Q: I have been working for four years without taking a break. Sometimes I plan to go on leave, only to end up shelving those plans. Even on my days off, I find myself working from home. Am I obsessed with work? How can I get out of this?
Four years of work without any break means you are pushing yourself to the edge, and reminds me of this famous quote: You can’t do a good job, if your job is all you do. But since you have taken the first step and admitted that you have a problem, even though you are shy to admit you are a workaholic, that is your first step towards taking control of the situation.
Majority of those who find themselves in this situation tend to use work as an excuse to avoid dealing with other challenges. So, first, try and understand what the real issue is and deal with it. Second, create a list of key tasks that must be accomplished daily or weekly within the standard working hours, and if a task is not completed by the stipulated time, set let it wait till the next working day. Third, you have to value your health. Burnout is your body’s way of telling you that your body is flying blind. Your mind is not engaged. Working without sufficient rest does not make you more productive. In fact you are bound to make more mistakes. Fourth, try and break the habit that leads to spending more time at work by starting work at the appointed time, taking a lunch break, and leaving the workplace on time. If you usually eat at your desk, you must stop and join others for lunch and social events. Fifth, schedule your leave well in advance and plan your work to ensure there are no key tasks that require your input during that period.
If you have no one to step in for you when you proceed on leave, train and mentor someone. Plan for travel outside your town during your leave period to keep yourself busy, or make plans together with family and friends who can help you stick to the plan. Sixth, keep off e-mails or business calls outside working hours. Train your mind to accept that work can wait, unless there is an emergency. Seventh, identify a hobby and use it to divert your obsession.
Remember that work is only meant to be one element that contributes to that fulfilment. You have to take care of other key contributors that include family, personal health, community, spiritual life and rest. Successful people always set aside time for resting. Your love for your job should motivate you to get sufficient rest so that you can enjoy it more.
Mwikali Muthiani - Managing Partner, MillennialHR; [email protected]