Overworked And Overwhelmed?

Overworked And Overwhelmed?

A 2013 study found that the average business leader is connected to their work 72 hours a week. There are only 168 hours in a week, so if the leader is spending 72 of them working and let’s say eight hours a day (56 hours a week) on sleeping, eating and bathing, that only leaves 40 hours a week to do everything else they need or want to do.  I suspect not much has changed in the intervening years.

The book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative by my friend Scott Eblin deals with our “do more with less” culture and the 24/7 smartphone-addicted environment that leaves many people teetering on the brink of a caffeine-addicted, sleep-deprived, stressed-out existence.

I was interested to read about an ongoing study at Google that is looking to determine the factors that make employees feel energized or de-energized. One of the big findings is that their workers fall into 2 groups:

  • 31% are segmenters who work during work hours and ignore it when they’re away from work.
  • 69% are integrators who are “always-on” and check in on their work at any time, regardless of where they are.

Here’s what’s interesting. The integrators say they’re burned out, whereas the segmenters are able to remain energized by work.

By being “always on call, and always working” we may be able to eke out some additional productivity in the short-term, but the impact of this way of life comes at the cost of our long-term productivity and motivation and can be devastating to our happiness and physical well being.

When our stress hormones and blood pressure are elevated for prolonged periods of time, our immune and digestive systems don’t operate at healthy levels. In the short term, this leads to anxiety, insomnia, poor decision making, lack of focus and generally poor health. In the long term, it leads to broken relationships, premature aging, and early death.

I recommend creating a User Manual to provide clear expectations about after-hours behaviors and communications so that you and your team can “segment” your lives appropriately.

For more information on this topic, see “How many hours should we work?” and “Energize and engage your team

Rest and Digest.

We’ve all heard of the fight or flight response, but few of us have heard of the rest and digest response.

Think of fight or flight, which is controlled by your body’s sympathetic nervous system, as the gas pedal that helps you get things done, especially in crisis situations.

Think of rest and digest, which is controlled by your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, as the brakes which keep you from spinning out of control and crashing. Just like you’d never drive a car and only use the gas pedal, you shouldn’t live your life without using the brakes.

There is a mindfulness alternative to feeling overworked and overwhelmed. It starts with learning simple ways to get off the gas pedal and use the brakes.

Over the past few years, mindfulness has gotten more and more attention in the mainstream media. It’s even made the cover of Time magazine. The picture that a lot of people get in their minds when they hear the word mindfulness is of blissed-out people sitting cross-legged while they meditate and chant. That’s one way to do it, but it’s not something that most stressed out business professionals are going to do.

In the book, there are 4 key mindfulness areas covered in detail: physical, mental, relational and spiritual.

Here is a quick summary:

  1. Movement. Just getting out of your chair every hour or so for a stretch or a quick walk can make a world of difference in your physical health and mental capacity.
  2. Breathing. Three deep breaths from your belly can clear out the chatter in your head and help you focus.
  3. Listening. Look for a few opportunities each day to have a conversation with someone where you have no other agenda than to ask questions and listen to them.
  4. Reflection. Be grateful. Almost everyone has something in their life to be grateful for. Make a list every day to remind yourself of what is truly important

What if you feel totally burned out?

Take a break. Give yourself a night, a day, or a weekend away from email and work. Better yet, take a whole week off and go somewhere so remote that you cannot be contacted or interrupted by work or emails.

After you get a little rest and digest going, take some time for self-reflection by asking yourself 2 questions:

  1. What am I really trying to achieve in my life?
  2. Who do I need to “be”, and how do I need to take care of myself to show up as that person?

The answers might surprise you but will certainly help you reconnect with your deeper purpose.

Let’s face it, the only person who’s going to take care of you, is you. What steps are you going to take, starting now?


Until next time…