Are You Letting Your Career Ruin Your Life?

Kathleen Byars | April 22, 2017

I’ve been ruminating this week on some of the biggest career mistakes I’ve seen lately…

But there’s one critical error I saw yesterday that will keep you trapped in a life of frenzy, instead of feeling fulfilled and free.

CAREER MISTAKE #3 – “Mistaking commitment for hours on the job”

Here are three reasons why people tend to WORK MORE HOURS than they ever need to and disrupt their own ability to enjoy their life…

1. FEAR (I’ve talked about this in previous articles)

2. YOU MISTAKE HOURS OF WORK FOR VALUE

This sounds harmless, but here’s the issue:

Getting MORE work done is NOT always better.

When you become the go-to for “getting things done,” you’ll not only burn yourself out but also stall your career.

You will find yourself caught in an expectation triangle from your peers, your staff, and your boss. They’ll rely on you to:

  • Take on an extra assignment (or two) even when your plate is overflowing
  • Schedule conference calls while on vacation
  • Skip your child’s school play
  • Answer your cell phone at all hours, including weekends

And while it may feel good to be the point person that everyone turns to when there’s a major project to tackle, how will it look when year after year your most valuable career asset is the fact you’ll take one for the team time and time again?

That work ethic works wonders when you’re straight out of grad school. And any corporation will eat up as many hours as you’re willing to give.

Yet, I don’t want to be the tough girl who handles the bulk of the work. ANYONE can do that.

I would rather be a high-level contributor who brings intellect, confidence and results in the workplace.

And goes home each day at a reasonable hour with her cell phone OFF.

That’s why I’ve learned to find super-intriguing career opportunities where I am valued – and well paid for that value – without requiring me to work an insane number of hours.

3. YOU FEEL GUILTY FOR WORKING LESS – and feel awful that other people on the team may be burning the midnight oil while you’re home snuggling your kiddos.

…so you feel compelled to work all those hours to make sure you’re valuable (and to assuage that guilt).

I get it – it stinks to watch others working ridiculous hours, especially if you think they resent you (rather than look in their own mirror).

Don’t get me wrong – being a team player and feeling valuable are important.

BUT…this becomes a problem when you believe that working an insane amount of hours is the way to achieve this.

Let this sink in – – YOU CAN BE HIGHLY VALUED – AND COMMAND A COMFY SALARY – WITHOUT WORKING A TON OF HOURS

Plus you’ll never get it all done. There will always be one more email to answer, one more phone call to return, one small detail on your presentation to fix…

But there will NEVER be another life than the one you’ve got now. Getting a lot done isn’t value. It’s work.

There are plenty of ways that you can provide value WITHOUT working 50+ hours per week.

In most cases, I’ve found that the real issue with those struggling with work-life balance is NOT the employer. It’s usually that:

You are a highly successful person that has an inner drive to be productive at all times.

Even when you are “relaxing” you struggle to be calm. It’s impossible to turn your mind off. While watching a Friday night Netflix you constantly pop up and down off the couch until the kids shout “why don’t you just SIT DOWN?”

You’re confusing “being valued” with “if I’m the one that gets work done I will be the most valuable.”

And although you desperately want to get off the fast train and enjoy a slower pace, that inner guilt and anxiety won’t let you.

I know. I get it. I used to jump into my voice mailbox the minute I started driving in order to “get ahead” of my day. I had to filter emails while I sat in the bleachers during my daughter’s basketball game. And although I negotiated wonderful flex schedules with almost every employer I’ve ever worked for, I never managed to work less – I just worked more from a different locale.

The struggle is real.

Anyone else struggle working less while still feeling valued? 

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