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:
- Marking Grief
- Grief is usually a private matter, but for many, September Eleventh is different because our grief can
be centered in the workplace. On September Eleventh, give yourself permission to do what you need for
yourself, and give others permission to do what they need for themselves. Here are some choices.
- Self-Serving Bias in Organizations
- We all want to believe that we can rely on the good judgment of decision makers when they make decisions
that affect organizational performance. But they're human, and they are therefore subject to a cognitive
bias known as self-serving bias. Here's a look at what can happen.
- Not Really Part of the Team: I
- Some team members hang back. They show little initiative and have little social contact with other team
members. How does this come about?
- Human Limitations and Meeting Agendas
- Recent research has discovered a class of human limitations that constrain our ability to exert self-control
and to make wise decisions. Accounting for these effects when we construct agendas can make meetings
more productive and save us from ourselves.
- Quips That Work at Work: I
- Perhaps you've heard that humor can defuse tense situations. Often, a clever quip, deftly delivered,
does help. And sometimes, it's a total disaster. What accounts for the difference?
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 27: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: II
- Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
- And on March 6: A Pain Scale for Meetings
- Most meetings could be shorter, less frequent, and more productive than they are. Part of the problem is that we don't realize how much we do to get in our own way. If we track the incidents of dysfunctional activity, we can use the data to spot trends and take corrective action. Available here and by RSS on March 6.
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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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