Reality Check – Has Work Become Your Life?

Do you work to live, or live to work? 

I will write it one more time…

Do you work to live, or live to work?

Every time I hear that somebody passed away shortly after they retired, I hope that they took time to really enjoy life along the way. When I am working, I am a loyal hard-working solider. But when I am not, I am enjoying free time with friends and family when possible.

I saw a report on CNN a few years ago, and it gave me a horrible feeling in my stomach. The corporate world has made us believe in many cases that taking holidays shows a sign of weakness. When I hear that an employee has not taken holiday in several years, I always cringe.

This issue continues to get a lot of press, and work life balance has become more important than ever. Work demands and commuting makes our personal time very valuable. I have seen several managers and reps work way too many hours on a regular basis during my career. The question that I always have is…

What steps are you taking to insure that their work does not become your life?

Should it be common to work late at night?

  • At what point do you admit that there are inefficiencies in your work habits, and you need to change how you do your job?
  • Maybe you have too many responsibilities in your current role, and need to sit down with your manager to discuss the toll it is taking on you

There are still managers who subscribe to the theory of “most hours worked wins”, but this line of thinking is slowly going by the wayside.

I hate the saying “they were the first one in the office in the morning, and the last to leave at night”. How do we know that they are working all of that time? With all the distractions online, they may just be goofing off on the internet all day, or having “text-a-thons”.

I sent a group email one night at 10 pm from my home office once, just to tidy up a few odds and ends. I received a complaint the next day from one of my accounts. He asked me not to send correspondence at that time of night. I was a bit confused, so I asked why? He said that his phone vibrated on the night stand, and it woke him up! I forgot that some people are on call 24-7, and sleep with a phone close by.

I met an outside sales rep earlier in my career who told me that her kids had moved out, and she was not in a relationship, so work had taken over her life. She sounded far from excited about it!

I have heard of several organizations where employees never leave the office before their managers, even when they have completed their work for the day. This is one of the dumbest things that I have heard during my career!

Are you guilty of sending late night emails trying to “impress the boss”?  Give your head a shake. This is just silly!

I know several reps and managers who work constantly during their holidays. A good friend of mind was got caught by his wife returning customer’s phone calls from his backyard shed when they were packing for vacation! I still bug him about that, but his wife did not think it was very funny!

I understand there may be the occasional need to communicate with the office when on holidays.  But what does it say about the group that you surround yourself with, when they cannot “survive” for a few days, or even a couple of weeks without you?

I heard of the best “holiday-work compromise” from a rep a few years ago. He and his wife were going on a holiday without their kids. Things were both incredibly busy at work at the time. They agreed to one hour of work each morning at the hotel. But for the rest of the day, they left their cell phones in the room, and enjoyed each other’s company. Another rep was not so fortunate to be able to curb his work to one hour. He and his wife agreed to put his phone in the hotel safe before they left in the morning. That completely reduced his temptation to check every time another email came in!

I reference several European countries for setting the bar high for excellent work life balance. They have much more holiday time on average than most other parts of the world. Most stores and services even close during the day for a bit while the employees rest! How great is that? This is an unrealistic goal in many places including Canada and  the United States, but I believe the message is very powerful. These people definitely work to live and not live to work.

We only live once, and you need to sit down and think about what is really important in your life if this has become an issue. Focus on enjoying your personal life now while still keeping up with work commitments. Obviously everyone’s personal situation is different, and many circumstances come in to play. I get that. I work odd hours to keep up with projects that I am working on via my blog and other forms of social media. But I make it all work.

Health issues, stress and strain on your family life can come in to play due to a heavy workload, among other issues. Don’t fall prey to the vicious cycle of work becoming your life.

  • Do you feel like you are living to work, and not working to live?
    • What changes can you make ASAP in your current role if other priorities are more important?
  • Do you find it challenging to shut down “work mode” and get in to “family mode” when you are on holidays?
    • What steps can you take to make a “holiday-work compromise” as a first step (then eventually phase out work altogether)?
  • If your current situation makes it impossible to work to live and you prefer that, perhaps it is time to make a change!
    • Promise yourself to take one action step today towards making a change, or it will never happen

About Tim Mushey

Dynamic and energized sales rep, mentor and leader since 1999. This blog will be about sales, social networking, personal branding, leadership, music and having some laughs! Don’t be surprised if I mix it up on occasion, and talk about something totally different! I thrive on being part of successful, forward thinking teams. I am ready to go from the moment my feet hit the floor each morning, with the expectation that new adventures will be coming my way. It is rare that there isn't a smile on my face, as I take it all in, and have some fun along the way!

Posted on May 8, 2012, in Career, Leadership, Management, Sales, Success and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I used to..but not anymore…I love the shortest speech from the former CEO of Coca Cola..

    “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the Air.

    You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

    But the other four Balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.”



  2. Moosh, GREAT POST! Life is about a heck of a lot more than work! Yeah, I do my fair share of work but my family is “why” I work!

    At the end of the day, truth be told, no matter how much time and effort you put in, everyone of us is replaceable. Your post helps put things in perspective and here’s hoping someone will read this and put down the “Crackberry” and enjoy life!

    Have an AWESOME day!

  3. I know what you are saying and use to be one of those managers who worked at the office 7 days a week. When I think about it know I cannot believe that I ever thought that it would make me a superhero at work. What it made me was a stupidhero to my family and I see that so clearly now. I just made one of my assistants take a needed vacation this week during a very busy time and I just got a text from him thanking me for giving him a push, he is having a great time hiking. I love it! We need to have that balance, or we can open ourselves up to burnout… And we do not want that.

    Great post thank you!

  4. Hey Moosh,

    Great article! Funny thing is I just finished figuring out how to stop emails from coming to my “Crackberry” while on holidays and have no guilt in doing so. I figure if my Dad could run a successful company for as many years as he did and never take a phone call or read an email on our family vacations then I should be able to do the same. No one will look back when you’re gone and say ” now there was a guy that never took a holiday”

    Cheers buddy!

    • Hey Chuck! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I kind of figured that your dad was a “no emial or cell phone kind-of-guy” on holidays. That is awesome to hear. Glad to hear that you have taken steps to enjoy your family holidays 100% as well. Hope all is well with you and the family. Stay in touch…

  5. Great Post Tim. I have seen the same happen to my Dad , and used to wonder how a such a dynamic and strong person could crumble within a year after retiring.

    I hope people wake upto to reality of giving excessively or atleast plan have some active agenda post retirement. Having no agenda/plans is a sure recipe for a quick end.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I can imagine that it was difficult watching your dad go through that. I just hope it can be a lesson for others. The lack of an agenda and planning for retirement is certainly a recipe for a quick end. I have witnessed those challenges myself. Thanks again..

  6. Great post! This was a hard lesson for me that was only heard when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. My work life post-treatment finally became balanced, A career change in 2009, to my own business, took me even further. I now work less, play more, and have just as much success at work (and more happiness and better relationships outside of work). Thanks for your great post.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story Jamie. I am glad things worked out for you after the cancer, and you were able to get things in balance. Working less, and playing more, and having just as much success certainly is a great accomplishment. I am looking forward to following your blog! All the best…

  7. Thanks, and I look forward to following you right back!

  8. Thanks for providing a link to my blog post! I really appreciate it. Have a great Tuesday…

  1. Pingback: How do you manage your work and personal life? « perfectomy

Stop by & leave a comment. I would love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: