The Not-so-daily Growth Blog #40/365 | Hardest workers in the room? Nah!
‘Oh man, I am so busy, I have no time to hang out with friends’
‘Life is so hectic all the time, I just can’t find the time to watch anything on Netflix’
‘Once I get through this quarter, I should be able to find the time to hit the gym again’
I am guilty of having used one or more of the above phrases, quite a few times in my recent past. I’m also guilty of feeling proud of living a life that is full of packed calendars, inter-city (and sometimes inter-country) travel and sleeping less than I should, on a day-to-day, week-to-week and year-to-year basis.
And I am not alone in this. There are many ‘corporate’ professionals who like to lead ‘busy’ lives, create the aura of unavailability and stay glued to each of our laptop & mobile screens, every waking hour of our lives. So much so that when we take a break or a vacation, we are consumed by feelings of guilt and borderline trauma. I, personally, felt that I was in the wrong if I took a day off when everyone else in the team was working.
I am really not sure how it all started but now when I think about the reasoning behind this behaviour, I believe that it stemmed from a misplaced sense of ‘working hard’ and completely missing the point of what it means to be the hardest worker in the room. It somehow felt right to be in at work, at 8am in the morning and then sit around, completing tasks, doing more than I needed to, till 11pm in the night.
This went on for a long time till I finally took a break from work (basically resigned), and spent time nurturing the finer things in life — family, relationships, inner growth and myself. The 7 months of being away from work, in 2021, really helped me become better at life, as a whole. More so, that when I started working again, I was calmer, sharper and able to be more productive.
The time off really pushed me to become a much better version of myself.
But, a couple of months ago, I again fell into the same ‘workaholic-ness’ and started doing a lot more ‘hard’ work than ‘smart’ work. It wasn’t nearly as bad as before but I knew something was off on the inside. I wasn’t as enthusiastic as before, not as happy as I normally am, was becoming snappier than usual and had started developing an unfocused frame of mind. For instance, if I was having dinner with family, I’d be checking my phone; If I was driving, I’d start thinking about a customer I was supposed to call; if I was working out, I’d pause to check my emails. In short, I was losing it.
Moreover, there were so many other good habits I’d inculcated — Fitness, writing, building my riding skills etc. that I had let go off. All in the name of closing more deals, giving exceptional service to end clients and doing more than I ever imagined myself doing.
The funny part? Closing deals did not give me the enjoyment I once used to get. Nor did I enjoy the work as much as I ought to have. Basically, I’d become a machine!
Thankfully, good sense prevailed and I was able to have a deep conversation with my (much) better half and we literally white-boarded our current & future lives (plural, yes).
Here’s a gist of what we discussed and realised —
#1 — Our professional work (and the organizations we work for) is important but it should not be the only definition of our individuality.
While working hard at our work is important — it does pay the bills and gives us the freedom to explore other avenues — it is also important to balance it with everything else that we do. For instance, if we’ve done our best in an 8 or 9-hour day, it is really fine to switch off everything, and go for a walk or a run or take out time to go do something that we love. Being fully present in our activities beyond work, is imperative to lead a more wholesome life.
Best part? This release of energy creates even more energy for us when we are working. It also helps us do more in less time because we know we have to get to something else later in the evening — a more rounded life.
#2 — The Mind, Body and Soul
Each of us is composed of the mind, the body and the soul (among other things). The point of life (if there was any) could very well be summed up into the focused growth of each part of our life. For the three parts mentioned above:
Mind — Skilling up, becoming better at what we do, exploring new areas of professional growth or maybe just plain & simple networking.
Soul — Going a bit deeper, realising more about who we are on the inside, taking stock of our emotions & feelings. Maybe even reading a few interesting books like ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael Singer.
Body — Staying fit (hitting the gym, doing some yoga, going for a walk or run) is an under-rated way of living a good life. The body, the most beautiful machine we’ll ever use, does need a bit of maintenance too.
#3 — Building ourselves and creating more impact
By living a more rounded life, we would be able to create more positive impact around us. No, all of us won’t turn out to be Mother Teresa or Steve Jobs but even the people we meet on a day-to-day basis will benefit from a ‘happier’ and more satisfied being (us) around them.
Beyond this, if there are other skills or activities we take up, that could benefit an even larger set of people around us, why not spend time & effort in doing so every now and then, right?
For example, for me, writing is a BIG part of who I am and I enjoy writing. I’m sure at least one or two readers would have an ‘aha’ moment when they read something I’ve written. And that’s good right?
#4 — Enhanced productivity
This is a no brainer. Whenever I know that I only have a limited time period to complete something, I will do it faster & sometimes do it better too. If I did not have an end time slot for the work I was doing, I would keep on lingering on the job forever. Same as when I used to do 8am to 11pm work days. It’s not like I was ultra productive back then, I just had a lot of time to chit chat more and enjoy more coffee breaks than usual. Hence, work would linger and more often than not, most of the work would get completed over different buckets of focused time throughout the loooong day.
Now I get more work done between 8.30 and 5.30pm than I used to in two-three working days earlier. Deadlines are important!
#5 — The Flow
Finally, I’ve been able to tap into the ‘flow’ state a lot more and get a lot more focused time when I know I have 4–5 different things to do in a typical day or week. I’ll focus harder on my one-hour workout in the morning, eat more mindfully, work harder & faster, write better (Hopefully).
I’ve even found that whenever I start to focus on being more well-rounded, things start flowing better in all facets of my life. For example, I decided to find a bike riding group and learn how to ride my motorcycle better. Found both within a day or two and already signed up for a motorcycle training group. So exciting!
Anyway, to summarise, being the hardest worker in the room is imperative if working hard means working at living a more rounded life, ensuring each part of our lives deserves the attention it needs and every time we put our heads on our pillow at night, it’s with the quiet contentment of a blissfully happy soul.