As a career advisor, I have heard this said all the time: “Never again will I let a company monopolize my time like my last company did. I never got to see my kids grow up or do enough traveling, work in the community or even walk the dog.”

Then along comes the next opportunity, and more cut backs there suddenly require that everyone ends up doing the work of two or three people’s jobs at once. So what is one to do?

The desire to live to work (not work to live) is self-inflicted for many, prompted by a myriad of conflicting emotions. Sometimes people are so involved in work that they do not notice their personal lives passing them by. Younger people often want to prove something to themselves, their parents and their employers. While the more experienced worker sometimes wants a challenge, a hefty paycheck or hopefully a chance at the brass ring.

So how can you avoid working yourself into an early grave? Here are some ideas that might offer an alternative to simply being a workaholic:

Realize that your self-esteem doesn’t have to be entirely based on your position at work. Understand that the world will still revolve on its axis if you step away from it to focus on your personal life on the evenings, weekends and even over lunch. The high levels of stress that are blatant in many of today’s workplaces with long hours of overtime focused on other people’s priorities can offer little outlet for healthy living. Try to make the time for non-work related activities that you enjoy: sports, reading, socializing, volunteering, etc. Whatever allows you to be yourself in another context.

Plan better. Just because you have always been doing a task or a routine one way doesn’t mean that there might not be a more efficient way it can be done. Ask others how they manage their schedules. Step out of your comfort zone and try something a different way.


Make lunches the night before; pay all your bills as they come in, not at the end of the month; read a novel in transit instead of your annual report; hire a cleaning service once a month – save for it by bringing coffee and a sandwich from home.


Delegate more. Believe it or not you are not the only one in the office who knows something about solving problems. Trust in the skills of others, or train them properly so you can feel comfortable delegating right from the get go. Sitting in on your trainees meetings isn’t micro managing as long as you just observe. People also bring expertise or knowledge from other positions they have held that may benefit your department, so ask around about who knows what.

Upgrade your skills so you are better and faster at routine tasks. If you can complete a task in 10 minutes then do it right now and cross it off your to-do list. If you are a procrastinator, forget about the teeny tiny jobs and get right down to the time sensitive, long term projects; rushing through the little stuff will only postpone the inevitable even longer.

Don’t waste time on the internet, emailing goofy jokes to half the office or keeping in touch with your Facebook world. Stop phoning your friends and relatives during work hours, that’s what coffee breaks and lunch hours are for. The time you save not emailing junk and phoning your pals might just get you home early enough to call people at a decent hour.

Get up and walk around every hour, even if it is for only a couple of minutes. Taking a break can restore your energy and heighten your productivity. Also, change your activity from a cerebral one to a more physical activity – switch from problem solving to filing, calling someone to strategic thinking. Walking around also allows you face to face time with colleagues which increases your interpersonal relations and workplace visibility. People need to know that you exist as a solid entity and not just as an email address. Show your face once in a while!

Find out who in your company knows more than you do about solving any work issues you’re wrestling with, and ask for help. Help others. This strategy is not only more efficient but it also heightens your visibility, expands your network and lets others know what your offerings are and what role they can play in your life.

And remember to take your vacation time. So many people go through all year saving it up, believing that they sky will fall if they take some time off. It won’t. Take a break and enjoy yourself. You only live once, and however old you are: you’ll never be this young again.

Colleen Clarke

Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It