Workaholic downtime strategies for prioritizing family and health

Faith Wood: How to put your inner workaholic to restAccording to Forbes, the average Frenchman works 18 hours a week; the average Italian about 16.5 and the British work 21.5. But in North America, our idea of full employment is a standard 40-hour week. And in some locales, that number goes even higher.

Our vacations are much shorter than the typical Europeans, as well. The typical Canadian worker takes 19 days off each year, and the typical U.S. worker takes 16 days of vacation each year, compared to the Germans (35 days), the French (37 days) or the Italians (42 days).

What’s wrong with us? How did this happen? More importantly, what needs to occur for us to reset our priorities and take advantage of downtime?

During a recent visit by my daughter and her boyfriend, I tried to get them to spend some playtime with our out-of-town family, who came for a quick visit. Sadly, they simply couldn’t find the time.

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Being passionate about your career, your business, or your job is a good thing. But when it interferes with your family, your social life or your health, it becomes a dangerous thing.

I’m not here to convince you of the detrimental effects of working 80-plus hours a week – you probably know it or aren’t willing to admit that it applies to you. But if you’re starting to wonder where all the fun went, I would like to share a few ideas that may help you get more done in less time (whether you’re a workaholic or not, these will still help you get more done).

Technology has made it far easier to become busy 24/7. The tools are there to keep us plugged into work every waking moment (and focused on what others are doing on social media).

Email is constantly at our fingertips.

You can make phone calls from anywhere, even at your child’s school or sports events. While you may attend the event, your child watching you work defeats the purpose of your attending. The purpose is to show support for your child.

I want to challenge you to try a few new things to attempt to break the workaholic habit:

Become a chunker

Work in uninterrupted 30-minute chunks. Block off 30-minute chunks throughout your day – at least four of them.

Two hours of your day isn’t much to ask if it saves a relationship or your health.

Plan out what you will work on during that chunk. Then, block out everything else. No phones, emails, or chats with colleagues – just you and your project and 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. Use a timer to keep yourself on track.

Promise you will try this. You can get far more done in a 30-minute chunk than hours of ‘multi-tasking.’ All the scientific research proves this is true.

Use the chunking method with those you love as well

Book off time to be with them and promise them you will not check email or answer your phone during that time.

If you do, the punishment is cash – you pay them $20 for every offence. That will undoubtedly keep you motivated to keep your commitment.

Find an accountability partner who can help you stick to the plan

Talk to them once a day for five minutes – reporting in on how you’re doing and where you faltered. Admitting your mistakes publicly and regularly will help you see how bad it’s become.

There: three simple tips that anyone can try. Are you up for the challenge? Will you give it a go for a week, at a minimum?

Good. Now block off some times for your chunking – and stick to the plan. It will do far more for your health, your relationships and your productivity than anything else.

At least give it a good college try for your family’s sake!

Faith Wood is a professional speaker, author, and certified professional behaviour analyst. Before her career in speaking and writing, she served in law enforcement, giving her a unique perspective on human behaviour and motivations. Faith is also known for her work as a novelist, with a focus on thrillers and suspense. Her background in law enforcement and understanding of human behaviour often play a significant role in her writing.

For interview requests, click here.

The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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