Guilty as charged: working too hard!

Working too hard: all work and no play!

Why_working_too_hard_is_a_bad_thingUhummm. Yes, hands up, you caught me….I’m guilty as charged! This time it’s for working too hard and not taking enough time out to rest and play. And that’s a BAD thing! And I know better. Doh!

I’m going to explain by starting right at the beginning. We’ve all heard the old adage “Work hard – play hard”. But what does it mean to you? And do you really know how to do apply it, especially when you’re an entrepreneur or even worse an entrepreneur starting out in business?

[box]“You’ll never succeed in idealizing hard work. Before you can dig mother earth you’ve got to take off your ideal jacket. The harder a man works, at brute labor, the thinner becomes his idealism, the darker his mind” – D H Lawrence TWEET THIS[/box]

Imagine if you could get a lot more done at work, a lot better. Imagine if you could really relax every day and then be rearing to go to work the next day with your ‘batteries’ fully charged and your brain fully focused. Imagine not working too hard!

Two years ago I read an incredible book by Jim Loer and Tony Schwartz, “The Power of Full Engagement.” I was on my way to Johannesburg to meet my new team and I felt I needed to be even more bright and perky. Anyway, the book is amazing in so many ways, but the most memorable lesson for me is that we need to fully engage in both work and play to get the most out of our focus and lives.

Jim and Tony examined the way we lived in digital time. They observed that our pace is rushed; it’s rapid fire and relentless. Facing crushing workloads, we try to cram as much as possible into every day. We’re wired up, but we’re melting down. They found that time management as a solution was not viable. Instead, by researching peak performing athletes and then C-Level executives, they found that managing energy was the way to enduring high performance – as well as to health, happiness and life balance.

Anyway, getting back. Let me explain exactly what I mean about the detriments of working too hard.

Have you ever worked hard for the whole day? You’ve got a million things done. You’ve put in a day’s work, spoken to prospects and clients, sorted out the kids (done the school runs, homework, form filling, fed them, washed their clothes, washed them, and split up the sibling fights) and the housework, and it’s 8 pm and you can’t even think straight anymore.

So you’ve sat down in front of the TV, with the kids to watch your favourite program, and it’s downtime – or so you think. Unfortunately, however, your conscious/thinking brain has other ideas. It steps in and wisely advises you, during the commercial break, that despite being fully deserving of this ‘couch potato’ moment you’ve forgotten to do something that’s super critical for your business.

Of course, in most cases nothing is required. What is needed is method for learning how to fully disengage from work.

When you don’t disengage, you live in the grey zone – the zone between engaged and disengaged; a zone when you’re NOT focused and are least productive. You end up neither fully rested, nor fully satisfied with your day’s work. You end up going to bed and feeling dissatisfied with being an entrepreneur, like this work thing is never-ending and that perhaps it was better being an employee!

So what’s the solution?

Well in theory, it’s easy, but in practical terms it’s hard to implement. Here are three tips to help you though.

Step 1: Awareness

You can’t even begin to fix something, if you don’t know it’s happening. So check yourself, become aware. Every time you rest make sure you really are. Every time you work do the same. Be present in the moment and stop working too hard.

Step 1: Preparation

When you catch yourself in the grey zone be prepared to check yourself. The easiest way to do this is with language. Give your behaviour a trigger name, something that’s memorable and brief. That way your brain has easy access to the solution – fast.

Step 3: Action

As soon as you notice what you’re doing i.e. the problem – take action to correct it. Take action right away. RIGHT AWAY. Yes – not in two minutes time, but immediately! By doing this you’ll begin to treat the issue consciously and then it will become an automatic response to make sure all distractions are cleared.

So I wish you well with this very normal issue for entrepreneurs. Please let me know what are your thoughts on this? What does “work hard – play hard” means to you? And how you cope with it? Are you guilty like me of working too hard and not being present in the moment for much of the time or have you found a way to accomplish this? Please share your experiences and feedback in the comments below as I’d love to hear. Finally, thank you, as always for reading and contributing here. If you found this useful, please share it with your friends!

With love and gratitude – as always,



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Jane Frankland is a successful cyber security entrepreneur, consultant and speaker who has had a diverse career encompassing art and design; business development; and operations. Having held directorships and senior executive positions within her own companies and at several large PLCs, she now provides agile, forward thinking organisations with strategic business development solutions. Right now she is writing a book on gender diversity in cyber security and is focused on increasing the numbers of women in the profession.

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  • iyas says:

    The Power of Full Engagement is a fantastic read, and I’ve bought and gifted many copies of this book. Play hard for me is rarely the TV – I find that unless I’m watching something I specifically want to see, it drains rather than regenerates. Books, kids, music, FRIENDS are what hits the mark every time. And I mean real friends, not Facebook, which I also find has an ability to suck you in without giving much back. and… I can tell you were tired writing this one. Count to 3. And look at your tips 🙂 Nice blog post…

    • jane says:

      Thanks for your comment & I agree with you completely. Yep, completely tired out, but writing this blog served as a useful reminder to have a weekend off. No Facebook, no emails – just family time & DIY projects around the house. Now we have a good chicken house & I’d like to say a secure area. Unfortunately though we have a chicken who thinks she’s Dora the Explorer so is determined to get out & about!:)

  • Great post, Jane. I'm struggling with this too. I think I need to add The Power of Full Engagement to my Essential Reading list. I think this is the seminal challenge for entrepreneurs.

  • Marinda says:

    I have been working 14hour days for two weeks until my boyfriend sat me down.

    Him: “Enough of this. I’m taking you to the movies. And then we’re going to shoot the shit out of people at the arcade”
    Me: “But I still got stuff to do”
    Him: “You’re gonna burn yourself out babe, and I miss you”
    Me: “Okay, we’ll go :)”
    Him: “That’s my girl”
    Then we hugged and after a while I said “I missed you too”.

    And holy shit it was fun shootin’ people 😛 All those frustrations just melted away, highly recommend the arcade for unwinding! HAHA even if you’re 100 years old 😛

    These are some great tips, Jane. Thank you! I definitely need to disengage.

    • jane says:

      Marinda, thanks for posting. I love it. Thank goodness for your boyfriend! I remember playing one of those shooting games too & Mortal Kombat too. It was years ago when my eldest was about 8yrs old. It really helped me de-stress & I’m really NOT a violent person! Nowadays I just walk the dog, ride & do yoga if I can. I need to do more though. 🙂

  • Angela says:

    How spooky Jane! I only bought the book a few weeks ago… One more reason to get reading. Thanks for this. I hope you manage to take some time off soon x

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