We all have seen those people around us in the workplace who pride themselves of continuously being busy and just have enough time to breath! They are so engrossed in work that they don’t have time to notice what’s happening in their surroundings, go for lunch or let alone take time off or go on vacation. The only thing they are so good at is working and working and more working.
When the COVID outbroke early last year, those workaholics were the most people -I suppose- who got hit hard by its consequences because only then they were forced to take time to do something other than work and this was scary for many of them. This involuntary “time at home” revealed to many “busy” people how empty their lives were without work as they never considered developing other aspects of their lives other than work and career.
Mind you, there is a big distinction between “workaholics” and “achievers” as the first category bases great importance on “working hard” and the latter know how to “work smart”. That’s why sooner or later, workaholics end up feeling stressed and exhausted while their productivity gradually takes a noticeable downturn because they don’t exercise self-compassion contrary to their counterparts who know how to strike a healthy balance among various life areas.
I’ve talked about this phenomenon extensively in my book “Beat The Odds”, chapter 6 titled: “Surprise Your Employer” and how working hard -as many thought- was never the criteria for career success neither achieving overall effectiveness in life. Working smart is not about taking shortcuts or deceiving others as some may understand; working smart means being able to prioritize and having the ability to “Put First Things First” and focus on the things that you will excel most in and add value to others as a result. Working smart is respecting your time and your company’s valuable time and not wasting neither’s time on meaningless tasks nor time fillers.
It’s totally understandable to work hard at some crucial stages in your work life like at the start of a new role until you setup things or the beginning of a key project until tasks are assigned, and the project is up and running, etc. After that, you really got to work smart in the sense of maintaining open communication with relevant stakeholders, doing regular progress checks, and clearing up obstacles for your team that may hinder the smooth flow of work.
From my over 15 years of professional experience, I’ve seen that employers don’t necessarily pay attention to those who work hard, but almost everyone notices that handful of individuals who know how to work smart. I can talk about this because I’ve tried both approaches and only started seeing desirable professional results once I’ve understood the difference between both and when and how much to use each one.
So, my point here is that there is nothing fun or glorious about being busy all the time or being a work freak as many pride themselves to be. Get used to the habit of disconnecting and taking some time away from work between now and then to do anything else except work! Even if you sleep all day or just sit and do nothing or just go out to see new people or visit new places etc. Those who have tried this can tell you the incredible impact this has on your creativity and increased productivity once you resume work after a refreshing break.
Besides, many people assume hard work will eventually lead them to future success or achievement, while achievement means different things to different people, but the common understanding most working people have about it is the ability to acquire materialistic things such as money, status, the position of power, or the like. Over time though, these sorts of achievements become tasteless and we realize that the main achievement is attaining peace of mind and having the wisdom to balance the various areas of life. However, to reach this stage, you without a doubt need to experience those things first to draw this fair conclusion.
The fact really remains that work is only a portion of life, so don’t make your life all about work and lose sight of the bigger picture and ultimate meaning of life. Be kind to yourself and exercise self-compassion to be able to put things in perspective.