According to Forbes, the average Frenchman works 18 hours a week; the average Italian about 16.5 and the British work 21.5. But in North America, our idea of full employment is a standard 40-hour week. And in some locales, that number goes even higher.
Our vacations are much shorter than the typical Europeans, as well. The U.S. worker takes 16 days of vacation each year, less than half that typically taken by the Germans (35 days), the French (37 days) or the Italians (42 days).
What’s wrong with us? How did this happen? And, more importantly, what needs to occur for us to reset our priorities and take advantage of down time?
During the long weekend, I tried to get my daughter and her boyfriend to spend some play time with our out-of-town family, who came for a quick visit. Sadly, they simply couldn’t find the time.
Being passionate about your career, your business or your job is a good thing. But when it interferes with your family, your social life or your health, it becomes a dangerous thing.
I’m not here to convince you of the detrimental effects of working 80-plus hours a week – you probably know it or aren’t willing to admit that it applies to you. But if you’re starting to wonder where all the fun went, I would like to share a few ideas that may help you get more done in less time (whether you’re a workaholic or not, these will still help you get more done).
Technology has made it far easier to become busy 24/7. The tools are there to keep us plugged into work every waking moment (and focused on what others are doing on social media).
Email is at our finger tips constantly.
Phone calls can be made from anywhere (including your child’s or grandchild’s school or sporting events). You may be at the event, but your child will see you working while there, defeating the entire purpose of you being there for them.
So, in honour of National Workaholics Day on July 5, I want to challenge you to try a few new things in the coming week:
Become a chunker.
Work in uninterrupted chunks of 30 minutes. Block off 30-minute chunks through your day – at least four of them.
Two hours of your day isn’t much to ask if it saves a relationship or your health.
Plan out what exactly you will work on during that chunk. And block out everything else. No phones. No email. No chats with colleagues. Just you and your project, and 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. Use a timer to keep yourself on track.
Promise you will try this. You can get far more done in a 30-minute chunk than hours of ‘multi-tasking.’ All the scientific research proves this is true.
Use the chunking method with those you love as well.
Book off time to be with them and promise them you will not check email or answer your phone during that time.
The punishment if you do? Cash – you pay them $20 for every offence. No doubt that will keep you motivated to keep your commitment.
Find an accountability partner who can help you stick to the plan.
Talk to them once a day for five minutes – reporting in on how you’re doing and where you faltered. Admitting your mistakes publicly and regularly will help you see how bad it’s become.
There, three simple tips that anyone can try. Are you up for the challenge? Will you give it a go for a week, at a minimum?
Good. Now block off some times for your chunking – and stick to the plan. It will do far more for your health, your relationships and your productivity than anything else.
At least give it a good college try for your family’s sake!
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.
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