How to recalibrate your thinking so that you excel at work without becoming a crazed workaholic

by Sarah Butcher*

These are challenging times. People are losing their jobs.

Keeping your job may seem contingent on high performance, day after day, week after week. Keeping that up may be a little stressy.

It need not be.

The Harvard Business Review has an interesting blog from a ‘time management coach’ (published last month, admittedly), on the thought patterns that permit high performance but prohibit obsessiveness.

It’s all about achieving “harmonious passion” (being energized, excited and in control), rather than “obsessive passion” (having an overwhelming compulsion to achieve and produce.”)

The trouble is, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders, once you get into a state of obsessive passion, you’re in danger of being stuck with it due to, “deeply ingrained” patterns. If you try breaking these patterns by – say – leaving work early, you will experience, “withdrawal symptoms” and feel the need to revert to your previous state.

What’s to do be done?

Re-evaluate your self-worth

Don’t think: “I am important and of value because of what I achieve, produce or have. Therefore if I stop achieving, producing or having, my life no longer has value, meaning or purpose.”

Do think: “I am of value because of who I am, not what I do. I am a unique individual whose life has a special purpose regardless of what I earn, accomplish or own.”

Don’t be such a perfectionist

Don’t think: “I am only as good as my last _____________. If I stop or rest or don’t perform to the same or better level in the future, I will lose everything.”

Do think: “Each day, I can do my best, correct my mistakes, and learn for the next time I meet a similar challenge. My past provides a secure foundation for my future.

Don’t deny yourself fallow interludes

Don’t think: “I can only rest without guilt once all the work is done. If I stop any sooner, I am lazy, selfish and irresponsible.”

Do think: “There will always be more work to do. By choosing to rest at reasonable intervals, I increase my productivity, accomplish more, enjoy life and stop feeling resentful toward others who take breaks.”

HBR suggests you might want to repeat these things (silently) to yourself in your cubicle, or to pin the positive parts to the walls of your partition. Alternatively, you may also wish to read this, from the New York Times: Is it Ok to be a Mediocre Employee?

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* This story originally appeared at efinancialcareers.com.au and is used here with permission.

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