How You Work may be Working Against You

In my column today I want to look at how we work through the lens of productivity and that of procrastination. While procrastinators are well aware that this habit is working against them, those of us who are busy all the time and seemingly productive may not see their way of working as working against them but read on and please…remain open-minded.

“Time is an equal opportunity provider,” says Mark Ford – editor of ‘Creating Wealth’. “Every one of us, regardless of age, sex, race, or religion, has the same 24 hours per day. How we use those hours determines our success.”

We know that working long, hard hours is a characteristic of most successful people, yet what happens if there is no time left over for pleasure, time for family – important friendships, intellectual stimulation or meaningful experiences?

“Workaholism is an addiction,” Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, “and like all addictions, it blocks creative energy.” More than killing our ability to create, I believe that work as an addiction can also kill our ability to use our imagination.

Author David Pollard in his essay ‘Death of Imagination’ makes the distinction between creativity and imagination:

Imagination“Imagination is the capacity to conjure up ideas, stories, prose, poetry, music, images, and ways to deal with problems and predicaments, seemingly out of nothing. It is the ability to be open to possibility, to let something emerge within you, and give it voice.

Creativity, by contrast, is a crafter’s art. It is the capacity to realize, to make real, either your own imaginative possibilities or those described or specified by others. It is a different skill entirely, and while some people are both imaginative and creative, there are many more creative people today, I think, than imaginative ones.”

Imagination takes practice and like all things that require practice – we usually don’t like them because it takes too much work and too much time! We have grown accustomed to the world at our fingertips, the click of a mouse, the immediacy of a text, the feeling that we’re walking around with all the knowledge we need contained in our phones.

Yet we want new ideas. We want to innovate. We want to become leaders in our fields.

We are going to be unable to do this if we cram our lives full of work-work-work. My Granny was fond of saying “too much of one thing is good for nothing.”

Begin, today, with this self-administered evaluation from Julia Cameron to help you figure out if you have workaholic habits.

Answer “seldom,” “often,” or “never” to the following:

  • I work outside of office hours.
  • I cancel dates with loved ones to do more work.
  • I postpone outings until the deadline is over.
  • I take work with me on vacations.
  • I take work with me on weekends.
  • I take vacations.
  • My intimates complain that I always work.
  • I try to do two things at once.
  • I allow myself free time between projects.
  • I allow myself to achieve closure on tasks.
  • I procrastinate in finishing up the last loose ends.
  • I set out to do one job, and start on three more at the same time.
  • I work in the evenings during family time.
  • I allow calls to interrupt—and lengthen—my workday.
  • I prioritize my day to include an hour of creative work/play.
  • I place my creative dreams before my work.
  • I fall in with others’ plans and fill my free time with their agendas.
  • I allow myself downtime to do nothing.
  • I use the word “deadline” to describe and rationalize my workload.
  • I go everywhere, even to dinner, with a notebook or my work numbers.

“There is a difference between zestful work toward a cherished goal and workaholism,” says Cameron.

“That difference lies less in the hours than it does in the emotional quality of the hours spent. There is a treadmill quality to workaholism. We depend on our addiction, and we resent it. For a workaholic, work is synonymous with worth, and so we are hesitant to jettison any part of it.”

Your answers to Julia Cameron’s self-evaluation questions will give you a quick sense of whether you have a problem with workaholism.

Overworking definitely has its drawbacks but what about if you can’t seem to get things done?

How do you make the secret of getting things done a part of your life? In a word – HABIT. And you develop habits through repetition. “Sow an action and you reap a habit; so a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” So said the great psychologist and philosopher William James. In other words you are your habits.

Neville Goddard (1905-1972) born to an English family in Barbados shared this about imagination in his book ‘Awakened Imagination’ – “Imagination is not entirely untrammeled and free to move at will without any rules to constrain it. In fact, the contrary is true. Imagination travels according to habit. Imagination has choice, but it chooses according to habit. Awake or asleep, man’s imagination is constrained to follow certain definite patterns. It is this benumbing influence of habit that man must change; if he does not, his dreams will fade under the paralysis of custom.”

So what’s the habit that you need to develop so that you could get things done?

Use the self-motivator – DO IT NOW!

Years ago, a very successful business woman, who owns a printing company in Port of Spain, shared this self-motivator with me. She told me to never over-think what I had to do during the course of any day. Once I set my intentions for that day, I should set about getting those things done.
Do it now” she said. It was one of the best pieces of advice that I have received to date. Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone, dedicate an entire chapter to this concept in their book ‘Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude’ in the eighth chapter titled – The Secret of Getting Things Done.

I am not suggesting that you fill your list with random to-dos. You must have a definite objective that you are working toward before your life crystallizes and begins to look the way you imagine it to look.

E.E.Baumeister, supervisor of education and correctional counselor at the California Institituion for Men, Chino California told Hill and Stone…

“Too often what we read and profess becomes a part of our libraries and our vocabularies, instead of becoming a part of our lives.”

I invite you to stop and think about this. You now have knowledge of principles that could help you achieve any worthwhile goal in life you might desire and be willing to imagine. Will you take action and make this a part of YOUR life? The choice of course – is yours. I hope you make the one that will ultimately serve you best so that how you work, works FOR you!

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