Do any of these statements describe your typical workday?
- I don’t plan breaks from work. I just take them when I can… or when I hit a wall.
- I usually skip lunch (or eat lunch in my workspace).
- Many of my days include back-to-back meetings.
- I stop work for the day but still monitor emails and messages throughout the evening.
While our world is in the midst of a pandemic, I believe there is an epidemic of “always on” with our attitudes about work. And whether you believe the root cause is the growing religion of “workism” or simply the advances in technology that allow us to work efficiently anytime or anywhere, I think we can all agree that the outcomes are not beneficial to our productivity or overall well-being. A December 2020 study found that 76% of US employees are currently experiencing burnout.
When I ask my coaching clients suffering through this season of “always on” with work if they would like for things to be different, the response is an emphatic “Yes!” Yet when we begin exploring opportunities, I hear a barrage of responses like “I couldn’t do that” or “It’s not our culture” or “I’m not sure how my boss would feel about that.”
If you are one of those people who feels like your workday never ends, I invite you to consider which of the following reasons you keep using to justify NOT changing. What is preventing you from seeking a work-life cadence that would actually improve your productivity while also providing you with the space you want to nurture your relationships and take care of your personal wellness?
1) They need me to be available.
When I hear this one I usually respond with, “Did ‘they’ tell you they needed you to be available all the time?” It’s all about establishing clear expectations. Let them know what your desired typical schedule is during the day (including a lunch break or other time away). If evening emails/messages are becoming a problem, say something like, “I normally stop checking messages after ____ PM so I can focus on my family and personal needs. Will that work for you?” And if they need to get in touch with you outside those hours, give them a specific way to reach out to you so you know it is urgent AND important.
2) I am busy all day and need the evenings to catch up.
Yes, you’re busy… but are you being your most productive? In my 26 years of speaking and coaching I am yet to find anyone who can’t make some improvements in how they use their time to increase desired results… include ME! If this is the reason you keep using, email me and I’ll give you a free coaching session where I GUARANTEE you will leave with at least 30 minutes of more space in your workday. What would that be worth to you?
3) Things are just crazy busy right now. It will get better.
As Jack Sparrow said to Elizabeth Swann in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, “Keep telling yourself that love.” While one driver of your overloaded schedule now might be “a staffing shortage,” next month it could be, “training new employees” or “caring for an elderly parent” or “new product launch.” Are you really willing to wait things out while your stress continues, your relationships suffer, and you have no time for the activities that renew your physical, mental, and emotional energy?
4) I don’t want other people to have extra stress.
You have my full support if you are helping someone going through a difficult season in their life or even if they are new to the company, but is that always the case? If you are taking on the extra work because you aren’t willing to stand up for your own needs or address a problem, you are actually creating more dysfunction for your team or organization. Put another way, what’s more important to you… enabling the substandard work of another employee, or making your family and your own well-being a priority?
5) I’m more productive in the evenings because there are less distractions.
First, have you established a system to handle those workday distractions effectively? Have you created healthy boundaries AND communicated them to others so they know how best to work with you? I believe it’s important to stop and reflect on the source of those distractions. As Henry Cloud writes in his insightful book, Boundaries, “…you always get two things… what you create and what you allow.” What is the environment you are creating or allowing that is causing so many distractions?
Let me say that I know taking action to break the “always on” cycle with work is hard, whether it’s the physical hours you work or the mental connection you keep with your job 24/7.
We can become so consumed with our workdays that we forget there are other things vying for (and needing) our attention. They include our family, personal interests, and even rest. Neglecting these things in the name of “getting more work done” rarely turns out well, regardless of where we are working.
What reason (a good one this time) will you give for being willing to take a break from work?
About Jones Loflin:
Jones Loflin is a speaker and coach helping people make the best choices with their time so they can thrive. He is the author of several books, including Always Growing and the award-winning, Juggling Elephants. He is also the founder of Jones U, offering online courses and coaching.
If you are interested in hiring Jones Loflin for your next keynote speaker, please contact Midwest Speakers Bureau at 515-974-8305.