High productivity is the demand of the working world today.
We feel this constant need to always be achieving results and keeping up with what is expected of our roles. But often we find ourselves being driven not by the power to be productive but by the guilt that comes with not meeting our expectations as well as others’ expectations of us.
We’ve all been there, doing task after task long after working hours are over, only to feel that we haven’t been productive or done enough. We’ve waited for our managers to leave before we do, in the effort to not look like we’re ‘slacking off’. This form of guilt, commonly known as work guilt, can often be quite damaging and lead to a phenomenon called ‘obsessive-compulsive productivity’ creating a vicious cycle that you can’t seem to escape.
So how do we learn to break this cycle?
The first step is to start noticing when work guilt rears its ugly head. Start a log identifying all the triggers and your responses to them, and you will start to eliminate the reactive behaviour you have toward work guilt.
The next is to use a couple of techniques to eliminate the guilt and keep you in good standing with yourself, colleagues and employers.
1. State your goals clearly. Productivity is important, but there is only so much you can fit into an 8-hour day. Determine how much time you need to spend on tasks and be up front with your employer about overtime before starting a job. If you’re not willing to work late on certain days, be clear and give advanced notice so that your employer has knowledge of it to make the necessary changes.
2. Use your time more effectively. If you spend the entire day emailing and chatting with co-workers, you’re going to feel guilty that you didn’t get any work done. Cut down any time you’re wasting and focus on getting as much work done as you can in regular working hours. Tracking your time on tasks can help pinpoint time wasters and improve your productivity, as well as provide a written account of what you have accomplished, counteracting any guilt you might feel at the end of the day.
3. Working day in and day out is not good for even the brightest workers. It’s important to take time out. Put in a holiday leave request well ahead of time, work out project handovers and cover your bases, alert clients as to when you’ll be away from the office and don’t feel guilty when the time comes to take that well deserved break. It will give your mind some rest, eliminate stress and you will return to the workplace in a much healthier frame of mind, ready to tackle new projects efficiently.
4. Learn to say ‘No’. We often feel that by refusing to take work on we’re letting employers down. However, when you have enough on your plate and need to say ‘no’ for the right reasons, don’t hesitate. You’re more likely to let an employer down by taking on a project that you don’t have time for and won’t be able to deliver in the timely and quality manner you are known for.
Work guilt is certainly something you can have control over and it all starts with acknowledging the issues. Use the tips above to help you and remember that you’re at your best when your stress levels are manageable and productivity comes from a place of motivation and happiness, not guilt or fear.
Warm wishes, Donny