We live in an Information Age where speed is everything. We rely on technology to get things done faster so we can take on a larger workload. Multi-tasking is the only way we can get done everything on our “to-do” lists. The more we do, the more there seems to be done.
Companies are requiring longer hours from American workers. It’s been documented by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization that American workers are putting in more hours than anyone else in the industrialized world. The ILO study found that while American workers are putting in roughly 100 to 500 more hours annually than any of our counterparts around the globe, our efficiency levels were not keeping pace with these longer hours. In short: just because we’re busier than ever doesn’t mean we’re doing a better job. And with so many unemployed, the pressure to work overtime is enormous.
More American workers are also opting out of taking their paid vacation leave. The reasons for this are fear of not being to keep up with the increasing workloads, more stress traveling nowadays (gas prices as well as airport security hassles), and, fear of losing a job while away for more than a few days at a time. More than any other nation’s labor force, we also tend to believe our self worth and identity is firmly entwined with what we do for a living and how hard we work at it.
It’s no wonder that more American professionals are facing worker burn out. Turnover rates in some industries, like health care, are higher than they’ve ever been. For the first time in a couple of decades, young people entering the work force are stating in polls that they are more interested in a job that fulfills them than a job that pays the most money. Quality of life is attracting—and keeping—more employees at progressive companies that offer flexible lifestyle benefits in addition to the standard health and retirement packages.
TAKING CARE OF YOU
Whether you’re already in a job and actively searching for a better one, or, you’re fresh out of school looking for your first gig, chances are the process of searching for a job is adding some stress to your life and shortening your “me” time. Let’s face it, in today’s competitive world, looking for a job is a full time job in and of itself.
Pacing yourself will keep you from burning out while you’re looking for –and after you’ve landed—that new job. Set realistic goals for your day and remember to fit in some personal relaxation time. Many great ideas come to us while we’re doing things unrelated to work. For example, Einstein was famous for taking naps and the solution to his Theory of Relativity came to him while he was dreaming. We may not all be geniuses, but, we just might discover the solution to our own career problems while we are focused on taking a hike instead. Slowing down and making yourself a priority is not being lazy: it’s a step towards being a successful, grounded, and productive professional. Learning how to set healthy boundaries is key.
SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
1) Put yourself at the top of your own to-do list. If you are constantly expending
energy and not adding any fuel to your tank, sooner or later you’ll run out of
gas. You’ll have nothing to give to your significant other or your children and
you’ll certainly have nothing to give to your career. Taking care of YOU is your
2) Saying “no” to others is saying “yes” to yourself. What does saying no
mean? Don’t always be available to take on the tough assignments or work overtime on the holidays. Don’t automatically reach for the doughnuts just because someone brought them in to work and you don’t want to hurt their feelings. Don’t come into work when you have a contagious cold that others will catch. Caring for yourself, you will have more to give to others.
3) Protect your ch’i (energy). Don’t take on other people’s negativity. People tend to dump their problems and vent their worries on others who allow them to do it. We end up feeling drained while they walk away feeling lighter for unburdening their load on us. Spreading harmful gossip is another energy zapper. Focus on work and taking care of yourself and avoid all energy vampires.
4) Turn on your answering machine. There, I said it. I give you permission to not answer your phone. Whether at work or at home, you have the power to slow down your responses. You might want to let people know–or not–that during the hours of this and that you are not available. Think of how much easier to get your work done if you have a solid chunk of uninterrupted time? You’ll sleep better at home if you stop accepting phone calls from friends or colleagues at least two hours before your bedtime.
4) Leave work at work. It’s a good idea to decompress from the stress at work
before you begin interacting with your family and friends. Develop some little routine that becomes your own individual “ritual” to help you make the transition from work life to personal life. Your ritual will be your own. The most important thing is to allow yourself at least 20 to 30 minutes at the end of work to let go of the corporate dramas and get your mind back in touch with your life and what’s important to you. After all, you’re not only a professional. You’re a member of a family,and, you have other interests besides what you do for a living. Don’t you?