Career Isn’t Everything

In my life, I’ve learned that putting things in the correct order of prioritization makes all the difference. It’s tempting to put my career first in life. I spend at least eight hours of each weekday on my career, and feel the pull over the weekend and sometimes during the evening to go back to it. We live at a time that most knowledge workers can (and maybe should) work from anywhere. We all spend a significant amount of time worrying about work, talking to people about it, even traveling into the office (lucky for me I live where my commute is short, and sometimes I work from home).people-2561247_1920

But research shows that too much focus on work, or too much time spent working, actually detracts from productivity, creativity, engagement, and job satisfaction. Even when we’re not in the office or staring at a computer screen, our phones are vibrating, pinging, and distracting us. And the implication is that will infect other parts of life too – family relationships, opportunities to engage in wholesome recreational activities, driving, and sleep. And despite all of that research many of us still insist on working more than we need to.

Hard work is good – it’s honest and good for the soul. But perhaps instead of focusing nine, 10, or 12 hours a day on career, if we’re truly committed to doing our best while working, we need more in life. Studies show that exercise, physical exertion, service opportunities, and time spent with family increase our effectiveness while at work. Over the next few weeks I’m going to share that evidence and those studies, and tease out not just the what and how of maintaining optimum engagement at work, but also the why.

For myself, I try to live my life following the priorities listed below. They may differ for you, but I’ve found that I feel most centered, focused, and generally happy and at peace if I’m able to balance and prioritize what, why, and how I do things in this order:

  1. This isn’t necessarily religion, but it is a way for me to stay mindful of those things I cannot see, touch, or hear but which affect my inner peace of mind. Generally, this involves quiet moments of meditation, prayer, reflection, and study.
  2. My wife. She’s the center of my family and the mother of my kids and is the most important person in my life.
  3. My kids. I’m their father and can have a greater influence, for good or bad, than anything else in their lives (except their mom).
  4. My career. Without it, I cannot provide the temporal needs of my family or do many of the things I like to do outside of work. It also includes any side hustles I might have going on.
  5. Life tasks. This includes general things such as caring for my home (where priority numbers two and three live) and the rest of life’s minutia (paying bills, mowing the grass, and so on). I honestly attempt to simplify those tasks as much as possible.
  6. Books, mostly. Keeping up with what’s going on in the world.
  7. Service and extended family, including service in my church. If we’re not serving others, then what are we doing?
  8. I’m an outdoor enthusiast and try as much as possible to hike, backpack, trail run, and the like.

That list of priorities doesn’t dictate the exact proportion of time I spend. For example, I spend way less time meditating than I do working in the office. However, in any given moment if I need to choose between going to my son’s basketball game or working in the yard, I go to my son’s basketball game.

Watch for more updates on how to stay engaged and happy at work.

Further reading

Importance of sleep

Long hours at work don’t increase productivity