you’ll begin to see your working tendencies in a new light.

7. Surround yourself with people that have a great work and life balance. It is usually easier to learn from someone else who has already accomplished what you want to accomplish yourself. Seek out friends, co-workers, and neighbors who have the lifestyle you would like to pursue. Perhaps they can offer some pointers and advice.

Too much time at work negatively affects your relationships with your family and friends. No one has ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at work.” In the long run, family should always be a priority.

Avoid falling into the workaholic trap. Set a schedule and stick to it. Focus on your work. Focus on your health. With some intention and experimentation you can get your work done and still get to the rest of your life at a reasonable hour.


photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/publish9/3150619087/sizes/z/in/photostream/