It always happens at night, when I’m in bed. I will lie there, my head spinning with ideas that I make a mental note of so I haven’t forgotten them in the morning. I think of the emails I need to return, colleagues I need to get back to, deadlines I need to keep up with and the book I’ve been writing.
A friend of mine ditched being a lawyer because he was a workaholic. His wife pretty much gave him an ultimatum. Turns out, he loved his wife and family more than his job and he’s now happy running a photography business outside of Toronto. I called him recently to talk to him about my nighttime workaholic problem (and the resulting lack of sleep) and he knew all too well what I was talking about. I asked him for some advice on how to shut my brain off at night. Here are his tips:
1. Plan tomorrow the night before: “Sometime after dinner, sit down and make a list of things you want to get done the following day. This way you aren’t making a list in your brain when you get in bed,” he suggested.
2. Do something unrelated to work an hour before bed: “Going to sleep right after doing work means you’re still in work mode. Watch a movie or read a book to shift out of work stuff,” he said.
3. Be verbal about not working too much: “Telling family and friends that you’re trying to work less will help keep you in check because they’ll be on your butt if they see you’re still working too hard when you should be relaxing. It worked for me. But with a little more of a push,” he laughed.
4. Don’t bring your cell phone to bed, to the dinner table, etc.: “Keeping it with you will force you to check emails, so make an effort to keep it away from bed, the dinner table or family time,” he says. “I now never check my e-mail after 6 p.m. That is when my workday is done. Once you get into the routine, and you will, it’s like anything else. It becomes normal!”
5. Don’t ever do work or read or watch television in bed: “Your body and brain need to learn that bed = sleep, so if you’ve got your laptop or the television on it won’t know what it’s doing there and will take you longer to go to sleep,” he said. Do these things in another room so that when you hit the hay you can fall asleep much faster, more comfortably and with ease.
6. Remember that work is not your whole life: “Social life, family, fun, playing, exercising are all part of life and will make your job easier because you’re not miserable! Stress kills; we know this, so stay balanced and have stress outlets. At the end of the day it’s not worth compromising your health,” he added.
Sweet dreams, you workaholics. I’m going to try out his tips. It may take a while, but I’m sure my brain, like me, doesn’t want to work all the time. It just needs a little (or huge) nudge in the opposite direction.