WARN­ING SIGNS

Business Traveler (USA) - - HEALTH & WELLNESS -

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.

Work Smart

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,

Dis­con­nect

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

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