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Cell phones. E-mail. These modern wonders of the work world were supposed to make life at the office easier. But in many cases, they only add more chores to already overloaded plates, extending the workday and subtracting from your personal time. If these devices are allowed to take over, it’s easy to go beyond mere overtime to working all the time. The repercussions? A neglected and worn physical and mental state; little time for family and friends; and loss of energy and desire to pursue personal passions.
“If you are like most employees, you are overwhelmed by your workload,” says Jennifer White, an executive success coach and founder and president of Kansas City, Missouri-based JWC Group. “It’s a major problem I see everywhere.”
Many of White’s clients agree. Rich Essigs, director of global e-commerce for Procter & Gamble, was a classic victim of workplace burnout. Every day, he worked harder over more hours to get the work on his overflowing plate done. He eventually discovered that if he didn’t get it together at work and strike a healthy balance between his professional and private selves, he wouldn’t be of much help to anyone.
After consulting with White, Essigs made some drastic but necessary changes. He limited his daily tasks to really important items, redesigned his travel schedule so that he could spend more time at home with his two small children and support his team in the office, and created a plan to find and train his successor. “Making strategic choices is simply the most important skill needed in the fast-paced business environment,” says Essigs. “But it is often the least understood.”
So how do you structure your professional duties in a way that will allow you to leave the office at a reasonable hour? White, author of Work Less, Make More (John Wiley & Sons, $14.95), offers some practical solutions. Will they be easy to implement? Of course not. But when you consider the payoff-more effectiveness on the job and a life outside of your cubicle or office-you’ll find the will and drive to make them happen.
Solution #1: Focus on the bottom line. Essentially, there are only three things you need to do for your company: (1) Earn the company more money; (2) save the company money; and (3) increase productivity so that the company can earn or save more money. Once you understand this, and tailor your workplace activities to achieve these ends, you’ll deliver the results that will allow you to negotiate for more money and time to spend as you please.
Solution #2: Focus on what you do best. When you’re the expert, when you’re the best at what you do, you are in the position to determine how much you’ll work and get paid for that work. Your self-worth will skyrocket and you’ll want to keep on performing at an optimum level, which will in turn drive up your value to the company and exponentially increase your bargaining power.
Solution #3: Harness the power of focus. Do you spend the