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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