Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens.
Our culture celebrates workaholism. We hear stories of people who “burn the mid-night oil” at the office, or about individuals who never take vacations. Working a lot doesn’t mean you deserve a gold star or a raise.
Working too much is likely to decrease your productivity, leave you creatively drained, and negatively effect relationships with friends and family. Don’t get me wrong, pursuing your passion is a beautiful gift and there is nothing wrong with working hard on projects you love. However, it’s essential to take breaks. Whether you’re working from home or in an office environment it’s essential to nourish your creative spirit.
Below are a few creative ways to avoid becoming a workaholic.
1. Set clear boundaries. Make sure your working hours are consistent. For instance, if you work from 8am to 5pm make sure you leave the office by 5. Don’t stay late.
2. Get enough sleep!
“If you encounter someone who’s acting like a fool, there’s a good chance that person is suffering from sleep deprivation.” ~Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Rework
Staying up late to work on a project and then getting up at 5am to go into the office is not a good strategy. Lack of creativity, diminished morale and irritability are a few traits of people who go without sleep. Work smarter, not harder.
3. Unplug from the internet. Getting work done doesn’t require an internet connection. It’s amazing what can happen when you step out from behind the computer screen or your mobile device. Most of my killer ideas come to me when I’m taking a shower, on a walk, cooking a meal, and “not working.”
Everyone is creative and ideas can come to you at odd moments. Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you have to implement it right away. Keep a journal with you at all times so that you can capture your idea and enjoy your down time.
4. Spend time in nature. Spending time in nature is a great way reduce stress, disconnect from everyday worries and incoming work messages. Set aside time in your daily life to go outside. For instance, take a half hour walk everyday and be mindful of your surroundings. There is no need to rush. Take your time, try to understand your instinctual feelings and observe the natural beauty in your neighborhood.
5. Make time for friends, family and your partner. If you’re working too much, you’re probably sacrificing time with friends, family and your life partner. Doing work you love is extremely important, but so are the people who love you. Consider how you spend your time and what is truly important in life. When you are with your family, friends and life partner, really be there. Make an effort to be present. For instance, if you’re having a conversation with a friend listen to what they are saying. Be engaged and ask questions.
6. Eat real food. A side effect of working too much is eating out more and not eating real food. Real food includes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Before you head out to the office, take time the night before or early in the morning to prepare a healthy breakfast and lunch.
Most importantly, don’t eat while you’re working. Savor your food and enjoy every bite. Studies have show that if you eat food quickly, you’re more likely to over eat and gain weight.
7. Find a hobby. Cultivate a hobby; preferably something that doesn’t relate to your day job. Start by brainstorming your interests. For example, you can start running, walking, knitting, reading novels, or writing. A hobby should be something that brings you joy; something you can lose yourself in and find your flow.
8. Listen to your body. If you are working too much you will start feeling tired, cranky and apathetic. All of these symptoms are a sign that you need to slow down. It’s essential to listen to your body. When you listen to your body, you’ll know when your sick or just need some extra rest.
9. Constantly question your goals and life purpose. It’s important to continually reevaluate your goals, life purpose and behaviors. For example if you constantly stay late at the office, sacrifice personal relationships because of work, or check your email obsessively, ask yourself:
Why am I doing this?
What is the end goal?
Are my behaviors healthy?
10. Continue to cultivate healthy habits. Developing healthy habits is not something that happens overnight. By working on one small behavior change everyday, you can make huge changes over the long-term. For example, rather than checking your email every five minutes, start checking it 3 times a day.
Also, consider incorporating small changes to your daily routine, like getting a half hour of exercise everyday, preparing your own food and being present when you spend time with friends and family.
11. Reach out to others with a good work-life balance. If you think you’re a workaholic, reach out to others. Connect with friends, family, and consider therapy as an option. If you think this is negatively impacting your life, do something about the problem. We only get one life. So live it well and take care of yourself.