We’ve all heard about the importance of working hard and how it manifests into a strong work ethic. We’ve also been advised to use technology to help us work smart by prioritizing and multitasking our activities. We’ve been told that this concentrated focus on work is what creates success.
But we’re rarely told to personally celebrate our achievements — to create our own “woo hoo” moments — before we move on to the next task.
And, if we want to succeed, we’ve never been told to stop working.
In the American workplace, working long hours is often considered to be a badge of honor – even though many of us are cranky, burned out, and (if we’re honest with ourselves) not really living up to our full potential. Yet we continue to push ourselves because the Puritan work ethic on which our country was founded persistently pervades our ideas about what it means to be a “good” worker and a professional success.
Asian spiritualities advise that hard work (or forceful determination) must be balanced with not working (or surrendering) in order to recoup our energies. We might be aware of this recommendation, but we often ignore ignore this healthier (and happier) approach to life and work. The question is, why?
It has been said that many people choose their professional paths based upon the issues that they need to resolve in their own lives. I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life, tend to be a high (or over) achiever, and am proud to be a “reformed” perfectionist. Burnout was always on the horizon as I pushed myself to do more.
Is it any surprise that I’ve dedicated my practice to eradicating workplace burnout?
In the past, like many people, even when I wasn’t technically working, I continued to think about work…and strategies…and clients and marketing..and profits and expenses. I never really stopped thinking about work. But I also found that my life was a never-ending “to do” list: as I checked off one task, I immediately moved on to the next. I never really permitted myself the joy and rejuvenating power of totally letting work go.
But isn’t that what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
Several years ago, I was forced into quiet reflection as the result of surgeries and recovery for a detached retina. After 6 surgeries, I was healed with no visual impairment. But the recovery embraced more than just my eye: I really started to question the silent but pervasive nagging that success requires a 24/7 commitment to working hard and working smart. I had fallen into the trap that this was what it meant to have “focus” — and this unwavering focus was (or so I had been told) the path to success.
But my recovery changed that paradigm.
I learned that this mislabeling of tunnel vision as “focus” can be the path to dissatisfaction, unhappiness, lack of clarity, and physical and psychological dis-ease.
Although I had always leaned toward Eastern spiritualities, I made a concentrated effort to be consciously mindful and present in each moment. I’m not going to lie: this commitment was no small task!
So, I gave up attempts to multitask – not only do I now find it to be rude (consider the face-to-face meetings where one or more parties constantly “checks” their Smart Phones), but I also believe that multitasking actually reduces efficiency and efficacy.
I also remind myself that it is important to celebrate my achievements. I no longer finish a task without a “mini-celebration” (my own private “woo hoo!” moment of recognition) before I move on to the next project. Especially when you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t rely on coworkers to “remind” you to celebrate and appreciate what you’ve done.
I continue to learn how to ignore the autocratic demands of the hardened task master of my thoughts that constantly pushed me to do more.
And I became very proactive in avoiding and overcoming burnout. (Don’t we all tend to focus our professional lives on those issues that we ourselves have faced?)
I found that the results have been remarkable. Working less hours, I am accomplishing more. Taking time each day for myself without guilt, I have unleashed a new sense of joy in whatever I am doing. I have become much more patient with myself and have given up trying to be “Super Woman.” In other words, I am more creative, more focused,…and a lot less stressed.
Based on my own personal experience, I firmly believe that the old-fashioned mantra of “work hard, play hard” needs to be replaced with “work hard, work smart,…then don’t work!”
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.