Time to stop constantly comparing yourself to others and working all hours

We’re all for staying motivated and working hard, but for the right reasons. Sometimes our thinking can get a little skewed, and we push ourselves hard out of fear, insecurity and competitiveness, rather than for our own ambition and fulfilment. Here are some popular thoughts we have all had about our careers, and how to re-evaluate your work ethos in a positive way.

I love my work, I couldn’t possibly slow down

Do you genuinely love working at this pace? Or are you on a treadmill running so fast that you’re afraid to get off? Of course when you’re starting a business or going for a promotion, it is natural to make work a priority for a while. But success shouldn’t mean you have to work yourself into the ground. Arianna Huffington has written two books about the importance of slowing down to be more successful, after her 18 hour work days took their toll and she collapsed from exhaustion. “By professional definitions of success, I was successful,” she says. “By any sane definition of success, if you are lying in a pool full of blood on the floor of your office, you are not successful.” Your personal life shouldn’t suffer for the sake of your professional life – in an ideal world, one would benefit the other. Consider what your ideal lifestyle would be like, and think about ways to make that happen. Delegating work, getting up earlier to exercise rather than check emails, or switching off your phone to enjoy meals with your kids are all small steps that will help you slow down and ease work stress.

I’m not as experienced/talented/creative as everyone else here, so I need to work harder

It’s no secret that imposter syndrome is common amongst working women. We talk ourselves down, saying it was down to luck that we got a new job or that a project went well. We compare ourselves to those around us. This of course leads to lots of second guessing about our abilities. Even hugely successful women like Tina Fey and Maya Angelou have admitted to feeling like frauds, even at their most successful. By all means it is important to work hard, but feeling inferior should not be your motivation. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to what your colleagues and superiors have achieved, remind yourself that you’re only seeing their output. You’re not seeing their inner panic, their own sense of feeling like a fraud. The real secret is that everyone feels like an imposter sometimes; it proves you care, and that you want to be better. Remind yourself of the things you have done well, and focus on what you and only you can bring to the business.

I need to be ‘always on’, it’s the nature of the job

Modern work culture means keeping several plates spinning at once. You’re planning company events, a speech at a conference, mentoring a colleague, checking your inbox and social networks last thing at night and first thing in the morning, and that’s before you even think about your actual day job. But this is all a vicious cycle – the faster you fire off emails the faster you get a reply, and the sooner you finish a project, the sooner the next few will land on your desk. Firstly, set boundaries on your time. Ensure that colleagues and clients know that they can contact you during office hours, and that unless it’s an emergency, you won’t be responding once you’ve left the office. Being prompt about a reply doesn’t have to mean an instant message back. Before you click in to an email, decide if that can wait until the morning, or after lunch. What is wrong with taking some time to mull it over? And think about why you’re finding yourself with a giant to-do list left to tackle when the work day should be done. Are you prioritising your work? Have you said yes to too much? Are you taking on more than what is fair? Be realistic about how much work you can actually do in your working hours without it affecting your personal time.

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