Hi, I’m Kim, and I’m a reformed workaholic. Just a few months ago, I started my morning by checking my email. Meaning, I kept my cell phone next to my pillow and grabbed it as soon as I opened my eyes. I took vacations where I swore I’d unplug, but would be constantly monitoring my FB group, so much that members were shouting at me to go away and not return until I was back home. While watching a movie with my daughter, I would somehow wind up on the computer 10 minutes in. I was glued to my phone at the gym. On dog walks. During sex. While drinking wine with my friend. If I wasn’t working, I felt a sense of panic. God forbid I left my phone at home while I ran to Target. What if someone sent me an important email! Maybe someone would ask a question in my FB group! I made people around me miserable, and that desire to not miss a thing was sucking the joy right out of everything I did. Can you relate?
Luckily, I had a “come to Jesus” moment a few months back, when I went to the zoo with my daughter, and realized halfway there that I’d left my phone at home. For a while, I was in full blown nervous breakdown mode. What if someone needed me? Surely the world was going to come to a screeching halt if I wasn’t accessible? We were with my mom, who refused to turn around and go back so I could get my phone (I think she was secretly thrilled), so if we got attacked by an alligator, we could call for help.
Once we got there, I was amazed at how much fun we had. My daughter seemed happier. My mom was less frustrated. I felt relaxed, in the moment, and happy.
When we got home, my daughter made a comment about how she had so much fun with me when I wasn’t on my phone. I decided, in that moment, that unplugging was something I HAD to master. So, I worked on it, and now, I’m a total reformed workaholic.
If your tendency to be constantly working is ruining your relationships, your happiness, or both, ease into unplugging with these three tips!
1. Acknowledge that most things are not urgent.
When I was on my last vacation, I put up a vacation responder on my email, letting people know I’d get back to them when I returned. I told my FB group members that I’d be gone, and wouldn’t be very active until I got home. Only, whenever I got an email, I’d return it right away. I was on FB constantly. I was so afraid that if I wasn’t around, things would all crumble. Only, that wasn’t true. Fact of the matter is, most of the emails I get, and comments on social media, are not emergencies. People don’t expect me to be working like mad on my family vacation. In fact, by refusing to relax, I was setting a bad example. I work with business owners, and always stress the importance of balance. It’s something I’m great at helping people with, and implementing, when I want to. Only, usually I’m ignoring my own advice. Which makes me look silly! In my experience, people don’t admire workaholics, they feel sorry for them. Don’t be the person who can never relax. The woman that gets divorced because she just couldn’t shut it down. Remember that there are things much more urgent than any email coming in on your phone.
2. Set boundaries, and stick to them!
I used to set boundaries, that I constantly ignored. Which made other people ignore them. Clients would email me at 11PM expecting replies, because I always replied to them at that time. My family would get furious when I said “just five more minutes”, because they knew it was never five minutes. No one took me seriously. Which was so frustrating! Once I began sticking to the boundaries I set, the whole world began to change. I didn’t get late night emails much, and when I did, my clients usually said something like “I know you don’t answer emails at night, but if I didn’t get it out I might forget! I know you won’t respond until tomorrow. I hope you’re having a great night!”. Whoa. That felt good!
Regardless of what type of business you have, set office hours. I officially work from 9-5 Monday through Friday. I’m off on the weekends. Granted, I usually work earlier than that, and some days I work later. On the weekends, I might do something quick, or spend an entire day on the computer. But, that’s my choice, no one expects me to be available.
Whenever I start working with a new client, I tell them my office hours. During the week, and on the weekends, I have auto-replies on my email so people know when they can expect a response. I do check my email still, and if I’m not busy and want to respond sooner I will. But, it feels nice not to feel like I NEED to. Plus, I no longer feel like I need to drop what I’m doing and send an email or check social media.
3. Take baby steps
If you’re seriously addicted to working, making a bunch of big changes can be scary. So, make some small ones!
- Out of sight, out of mind. Put your phone somewhere out of reach at night, and put it on sleep mode so it is not constantly alerting you to new emails.
- Start small. Maybe you’re not ready to tell people you don’t work weekends. Start by just setting a time for weekdays, or setting weekend hours. As you get used to it, you may find yourself excited to cut back even more!
- Ask for help. If you tend to not even realize you’re always ending up with your computer on your lap, ask your family to keep you in check. The best way to break a habit is to know when it’s happening!
- Start leaving your phone at home, for small trips. Say you’re running to Starbucks. Leave your phone at home. Ten minutes won’t hurt anyone. As you get used to being away from technology, aim to do it more often, for longer periods of time.
- Find a hobby. It’s much easier to not feel married to your work when you have something you love to do. Maybe it’s pottery, or drawing, or sleeping. Whatever! Just find something to do that you love, that makes you happy, that is just for you.
- Know your why. For me, stepping away from my business is important because it means I get to be more involved with my family. Remember that I’m doing it for my daughter makes it much easier!
Really, for me, realizing that my gifts were important, and unique, and valuable…but not irreplaceable put me in check. I’m not curing cancer here. What I do is not life or death, even though often the stakes are high for many of my clients. If I step away from my FB group for two days, it will be ok. The members might miss my insight, but they will be ok. Especially because they know that I will answer them when I get back.
I promise, when you’re not living to work, life suddenly become much more joyful. In fact, I would argue that I now run my business even better.
What are your biggest struggles when it comes to keeping balance between your work and your life?
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