Are you the type of person that is grinding away at your daily work, glances over at your computer monitor and realizes that somehow its 8 PM, over two-hours when you told yourself that you would be leaving for the day. Then you can’t just leave. There are a few loose ends that you have to tie up. You have to put a bow on the day. By the time you get home, it’s 9 PM and you only have an hour or two to eat dinner and unwind before it’s time to go to sleep and start all over again the next day — that’s if you don’t answer the emails that come in periodically throughout the night. If you relate to this you might be a workaholic who needs a better work-life balance.
If that sounds familiar you aren’t alone. Today people are more connected to their work than ever before. We leave the office and still see every email, phone call, and text message as they come in. For people who really do get engrossed in the work, it can be difficult to ever truly get away from it.
If this sounds like you, there are a few steps that you can take to improve work-life balance and provide the distance that you need between your personal life and work that you need:
Schedule Your Personal Life
Schedules aren’t for just work. But if you live and breathe work, then you likely live and breath your schedule as well. It’s important to recognize what is working in your work life and what you rely on to get the things that you want to do done and find ways to apply that to your personal life.
Ensuring that you are scheduling your personal life can be a great way to bridge that gap. Whether you have a workout class, dinner with friends and family, or even just going to the gym — having a place to write it down can help a lot. Then you can schedule your work-free personal time and still feel like you are being productive by following a schedule.
Shorten Your To-Do List
Did you know that 90% of professionals will tell you that they struggle to complete everything on their to-do list? Most of us fall into that group so there is a good chance that you can relate. This is a problem. As workaholics, we still over-fill our to-do lists but we might feel the extra pressure to actually complete them, which necessitates that we work longer.
Instead, recognize that you are the type of person that will always try to complete everything on your to-do list and focus on making shorter and more focused lists for yourself. Don’t jot down every single action item. Keep small insignificant tasks in a completely separate list that you can get to when you have extra time on your hands and reserve your main to-do list for your most pressing matters.
As a rule of thumb, try to have between 3-5 things on your to-do list at all times. The rest can be moved to another list titled “soon,” “eventually,” or something similar. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and keep your lists to just those tasks.
If your workaholic tendencies are driven by the fact that you are handling all of this work yourself, one of the best steps that you can take is to enlist help. Find someone that can help you. Ask if there is someone internally with the skills required to handle specific tasks or portions of specific tasks. Asking your colleagues to contribute isn’t something that you should be ashamed of doing.
Additionally, you can work with someone that can take action items off of your plate permanently. In training them to do certain tasks you can free up your time and give yourself more time to focus on the type of tasks that will be more productive and efficient in the long term. It can seem a little strange to start reaching out to others for help with tasks you’ve been handling for months or even years, but it is often necessary for workaholics who want to improve their work-life balance.
Workaholics in the modern world of have it particularly tough. They can’t just hop in their care and get away from their work. They have laptops, tablets, and phones. Remote work is more popular than it has ever been before. You can’t just disconnect from your work life unless you make a concerted effort to.
Try to create specific times of the day when you unplug completely. Maybe from the moment you get home, you will no longer answer work-related messages. Then, after dinner, as you begin to settle in for the night you can be completely disconnected from your electronic devices.
The truth is that even if you make time to get away from work-related messages, you’re still going to see those emails and text messages coming in.
Force Yourself to Take All Allowed Breaks
One common thing that you see among workaholics is the fact that they don’t take their scheduled breaks because they would rather be working. They might clock out for the break, but they are still sitting in their car working on that presentation or document. You have to force yourself to take your scheduled breaks and unwind for that period of time. When you never disconnect from work during the day, you’ll find it harder to do so at home. Make sure that you are taking your lunch and other allotted breaks throughout the day and actually getting away from work. Take a walk. Go to the break room. Strike up a conversation. Anything but work!
Persistence is Key
If you want to devote less of your life to work, it’s important that you are persistent. You won’t change your habits overnight! But by taking a few small steps in the right direction every day, you can free yourself from the pressure of work and actually improve in the workplace!