You know the play, “Little Shop of Horrors?” It’s a musical about a floral shop worker named Seymour who comes across an unknown plant species which he names Audrey II (after the woman he loves). He places the peculiar plant in the shop window, which to his delight, attracts an influx of new customers. Despite his best efforts to nurture the plant, it begins to wither until one day Seymour carelessly pricks his finger on a thorn and discovers Audrey II thrives on human blood. Kind of sick, I know! The more the mysterious plant is fed, the more it grows—and so does its appetite. No matter what the cost, the relentless plea of this monstrous plant is “Feed me Seymour!”
Sometimes our job (the thing we love) can become like Audrey II if we are not careful. After all, it’s only responsible to put in extra hours when your job requires it. Those long hours may even result in a stream of new business that yields personal financial rewards. But, when the demand for more hours continues to multiply with no end in sight, the job you once loved can begin to suck the life out of you. If that sounds all too familiar, here’s a piece of advice: Don’t feed the monster, fix the problem!
Work-life balance can be a real conundrum for high achievers. It’s par for the course to put in a few extra hours if you want to advance professionally, and I don’t disagree. It’s when that unspoken expectation turns into an overwhelming burden that takes over your life that there is a problem. If you want to remain sane and somewhat healthy, you must address the issues that are causing the imbalance.
Identify the culprit
What is the main reason you are putting in so much overtime? Are you understaffed? Is it the result of business growth? Is there a gap in communication between you and your boss regarding workload and expectations? Are you afraid to push back when your plate is full? Is it the result of poor organization skills? Are you having trouble prioritizing? Or, is it the cultural mentality to work long days?
Address the problem
Once you have identified the problem, take action. If your company is growing or understaffed, talk with your supervisor and devise an interim plan to address the extra work until new hires are made. If communication is the issue, schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss the challenges and possible solutions. If your plate is full but you’re afraid to say no, tactfully push back when it’s within your right to do so. If you are disorganized, seek out a tool that will help you find order. If prioritizing is the problem, talk to your supervisor regarding which projects can take a back seat to higher priorities. And, if it is just the cultural mentality to work 24/7, you need to decide if that’s a sacrifice you are willing to make.
There’s nothing wrong with working hard. But, if you are so out of balance that your life is being consumed by your job, don’t just feed the monster—find a solution!