Workaholics: Turn “want” into “must” to save your health.

It’s past midnight as I write this, so I know what I’m talking about when it comes to working hard. It’s surprisingly easy to get addicted to work and productivity (workaholism?), to the extent that any moment spent idle feels weird and wrong. There’s always something to do, after all.


Maybe your job is your identity, and you’re always thinking of new ways to improve output or further the organization. Maybe you’re a freelancer, and you feel like cramming in one more client yields more than enough benefit in profit and brand promotion to justify a little time crunch. Or maybe you’re a workhorse for your side projects, always looking for something new to build, write, create, to better your life, your career, and yes, maybe even the world!


And that’s great —

Industriousness is the engine of progress, and passion its fuel.


Whether you’re working to benefit yourself, your family, your company, or the world, it’s great to feel engaged with your work.


But it’s so awfully easy to get carried away. I know it’s true because I should be in bed right now as I’m typing. I know it from a thousand evenings poured into projects and ideas and goals. And I know it’s about the worst thing you can do for your health. It doesn’t take a scientist to know that long work hours and a lack of relaxation and true disengagement from work lead to any number of long-term health effects — and that kind of work overload is no fun in the meantime, either.


It’s important — actually, it’s critical — to take time out (regularly!) for exercise, social activities, proper meals taken slowly, exposure to the outdoors, and just plain ol’ relaxation. You’ll feel better, you’ll live better, and yes, you’ll even work better!


“But,” you say, “I just can’t make the time!”


Here’s the trick: it’s all in the phrasing.


When your colleague asks you, “Do you have time this week to schedule a teem meeting? I want to review yesterday’s new project specs with everyone.” — you’ll think about it, check your calendar, maybe groan at the prospective waste of time, and see if you can reasonably find your way out of that commitment.


When your boss tells you, “I need you to put some time on your calendar this week to do a one-on-one checkup on project status.” — unless your plate is full to bursting, you find the time, and maybe even move things around to make room for it.


Well, when it comes to taking care of yourself, health is your new boss.


Rephrase the things you hope to make time for in that light.


Normally you might think, “I really want to go out for lunch today to someplace nice.” And then when the reality of workday hits — again — you find yourself microwaving a frozen burrito and grabbing a coke from the office fridge.


Normally you look at yourself in the mirror one night and say, “Man I really want to start working out again.” And then you don’t, because you don’t have time.


Normally, you text your buddy asking if he’s free to hang out tonight — and then back out of it when you realize a few hours later how much you have left to get done. You’ll be in the office all night.


None of that will do.

Health is your new boss. Health phrases his “requests” a bit differently:


“I really want to go out for lunch” becomes “I need a nice, long, relaxing lunch to take my mind off of things for a bit. We’re moving that lunchtime meeting to 2pm so we have that gap available.”


“I really want to work out” becomes “I look and feel like hell and that’s unacceptable. I need to start working out — we’re calling the gym tonight and booking a trainer.”


“I really want to hang out with the gang” becomes “I need a mental health break. Finishing up work can wait until after trivia night at the bar.”


It’s amazing how much new, flexible time appears where there wasn’t any before when you take this approach.


Of course, nothing is absolute, and some days are criminally busy — but that’s not the attitude you take, ever, until the day itself forces you, kicking and screaming, back to your desk. Until and unless that happens, come hell or high water, you are going to do the healthy things you need not want but need — to do in order to stay happy, healthy, fit, and enjoying every day.


Put yourself first once in a while, and you’ll be surprised how much your work — and everything else in your life — improves.


Give it a try. Trust me!



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