Being a Professional Doesn't Mean Working More

by Francisco Saez

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Pursuit of Mastery.

March 11, 2013

The term workaholic is used to define people who are addicted to work. In the best case, this problem comes from having a strong motivation for what you are doing, but far more often it comes as a result of poor organization which, over time, has led you to spend unnecessary hours at work in order to achieve the results you need. Instead of refining the way you work to become more efficient, you have decided to use brute force.

The real problem with being a workaholic is that when you get it into your mind that the only way to accomplish your work responsibilities is to simply spend more time doing them, your only approach to handling more responsibility is to simply add fuel to the fire. You can always work ten hours, right?


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March 11, 2013

The term workaholic is used to define people who are addicted to work. In the best case, this problem comes from having a strong motivation for what you are doing, but far more often it comes as a result of poor organization which, over time, has led you to spend unnecessary hours at work in order to achieve the results you need. Instead of refining the way you work to become more efficient, you have decided to use brute force.

The real problem with being a workaholic is that when you get it into your mind that the only way to accomplish your work responsibilities is to simply spend more time doing them, your only approach to handling more responsibility is to simply add fuel to the fire. You can always work ten hours, right?

Wait, wait, wait. If you recognize yourself following this pattern, even in a small way, please stop. The source of your problem is probably not the large amount of work you have to do—sure, this is a fact of life—but rather in how you focus your attention on the work you must complete. And notice that I have called workaholism a “problem.” Because it is. A situation of this type produces a lot of stress that can lead to other kinds of problems related to your health, your emotional stability, and your relationships with others. It may even be that, paradoxically, this approach will eventually cause you to lose your job.

One way to tell if you are focusing your attention on what is important is to keep track of your time. Maybe you are spending too much time on things that don’t require so much. And maybe you are getting more distracted than you think. If taking work home to complete what you can’t complete at work has become commonplace, you need to seriously reconsider this decision and the way you’re managing your time. Your job should not be the center of your life, or your life will be a disaster.

Instead of working longer hours and being—apparently—always busy, try instead to be a professional:

  • A professional does the hard work when he has plenty of energy and takes advantage of low energy moments to do tasks that do not require much effort.
  • A professional rests enough to recharge his energy so he can be fully efficient again the next day.
  • A professional does not work when he is too tired, because he knows he will waste his time and that he will surely have to revise or redo the job again.
  • A professional tries to become more efficient—not by working more hours—but through better organization, delegating work conveniently, automating repetitive tasks, and asking for help from his peers.
  • A professional knows his performance will be much higher if he pays proper attention to every aspect of his life: family, friends, leisure time, etc.

I recognize that a culture that applauds spending more time in the office does not help. Companies should be the first to understand that working longer hours does not necessarily mean getting more things done. If this is the culture at your work, prove them wrong. Don’t work more, work better. The hero is not the one finishing a project at the office at 10pm; the hero is the one enjoying their time at home at 10pm because he found a faster way to get the work done.

Do you feel you are always busy? There is a solution to that problem: Be more productive.

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