Workaholics always end up losing in the end
I make no apology for being lazy. If there’s a corner, I’ll cut it. If there’s a fast way, I’ll find it. If there is a reason not to do something, I’ll find it, use it and then flog it until it’s a mere paste.
I don’t reinvent wheels. I don’t like to do something twice. Tautology is not my thing, except when I’m trying to make a point. So I don’t understand workaholics. I don’t get how someone can get up at 6am, dress, eat and go to work for 14 hours, not break for lunch or a walk around the block, go home, defrost something and sit down at the dining table to start working again, only getting up to put on Lateline.
That is not a balanced life.
A friend of mine was tending towards workaholism in her 20s. Her father gave her this piece of advice, which has stuck in my mind: if you put your hand in a bucket of water and swirl it around, there’s a lot of activity going on. But if you take it out, it becomes still. So take your hand out once and a while. The bucket of water will be there tomorrow.
Towards the end of Kevin as PM, I kept thinking about that analogy. Every time I heard him ask if he could say he was working hard, I thought ‘Get your hand out of the bucket.’
Now Julia Gillard is saying that her weakness is she works too hard. Well, we had one of those. Workaholics don’t do it for me anymore.
There’s a new book on the market, which I hope becomes necessary reading for every member of the Australian workforce: ‘The way we’re working isn’t working’ – by Tony Schwartz et al (Simon and Schuster).
In it, there are charts and curves and studies and statistics, which show that long days are not productive days. Rest is necessary to regenerate and reinvigorate the mind and body.
My favourite case study was of the young accountants at one of the big four (three or five, I lost track when Andersen’s folded) firms. They were expected to work 14-hour days during tax time over a number of months.
Schwartz taught these accountants to be more efficient by reducing distractions and focusing on tasks more fully. They would work for 90 minutes at a time and have a break. Many of them took an hour off in the afternoon to go to the gym.
When they came back to work at 4 or 5 in the afternoon, usually the time they were looking for a snickers or another cup of coffee, they were more productive than they had been before Schwartz had worked with them. And rather than working until late into the night, were able to get more done in less time.
I love that!
If Kevin Rudd had given himself more time – and not just going to church because he managed to do media outside the church more often than not – to walk or meditate or sing castrato arias – he might have had a bit more perspective. He might have realised that for all the activity, he hadn’t actually done anything since he apologised in 2008. And what he had done hadn’t really worked.
I would much rather have read (let’s face it, Masterchef was on, I wasn’t going to watch the 7.30Report) a transcript where Julia Gillard said her weakness was becoming a bit rowdy at the football or liking a good crime novel, ornithology or philately even.
John Howard had his morning sprint (let’s face it, it wasn’t a walk) and he was a cricket tragic. But he also seemed to be a bit of a rugby tragic, Olympics tragic, Tour de France tragic etc. Tony Abbott likes a triathalon and has a morning run. Wayne Goss was a runner. Tom Burns used to fish. Harold Holt liked swimming in the sea, worst luck. Bill Clinton played the saxaphone and around.
So enough of this bull that workaholism is good. It’s not. Bring back balance.
* Julia is a former Liberal staff not likely to say anything positive about Labor anyway. Saves you looking it up.
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