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Are you using work as an excuse to avoid your life?

Ana Polanco

If Adele were here while I was writing this blog her next comment after the title would be Hello…

Okay, seriously. So how do you know if you are using work to avoid your life?

There is not one specific list for everyone, but there are some questions you should be asking yourself:

  • Are you living the fullest version of your life right now?
  • Does your life feel well rounded, whole and fulfilling?
  • If you divided your life into a pie, what percentage would be work?

If any of these questions, are making you even slightly uncomfortable or causing you to pause or rationalize the answer, then you might be using work as an excuse to avoid your life. The reality is that a majority of us spend more time at work than in any other activity. Changes in American work and community life have radically impacted and heightened the ability for people to focus in on work and avoid all the other areas that make them happy and give them life.

Over time we develop a series of reasons to avoid engaging others. Some of the most popular reasons I have given and have heard from others about working too much are:

  • We’re on a project and have to put in long hours
  • My company is reorganizing
  • I want to make a good impression
  • I’m new

And then one year and ten pounds later, you’re still pulling 60 hours a week and haven’t seen or done something you love in months. Oops – that was me remembering. The truth is that work can be the ultimate husband. Think about it. Work is always available for you and needs you. Work constantly asks you to solve problems and you get paid for it. What!!

The problem is work is less like a husband and more like that happy hour deal you can’t quit. Talk about other ways of avoiding your life.

Early in my career I had a boss tell me “everyone is replaceable.” For a while I was concerned he was referring to me, but really he was referring to the work. The work is endless and so everyone is replaceable because the work demands it. No matter how much you LOVE your job, don’t neglect your life, your health and those things that inspire you. It is no one else’s job to take care of your personal life other than you. So make today count in every way possible and do things you love because you truly love them and not because someone expects you to do them.   

So how exactly do we kick the work habit and start prioritizing ourselves?

Set Work Boundaries

As you know work will always be ready and waiting. So the most important thing you can do is set boundaries. This is especially important in the first 90 days of a new job.  This is where you decide what aspects of the workplace culture you plan to take on. Any norms and behaviors you set during this time will define how your coworkers engage with you. Example: If you set a fixed schedule and boundaries around that schedule, your coworkers will learn that these are your boundaries and normally follow suit.

 Don’t Stay Late Unless You Absolutely Have to

While all bosses have their own quirks, your boss doesn’t necessarily equate length of time you stay at work with loyalty, commitment or drive. If you need to work after closing time, make it the exception and not the rule even during times of reorganizations and mergers. As someone who has supervised many people in different situations and roles, I was only ever concerned with the product outcome. The only instance in which time matters is if you are unable to manage your time and it affects other team members. I was always most impressed by staff who completed things in less time and who had a healthy work life balance. Those team members opted for good over perfect. They tended to be the most well rounded staff.

Strengthen your Creativity & Learning Skills

Creativity comes from – not work! Life is what brings creativity to the workplace. Some of the best campaigning ideas that I have had, have come from billboards that I saw on road trips and curious conversations with friends in other sectors. Live your life so you can bring immense creativity and flexibility to the workplace. Creativity and flexible thinking are some of the greatest assets employees can bring to the workforce. Find a hobby or a creative outlet that inspires you to new ways of thinking and solving problems.

Ask yourself the key question

Ask yourself, if you weren’t at work, where would you like to be right now? The truth is that if we weren’t at work we would be doing something that inspires us and even peaks our curiosity. Maybe you would be spending time with family, taking a road trip, getting healthy, taking a class, fulfilling a passion or hobby, volunteering, realizing your personal life goals… The list is endless.

Whatever you do, don’t be a drone. Live your life, before it’s too late. Don’t be the person that looks back and regrets all the time you spent alone in your cubicle. That miracle or great idea you’re waiting for isn’t going to show up with your dinner delivery at work.

Your turn: What are your best excuses for avoiding your life? How did you break the cycle?

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