and principal consultant at the Hong Kong Psychology Society. According to Dr To, Type A personalities are especially prone to prioritizing work excessively.
Do you work over 48 hours a week? If so, your life is unbalanced, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). And you are not alone. One in five workers globally exceed this benchmark, according to the ILO paper Working Time Around the World. In the US, a study by the National There are hundreds of unread e-mails in your inbox,
some from 2008. You walk out of a meeting having already forgotten most of what has
just been discussed. You have 10 documents open on your computer and none are done. You look down at the wastebasket and it is lled with wrappers of
cheeseburgers, meatball sandwiches and tacos. Your vacation days pile up until you are “forced” to take them. You stay late in the of ce, but still can’t get things done.
You keep missing your bus stops. You’re smoking your second pack of cigarettes by lunchtime.
It’s only 4:00 PM and you are already dying for a stiff drink. You break down in tears because an e-mail has just bounced back. You keep dreaming about chasing after your colleagues and
smacking them with a folder. You shave, brush your teeth and cut your toenails in the of ce. Your friends have stopped asking you out. When the battery on your phone dies,
you feel empty. Sleep Foundation shows that the average employed American works a 46-hour work week, and more than one-third or 38 percent of the respondents in their study worked more than 50 hours per week. So business people in this workaholic world, surrounded by the incessant beeps of global communication, are exposed to conditions that cultivate overwork, and a concerted effort is required in order to recognize, reflect on and reconcile habitual overworking with personal needs.
Signs of Imbalance
A life out of balance exposes itself in signs that are both psychological and physical, and one usually affects the other.
The first sign is not being able to sleep, or sleep through the night. This indicates that you are stressed and have too much on your mind. Weight fluctuations are also common among the overworked. “You eat differently, your body processes food differently, and if you don’t eat at appropriate times it can affect digestion and nutrition uptake, ”Leist explains.
In the long term, researchers Meyer Friedman and RH Rosenman have linked serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease to stress.
But the most devastating effects can be emotional, says Dr To. “People can become easily irritated and act out in extremes – closing themselves up into their own comfort zones and not listening.”
“This can be detrimental to relationships in the long run,” agrees Judy Warmington from the Organizing Specialists. If you find yourself working in the evenings, weekends and on holidays you miss out on time with family and friends, and this will inevitably result in you growing more distant from them, she adds. Leist concurs, saying “people have to realize that every time they are saying ‘yes’ to something, they are also saying ‘no’ to something else.”
And personal time deserves the same attention as work, as Dr To points out, since “a lack of a social network actually increases the likelihood of an inability to effectively manage stress.”
Here are a few valuable tools for helping achieve a greater balance between your professional and personal life, which ultimately alleviates stress and the ills that it may bring.
Know Your Limits
Often people overwork because they have packed far too many things into their schedule. It is important to review what you do in a day, and eliminate and
“People have to realize that every time they are saying ‘yes’ to something, they are also saying ‘no’ to something else”
delegate, says Leist. “Realize that you might have to let things go, and let someone else step in and do it for you. That’s very hard for some people, but it needs to be done to lessen stress.”
So in order to allow more time for life, your commitments must be balanced and reasonable. In order to achieve this, it is advisable to have regular meetings with your colleagues and discuss workload, tasks, etc., and allocate or rotate them accordingly. If it’s too much, consider hiring
a part-time administrative assistant. Then make sure you and your colleagues leave work on time, at least most nights a week.
This also applies to home life, says Leist. If your time spent at home is taken up by but often what they don’t consider are the non-visible forms of clutter which can be wiped by systems and processes that allow people and companies to be productive and profitable, ”Leist explains.
Consider how much time in your day is spent opening file within file or scrolling down long lists of outdated documents or searching for misplaced ones. It may not seem like much, but mundane tasks like that add up to quite a lot of time collectively.
You can combat this by setting aside half an hour to delete obsolete files that make finding a document akin to navigating a virtual maze, and creating shortcuts to things you need to access often. Much software comes equipped with systems to ease tasks – and these tools are your friend, not your foe. Familiarize yourself with them, and use them.
Maintain clear boundaries between work time and personal time. If this requires you to turn off your gadgets, then do so.
housework it might be helpful to consider domestic support, which leaves you more time to relax, engage in hobbies and spend time with people you love.
Another way to avoid work encroaching on personal time is to maximize office time, and get more things done in the working day. For this, actions have to be streamlined, and organization is an effective tool.
“When people think of organization they tend to think of the visible forms of clutter, like piles of paper on their desk,
Maintain clear boundaries between work time and personal time. If this requires you to turn off your gadgets, then do so. It is important to detach in order to be able to give personal commitments your full attention.
“Ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst thing that will happen if I don’t check my e-mail, answer a text, or take a phone call? ’We usually find that it’s not as important as we imagine, ”says Treva Berends, also of the Organization Specialists.
Another effective way of doing this is by having a separate room in the house where all work-related documents, computers and so on are kept so that you create a physical separation.
Choose to Live
Taking the time to exercise, eat well and cultivate your personal relationships actually helps you work productively. As mentioned, stress can lead to disturbed sleep and health, and if you are not functioning at an optimum level you will not be as productive at work. So taking extended away time to unwind is important, says Leist.
“Everybody is different, but in general, in our high-stress society, it takes the body and mind at least five days to fully relax and readjust. At which point you might be going back to work.”
Similarly, activities like reading, painting, sports and socializing work to relieve stress and should at least be given equal importance to work commitments. Leist suggests we allocate a regular time slot in our schedules for it, because ultimately “nobody is going to lie on their deathbed and wish that they had worked more; they are probably going to wish they had spent more time doing the fun things in life.” BT