Deborah glanced at the clock. Rats, 5:10 — crush hour. If she left now, she would be home no sooner than if she waited till 5:45. Might as well stay till then, she thought, and so she did. Time passed.
Then Max appeared at her door to empty her trashcan. "Hi there," he said with a polite smile. "Hello, Max," Deborah replied, glancing at the clock, which now read 6:20. Oops — another almost-11-hour day. Deborah's company was doing well, and workloads were reasonable. Yet here she was, saying hello again to the cleaning staff she had come to know by name.
She had tried to cut back her hours, even declining the move to Headquarters because of the drive time and the travel. Her problem was of her own making, and like many of us, she wondered why she worked so hard. She worried about burnout.
Understanding your excessive work patterns probably requires counseling in some form. But if you want to change, you can try some exercises on your own first. Here are three:Getting control
of patterns of
hours takes practice
- Tell a friend you want to work fewer hours
- The simple act of saying the words aloud helps: "I work too many hours. It's my own doing and I can change it." Go somewhere private and say it out loud. Try watching yourself in a mirror as you say it. Still better: say it to someone who cares about you.
- Do love drills
- The change might be easier if you change for something. Think of something you love — your family, a significant other, or a sport or hobby. Schedule three times during the day to contemplate that person or thing for 60 seconds (that's a long time). Make one of these times no more than 30 minutes before you'd like to be leaving at the end of the day. Do this every day for a week. Increase the frequency every week until you see a change.
- Practice leaving on time
- For one week, leave work at the time you'd like to leave, knowing that after ten minutes, you can come back. Set an alarm to remind yourself. "Leaving" means actually packing up, exiting the building, and leaving the property. While you're away, you may not do anything "constructive" — no eating or drinking, no errands. In week two, stay away for 15 minutes. In week three, stay away for 20 minutes. After six weeks, you'll be staying away so long that you might as well just go home.
I could go on, but it's almost time to leave, and I want to get out on time. This much will have to do. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Stay in Your Own Hula Hoop
- Do you tend to commit to too many tasks? Are you one who spends too much energy meeting the needs of
others — so much that your own needs go unmet? Here's how a hula-hoop can help.
- Working Out on Your Dreadmill
- Many of us are experts in risk analysis and risk management. Even the nonspecialists among us have developed
considerable skill in anticipating troubles and preparing plans for dealing with them. When these habits
of thought leak into our personal lives, we pay a high price.
- Feedback Fumbles
- "Would you like some feedback on that?" Uh-oh, you think, absolutely not. But if you're like
many of us, your response is something like, "Sure, I'd be very interested in your thoughts."
Why is giving and receiving feedback so difficult?
- Handling Heat: I
- Heated exchanges in meetings are expensive to both the organizational mission and to the careers of
the meeting's participants. Preventing them — or dealing with them when they happen — is
everyone's job. But what can you do when they persist?
- Compulsive Talkers at Work: Addiction
- Incessant, unending talking about things that the listener doesn't care about, already knows about,
or can do nothing about is an irritating behavior that harms both talker and listener. What can we do
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- Some people tend to disrupt meetings. Their motives vary, but they use techniques drawn from a limited collection. Examples: they violate norms, demand attention, mess with the agenda, and sow distrust. Response begins with recognizing their tactics. Available here and by RSS on June 7.
- And on June 14: Pseudo-Collaborations
- Most workplace collaborations produce results of value. But some collaborations — pseudo-collaborations — are inherently incapable of producing value, due to performance management systems, or lack of authority, or lack of access to information. Available here and by RSS on June 14.
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