How to Ditch The Exhausting 50-hour Work Weeks, and the Guilt

Last week I made a case for keeping our working hours under 50, and now I’m going to show you how to cut back the hours so you can enjoy the harmony you deserve.

The whole goal here is to find a pace that is sustainable for the long haul so that you can keep overwhelm and burnout at bay, and enjoy life along the way, all while being super productive and impactful.

Let me start off by saying that I totally get that certain seasons of our careers require more heavy lifting than others.  I’m no stranger to working a gazillion hours a week – when I was a pension consulting actuary I was billing 50+ hours a week, in addition to studying for my actuarial exams, which often piled on an additional 30+ hours per week. And I did this for years.

Let me also just take this opportunity to mention that this is the period of time in my life when, relatively speaking, I was the least healthy. I didn’t work out, didn’t eat healthy, and got sick a lot.  And it stands to reason – I wasn’t nourishing my mind, body, or spirit, and was running on empty most of the time.

In this article, we’re going to touch on some ideas for 

Soul Work Ahead

Giving our workweek a makeover goes well beyond the tactical day-to-day slashing of hours. This landscape presents fertile ground for doing some serious soul work, and asking ourselves some questions that require a radical level of self-honesty and accountability. Here are questions to reflect on:

What am I contributing to my current situation?

Does work keep me distracted from something unpleasant in my life?

Am I addicted to my work?

Do I have a tendency to people-please?

Do I have a hard time saying no without the guilt?

Do I seek validation from external sources?

What price am I paying for working so much?

What other goals in life do I have?

What is on my bucket list?

What can I delegate?

In what areas can I dial it back just a little bit?

Do I equate my success and worth with my level of busy-ness?

These questions may seem a little direct, and they are, with good reason.  

Transformation doesn’t happen without a healthy dose of discomfort.  Keep in mind that all of this has everything to do with raising your level of self-awareness, and nothing to do with judgement.  This is how the process works – you’ve gotta get super vulnerable and super honest with yourself and others before any real transformative shifts can take place.  

Tighten Up Boundaries

The pandemic has ushered in a greater acceptance for working remotely, but that doesn’t come without its challenges.  The line between our work lives and our personal lives has been blurred, so much so that it can be challenging to be fully present.

I have some super firm boundaries and operate pretty silo-ed in my life. When I’m coaching, I’m coaching. When I’m with my kids, I’m with my kids. When I’m playing, I’m playing. When I’m doing self-care, I’m doing self-care.  

I’m super focused and intentional about how I spend my time, and block my time on my calendar.  I also arrange my environment to incorporate the necessary support.  For example, when I’m coaching I have a nanny come to take care of the kid’s needs.

Where can you incorporate more structure and boundaries into your day?

Find Your Voice

A big part of this journey to authenticity is finding your voice, and not being afraid to use it.  Don’t assume that others know how you’re feeling.  Speak up when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and ask for help.  

Tough conversations are part and parcel.  Generally speaking, the more vulnerable we are, the tougher the conversation can be.  It’s hard to ask for help. It’s hard to say “I’m overwhelmed.”  It’s hard to say “I can’t do this anymore.”  But nothing is harder than staying stuck in a reality that leaves you feeling exhausted and unfulfilled.  Let people know how you’re feeling and ask them to help you come up with a plan for restoring harmony in your life.  If we are truly working toward a common vision and mission, we should be helping each other create a life we are fired up about, on all fronts.

Where can you speak up more?

Note that there’s no magic bullet or quick fix to go from a state of over-working to a harmonious way of living.  But what we can do is dial it back a little this week, and then a little more next week, and keep making small adjustments along the way.

Where will you start this week?