Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about work when away from it.
I feel as though I can’t stop thinking about work, even on the weekends. Every weekend, I am miserable because I think about what happened during that week. No matter what I do, I always think that I can do better. I do try to focus on my work, but I wonder if that’s enough.
Signed, It’s Work, Work, Work
Dear It’s Work, Work, Work:
It’s 9:07 Saturday night! What’s wrong about that? That is the time I have looked at Ask The Workplace Doctors and received your question. Again, I ask you what’s wrong about that? Answer: that is the time you sent your question and that is the time I received it–You are focusing on work on Saturday night rather than doing something that you especially enjoy. Your Saturday night question is not all wrong because it means you are facing up to the fact that thinking about work on a weekend indicates your life is not in balance. By asking this question you are voicing the symptom of an unhappy life. You spell that out when you say: “Every weekend, I am miserable because I think about what happened during that week” and you add “No matter what I do, I always think that I can do better. I do try to focus on my work, but I wonder if that’s enough.”
Now as I respond to your question at 10 p.m. Saturday night, if I were a praying person, I would pray that I might write a prescription for happiness that would take away your misery. This Workplace Doctor has no such sure-fire, sure-cure prescription. However, I do have some prescriptions that are not simply “self-help” placebos. Some of them will strike you as simplistic and overlapping, but their only cost to you will be to take the time and effort to think them through.
Find those that make sense for you and then apply those that do.
1. Talk Walk. This prescription is both short-term and long-term medicine. Will walking take your mind off of thinking about work? Not completely, but it will help if you actually make time to walk at least half an hour each day; possibly during your lunch hour you might pair up with a coworker and walk and talk. I’m sure there is much to talk about at work and about each of your lives outside of the job. Walking is my way of focusing on your health. Of course from here, I can’t know if physical and/or emotional health is a problem for you. But because you are like the rest of us, I know you have only one body. So I ask, might you put your worries about your job aside for a little while if you can realize that caring for your health is as or more important than your work; what you eat, how much, how much fun it is and delicious it is to make some recipes and to share them with others???
2. Talk Light. Talking about your self is ok with a counselor, clergy, personal trainer, or friend. Spill out your worries, hopes, dreams and blessings. That talk might begin with talk about self-centered things, about hair, complexion, weight, possessions you have and don’t have.
3. Talk Serious. It’s ok to admit we are a narcissistic society, but I predict that your talk will also spill out your overpowering concern about your work, and that talk will allow that someone with whom you talk to help you think through why say, “No matter what I do, I always think that I can do better. I do try to focus on my work, but I wonder if that’s enough.” Talk purpose. I’m not prescribing religion, but I am prescribing that you work up a life plan, or at least you plan what you might do during this coming month that is outside of work; such whimsical things as learning zumba or serious things such as tutoring a child or adult at the library who is learning to read–or work related things such as mapping out training that will make you more effective on the job.
4. Talk Values. Susan M. Heathfield, About.com Guide recommends that each of us need to identify and establish our values, and she lists positive ones such as: ambition, competency, individuality, equality, integrity, service, responsibility, accuracy, respect, dedication, diversity, improvement, enjoyment/fun, loyalty, credibility, honesty, innovation, teamwork, excellence, accountability, empowerment, quality, efficiency, dignity, collaboration, stewardship, empathy, accomplishment, courage, wisdom, independence, security, challenge, influence, learning, compassion, friendliness, discipline/order, generosity, persistence, optimism, dependability, flexibility. http://humanresources.about.com/od/success/qt/values_s7.htm Ms. Heathfield, a Human Resource for Human Resource people, says that employers can enable its workforce to balance their lives: “Work-life balance is assisted by employers who institute policies, procedures, actions, and expectations that enable employees to easily pursue more balanced lives.”
5. Talk Team. It probably isn’t your fault that you think about work and “always think that I can do better.” You may have had that drummed into you by your parents, teachers, or church. Possibly you grew up feeling inadequate because you weren’t given the same brains or opportunities as others around you. Perhaps you never got the lesson of Goldilocks, that life is sometimes too hot and too cold; that good enough is good enough. I sum up each answer I give to questions such as yours with I call a WEGO value. Rather than after you have done what you can reasonably do “wonder if that’s enough”, I suggest you brainstorm about ways you might silently or openly team up with one or more coworkers to find small ways you can make each others work easier and more fun, more effective for internal and external customers and more profitable. So often we see our job as flying solo, and part of every job is know how to take off, fly the friendly and unfriendly skies and land solo. But even the Flying Fool Charles Lindbergh, who over 100 years ago was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic, named the book about that flight We. My final prescription is counter-intuitive: It is not to “stop thinking about work, even on the weekends.”
It is to accept the fact that at this time in your life you do think about and worry about your job. That’s the way it is. Don’t punish yourself for that. Rather focus your thinking on the bigger picture; on the mission of you work, what contribution it is and can make to our world, to cutting wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy and to making our workplace more attractive, pleasant, and friendlier.In conclusion, on this Saturday night, if you read and re-read these prescriptions, I predict that you will have more than enough to think about, even tomorrow morning. Think about them and talk about them. See if any make sense. Also, on our home page click on the name of my associate Workplace Doctor Tina Lewis Rowe. That will pull up her own site that is rich with advice about how to have a healthy perspective on and off the job. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Thinking through the deeper meaning of that simple closing sentence should shift mind from yourself to those you work with and for. If you find, typos or errors, please let me know because it is late and don’t want to proof this long answer before sending it to you should you still be awake at midnight.