“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.” – Voltaire
Working long hours on a regular basis can be easy to do when you run your own business. It can be equally, if not more difficult, when you work from home. The guilt creeps when you shut down your computer for the day. Your gut twists with the nagging worry that you will never get everything finished on your list.
The work trap.
A habit forms when you begin to put others first before taking take of your own needs. If there is any time left over in your day then you give yourself attention. You hide from others just how much you are carrying on your shoulders. Remember the directions about the oxygen mask when flying on an airplane? Yes, you place the oxygen mask on yourself first then tend to those around you.
Taking care of your needs helps fuel you to take care of others. It’s when you borrow from tomorrow’s health for today’s needs that leads to chronic stress.
Guilt is a useless emotion.
This guilt goes beyond the normal knowing right from wrong. Guilt and excessive worry can catapult your stress level. Beating yourself up about the amount of work on your to do list can cause overwhelm. High levels of guilt can paralyze you, your productivity and your quality of life. It’s important to examine just what expectations you have attached to your work performance.
Let’s talk about some ways to leave work and leave the guilt behind:
1. Make doable goals. Does it seem like your to do list never gets done? A tip can be to make sure your goals are bite-size. Map out how you see a project will unfold from beginning to end. Determine when you will accomplish your goals. If you find yourself feeling anxiety about not getting something done, check in to see how big your goal is and other factors like focus and discipline (more about this below). Be realistic and add on just a bit more time than expected to complete you task or goal.
2. Have an end-of-day ritual. Update your list for the next day so you can start quickly the next work day. Then spend some time decompressing from the day. If your office is away from home, commute time can help disconnect work from home. Having a home office, however, can leave a void in moving in personal life mode. It’s important to have space before jumping into home responsibilities. Whether it’s taking a walk, deep breathing or a short meditation, do something that will ease you into the rest of your day.
3. Close the door to your office. Literally. Close the door behind you if your home office is in a separate space from the rest of your home. My startup office was in an open space. It’s tempting to go back and check on something. Make sure you disconnect from all tech sources, just as if you are leaving the office. It can become a compulsion to check your email and social media after the end of the day.
4. Focus and discipline. Have you ever wondered where the time has gone at the end of the day? It’s really important to know not only where you spend your time but that you have strong focus to finish your list. It’s so easy to get distracted with email, phone calls and especially social media. Set a timer for tasks or use a productivity manager to help you see how much time you are spending on a certain task.
5. Outsource. It’s so important to ask for help and outsource any tasks that take too much time. Spend the most time possible on the part of the project you are good at and allow others from your support team to give you a hand. Wringing your hand over how to do something complicated can be quickly remedied by someone who can do the job quickly.
Follow these tips to free yourself from working long hours. Set boundaries in your work life and discover the new freedom to care for YOU.