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.
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Never, Ever, Kill the Messenger
- If you're a manager in a project-oriented organization, you need to know the full, unvarnished Truth.
When you kill a messenger, you deliver a message of your own: Tell me the Truth at your peril. Killing
messengers has such predictable results that you have to question any report you receive — good
news or bad.
- Irrational Self-Interest
- When we try to influence others, especially large groups or entire companies, we sometimes create packages
of incentives and disincentives that are intended to affect behavior. These strategies usually assume
that people make choices on rational grounds. Is this assumption valid?
- When Change Is Hard: I
- Sometimes changing organizations goes smoothly. More often, it doesn't. Whatever methodology we use
— and there are many methodologies available — difficulties can arise. When change is hard,
what's happening? What makes change hard?
- Preventing Toxic Conflict: I
- Conflict resolution skills are certainly useful. Even more advantageous are toxic conflict prevention
skills, and skills that keep constructive conflict from turning toxic.
- Compulsive Talkers at Work: Peers I
- Our exploration of approaches for dealing with compulsive talkers now continues, with Part I of a set
of suggestions for what to do when a peer interferes with your work by talking compulsively.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 20: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: I
- One class of disruptions in meetings includes the tactics of stone-throwers — people who exploit low-cost tactics to disrupt the meeting and distract all participants so as to obstruct progress. How do they do it, and what can the meeting chair do? Available here and by RSS on March 20.
- And on March 27: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from embarrassing the Chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can Chairs do about stone-throwers? Available here and by RSS on March 27.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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