When the lockdown was announced and working from home became your reality, there was an expectation of more time available to you due to lack of traffic and the commute. Quite quickly it became apparent that this is an illusion and a false expectation. How to stop working around the clock?
Over the last few months, I have trained hundreds of people on stress and productivity and found the same complaint. People are feeling like they are working harder than ever before and they are battling to switch off. They are working from morning to night and on weekends. This isn’t just people with families and kids during lockdown but people who are in quarantine on their own too.
If you are nodding your head in agreement, the good news is you are not alone but the bad news is that this is just not sustainable. There is no real clarity on when you will be returning to the office or even if you will be returning to the office this year.
Initially, it seemed ok to be completely out of balance because the internal dialogue was convincing you ‘it’s OK because it’s new. It’s OK because I have to get my team on track. It’s OK because there is much to deal with in the initial period’. But now over one year have passed and nothing has changed, it has become your new way of being.
Working around the clock has become a pandemic within the pandemic.
Stop Working Around The Clock!
You are not being as productive as you could be because you are sacrificing work for sleep and most likely your much-needed self-care routine is non-existent. Or you have convinced yourself 5 minutes of exercise or meditation is sufficient because ‘I don’t have time for it and I’m just too busy’.
If these endless workdays have left you feeling on the edges of burnout – take a deep breath and know you can change this. You can take your power back and reclaim your days.
Lockdown is an opportunity to really bring a new meaning to lifestyle design and craft your days to ensure you are feeling content, inspired and energised. There is always going to be stress and there are going to be those days where late nights and an urgent crisis appears but keep those as the exceptions rather than the norm.
Here are my top tips to stop working around the clock, to own your days and not feel like they are owning you:
1. Learn the art of saying no
“No is a complete sentence” — Anne Lamott
This tiny word triggers so many emotions, mainly guilt and anxiety. It goes deeper because you immediately think ‘If I say no, they won’t like me or if I say no I’ll feel too guilty or I’ll be letting them down’. The truth is, if you give away your ‘yes’s’ too freely, then you will eventually land up in burnout. You have to give yourself permission to protect your time and create boundaries. Saying no is an art.
My co-author Nadia Bilchik and I published ‘Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman’ in 2016 where we spoke about the ‘Yes Sandwich’. This is an approach that allows you to turn down a request in a way that softens the blow and helps the other person not to take your ‘no’ so personally.
It has 3 layers:
Layer 1: Begin by positively acknowledging the other person’s intent.
Layer 2: This is where you graciously say no.
Layer 3: Offer an alternative (this is optional)
In the real world, it would look like this. If you are invited to attend a webinar, online networking or social chat/event after hours, you could say:
- ‘Thank you so much for the invitation and for thinking of me.’
- ‘Unfortunately this is my family time or I have made another commitment already’.
- ‘Please think of me for the next one as I would love to support you.’
In this way, the person doesn’t feel hurt or offended and you have left space for them to approach you again without feeling put out or personally attacked. If you’re still cringing at the thought of saying no, here are some key questions to ask yourself:
- Are you comfortable saying no when appropriate?
- Are you a ‘Yes person and people pleaser’?
- Do you avoid conflict to the extent that you fill your work and life with activities that keep you from things that are more important and result in you working around the clock?
Another way to think about saying no is to separate the decision from the relationship. Peter Bregman spoke about this concept in his book ‘4 Seconds’. He said often we confuse the decision with the relationship with that person. We feel that denying the request is the same as denying the person and it really isn’t. So first make the decision objectively and then communicate your no with compassion and courage.
“Lack of preparation on your behalf does not constitute a sense of urgency on mine” – Unknown