FIRST CLASS COACH: I seem to work very long hours in my job and it's causing trouble at home. My partner thinks I'm a workaholic. How can I stop?

FIRST CLASS COACH: I seem to work very long hours in my job and it's causing trouble at home. My partner thinks I'm a workaholic. How can I stop? - It all depends why you're a workaholic. Lots of my clients have this tendency and it's rarely just a case o

by MIRANDA KENNETT
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It all depends why you're a workaholic. Lots of my clients have this tendency and it's rarely just a case of there being too much work to get through.

It may be you're a workaholic because you love your work or, as Noel Coward put it, work is 'more fun than fun', and time spent there is more rewarding than time spent elsewhere. If this is true for you, you may need to consider how to make the time you spend away from the office more satisfying for you and your partner - or you may end up alone and too busy to find another soulmate to while away the years with when you finally retire.

I remember swapping industries and moving to a more exciting and challenging job, where the norm was for the real work (and the real fun) to start at 6pm, when the phones stopped ringing. I spent several months telling fibs to my boyfriend that it was my dastardly new employer who was keeping me so late, when in fact it was my choice to be there. The situation improved only when he too changed jobs to a much more dynamic environment, where he regularly found himself working late and enjoying it. We then adjusted our lives so that we could make the most of the more limited time we had together.

Sometimes, staying late at work is less to do with enjoying it than with the difficulties of re-entry into domestic life. One of my clients with a demanding job delayed going home because he felt too stressed and exhausted to play the full-on role of father and husband the moment he arrived. We worked out that if he could have just 30 minutes on his own when he got home, taking a shower and unwinding, he would be in better shape to contribute positively to family happiness. He brokered the agreement with his wife and, as far as I know, it's working well.

But maybe you are working long hours because you're genuinely overloaded. Almost everyone in employment is busier now than they used to be. This is partly because employers want to maintain high productivity - sometimes a euphemism for having too few people to do the work. But it could also be because you're not managing your time as effectively as you could, or are shouldering inappropriate tasks.

You can find out by listing all the tasks you do now and identifying the ones that can be done only by you. If you were doing just these, would your workload be manageable? If not, you could try negotiating with your boss to shift some responsibilities, or at least to be paid extra for doing more than one person's job. Next, sort out from your list the jobs that could be done by others. Have you delegated everything that could be delegated? If you haven't because there is no-one you can trust to do things right, you might need to invest a little time in developing some support for yourself.

You may also discover tasks on your list that don't really need to be done by anybody, or could be done a lot more efficiently. One example would be preparing several different reports containing the same information for different people. Sorting through your tasks in this way will give you a perspective on the things that are priorities for the organisation and for you, allowing you to make more informed choices about the work you take on.

It is also likely that you could use your time and energy to greater effect. I encourage my over-stretched clients to identify their 'golden time' - the time of day when they are at their most productive. For some, it is first thing in the morning, but it varies from person to person. I ask them to think about what sort of work they would like to do in this golden time, then we look at how they're using it. Often, they discover that this precious period is being squandered on an activity like checking e-mails, which could be done at another, less fertile time. Usually, having gone through this process, my clients succeed in ring-fencing some golden time in their week by making it clear to those who support them, or have calls on their time, that they will be unavailable for, say, this two-hour period, but will resume normal service after that.

There are lots of time-management tools and techniques that might prove helpful to you. In the end, how you spend your time is your business The key is to be clear about what is important to you in life and to ensure you live in ways that reflect your priorities.

Miranda Kennett is managing coach at The Coaching House (www.coachinghouse.com) and a founding partner of The Management Due Diligence Co. If you have an issue you'd like this column to cover, e-mail: management.today@haynet.com.

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