[FUEL] The Trap of Work, Work, Work

By Dawn Shuler

Are you in the work work work trap

I recently coached one of my clients on scheduling. She has a lot going on, with several big areas of her business she is working at once. We talked about the never-ending to-do lists, everything seeming important, feeling like all you do is put out fires, not working on a big project because if you can’t get it all done right now, hey, why bother?
Any of that sound familiar?

If you’re a business owner, you’re busy. You’re either working directly with clients, marketing to get more clients, or running the back-end of your business.

Throughout my own years in business, I’ve struggled to find a way to manage my time that didn’t result in ending my work day feeling stressed, frenetic, and worthless. One of those attempts was to experiment with making a concerted effort to limit my working day and create a solid ending time. I tried for 4pm, and met with some success, actually. Most days during the two-week experiment, I ended work only 15-30 minutes after that scheduled end time.

Most interestingly, though, I noticed that as 4pm crept nearer and nearer, the voices in my head got louder.

What I realized was that those voices had always been there, and I unconsciously listened to them. Here are five of my voices:

1. There’s so much work to do – it MUST be done now… today… tonight. One of the values of working with a former doctor who did her internship in an ER was the very realistic view of what a true emergency is. An emergency is blood, broken bones, imminent death. After that, “It MUST be done NOW” takes on a different flavor. In simple terms, very few things MUST be done NOW.

2. If I do it now, there will be less to do tomorrow. That’s a great idea, except that the list never ends. There will NEVER be less to do tomorrow. You will never get your to-do list completed. Never. When you have long-term projects, you have to learn to be happy with simple progress and forward motion.

3. But I’m getting so much done! I don’t want to stop. Yes, there is value in momentum. And there’s a bit of an adrenaline kick here. No matter the momentum or the adrenaline payoff, however, there is a cost.

4. I’m so valuable and productive. My clients will love me! And they will love you if you do what you say will do when you said you would do it. That’s what’s important, and that’s what they want. Burning yourself out is NOT what they want.

5. I can’t possibly take a break! I must work until it gets done, because if I take a break, I might not want to come back! When you actually take a break, you usually remember that there is life after work and that the world does not end. You get a lot more perspective when you can step away. So whenever you can, take significant breaks.

So what did I learn overall?

  • The list never ends.
  • There will always be stuff to do.
  • I’ll never get it all done.
  • I need to take breaks.
  • My self-care is as important as my work.
  • The importance of figuring out the real priority, whether it’s a sales page or sleep.
  • Follow my energy.
  • Start with my first priority before anything else, and I will feel more productive and worthwhile.

And, finally, to not always believe the voices in my head.