I love being an American but one thing that’s been vexing me lately is how work and career have taken over our lives. It’s as if we are no longer human beings but human doers. The overriding message is that when I’m not “doing”, I’m nothing.
In essence, we’ve allowed work and success to define who we are.
It's even worse nowadays because work has become chronic overwork. In the last few weeks, I’ve read three articles about people cracking because work essentially overtook their lives.
One was continually being hospitalized for having seizures. Another, a young man just beginning his career in finance, couldn’t take the pressure and jumped off a building. A third up and quit her job and moved to Europe.
The expectation to overwork is even being written into contracts. The assumption being that you’ll be available to answer emails late into the night, work weekends and even be reachable for holidays.
How is this okay?
What can you do instead?
We need to create healthy boundaries in order to have a more balanced life. Here are four easy ways to begin doing that.
1. Take Care of You First
Many of us, because we are so busy working or taking care of others, have forgotten or simply don’t know what this means.
But the truth is that we are not just automatons trudging to do a job. We have a physical body that needs care, exercise and healthy food, an emotional body that needs camaraderie, attention and love, an intellect that craves stimulation and a soul that yearns for peace and stillness.
Cheryl Richardson’s book The Art of Extreme Self Care is a great tool to use to delve into this idea more deeply.
But you can also start by making a list of things you love to do and then begin scheduling them into your life.
Maybe it’s signing up for that yoga class you’ve been “meaning” to do for months, or taking a nice hot bath after a long day. Perhaps it’s scheduling a massage or a pedicure.
How can you make time for you?
2. Check Back In With Your Dreams
Where are they and where are you? Are you moving towards your dreams or have you gone far afield?
Think for a moment about your work environment. Is it feeding those dreams and inspiring you? Or did you move into a career for other reasons? If so, how can you shift or adjust your life to bring your dreams and present reality more into alignment?
If you work as a copy editor but really yearn to write, can you carve out a few evenings a week to make time for your novel? Could you get up an hour earlier and spend that quiet time writing?
If you loved art in college but find your job works your intellect and not your creativity, could you find a local studio that offers a class? It may feel like more work but will actually energize you, feed you and feel rewarding.
It will also open you up to your creativity and help you brainstorm how to find a job that better aligns with you.
3. Start Saying No
If you’re in your first job ever, it can be hard to say no BUT once you have established your talent, capability and are sought after, it’s time to add a little enjoyment into life.
Because your life isn’t simply about working more.
How can you begin to reign in crazy overwork?
Perhaps you can hire someone or delegate tasks to another colleague or assistant. One of the suggestions I give to my clients is instead of adding yet another task to your To Do List – ask yourself: Who can do this instead of me?
Recognize what you are excellent at, where you shine and what tasks you do the best. Everything else gets delegated.
Value you – because if you don’t, no one will.
4. Schedule Fun
What do you really love to do?
Now that you’ve answered that question, when are you going to do it? Schedule fun days into your calendar. They are imperative.
If you love to sail, how can you get back on a boat? You don’t have to own one, lots of captains need crews. Check out your local marina and get involved.
Doing things you love and experience as fun, will clear your mind, work your body and help you show up back at work revitalized and refreshed!
In truth, I think this is the lesson that corporate America needs to learn. When people have time to be human and live balanced rich full lives, they’re actually better employees. Their creativity and productivity improves. This has certainly been my experience.