The term “career-driven” has essentially become synonymous with “workaholic.” Upon hearing those two little words, most people assume you eat, sleep, and breathe only your work. They have no doubt about the fact that it makes up the entirety of your life. And, apologies to dear ol’ mom and dad, but you have a hard time caring about anything that falls outside the four walls of your office.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I don’t see any problem with being particularly motivated. After all, work is a huge part of your daily life, and it’s hard to find fault with someone who gets an incredible sense of satisfaction and fulfillment out of his or her job. I mean, that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
However, when you turn into a red-eyed, stressed out robot who forgets to eat dinner three days in a row because she’s so involved in constantly refreshing her inbox? Well, then you’ve got a whole new set of problems.
Luckily, I’m a firm believer in the fact that you can be driven, without it overtaking every other aspect of your life. Here are a few tactics that I implement that have helped me strike a balance and avoid that red-eyed robot syndrome.
1. Determine Other Priorities
I’ve hustled like nobody’s business to get to where I currently am in my career, and that progress isn’t something I intend on letting slide any time soon. However, one night during a particularly late (and all too common) work session, I realized something. I’d become so absorbed in moving forward this this one aspect of my life, that I’d lost sight of all of the other things that mattered to me. Time spent in front of my computer always ranked first.
“Well, surely my job isn’t all I care about,” I thought to myself. I knew I couldn’t have possibly fallen that far down the rabbit hole already.
So, I grabbed a notebook and a pen, sat down at my kitchen table, and jotted down the other things that truly mattered to me. My list included things like time spent with my family and friends, my personal health, and working on the various DIY projects my husband and I constantly have going on in our home.
Once I had those staring back at me on a piece of paper, it became blatantly obvious how much I had been ignoring those other aspects of my life. Even better? I now knew that I wanted to be better about divvying up my time between these things—and I also knew exactly where I wanted to focus more of my energy and attention. This helped me to stop being so zoned in on that single piece of the puzzle and forced me to step back and take in the whole picture.
2. Schedule Your Downtime
I’m one of those people who lives and dies by her planner. If it’s listed there, it’s getting done that day—no matter what.
So, I decided to use my planner obsession to my advantage. How? I began scheduling in my downtime. Now, before you roll your eyes and brush me off as a classic Type A personality who couldn’t possibly be of any help to you, hear me out. I promise you, this scheduling tactic works.
Let’s say I want to exercise three days per week or reserve an hour each evening just to relax with my husband—whether that’s taking the dog for a walk or vegging in front of the television. I literally write these activities down in my planner and then honor them as I would any other meeting or work-related commitment.
This forces me to take leaving time for my personal life more seriously. Something that used to pale in comparison to my career is now put on the same level—even if it’s just symbolic.
3. Know When It’s Time to Unplug
I was seated across from my husband in a booth at one of our favorite restaurants, and he was doing his best to strike up conversation. Me? I was absorbed in my phone. A few minutes later, he was finally desperate enough to get my attention that he snapped his fingers in front of my face. When your husband employs that exact same tactic to reprimand the dog? Well, you know you need to take a good, hard look at some of your choices.
I could rant and rave for days on end about how much I love the convenience of technology. However, it’s made truly leaving work that much more difficult. We’re constantly connected, and we feel immense pressure to address everything immediately.
Being readily available and in touch can be a good thing—but not when it means completely neglecting any other aspect of your daily life (like your poor husband seated directly across from you). So, be self-aware and recognize when it’s time to step away from the screen and unplug.
Now? I try to pack away my phone and computer by 8 PM at the latest every evening. Sure, it means I still work later than I likely should most days. But, my career is still important to me and it’s a vast improvement over where I used to be. Baby steps.
4. Celebrate Your Wins—Even the Small Ones
Here’s the thing about being career-driven—you’re likely focused on one big end goal. Whether that’s a promotion, the completion of a huge project, or even your dream job, you’ve got your eyes on the prize.
But, when you’re so absorbed in reaching the finish line, it’s all too easy to let all of your other accomplishments and achievements go totally unnoticed. And, that’s a surefire way to drive yourself straight into burning out.
Make sure that you take time to celebrate your wins—even the ones that seem insignificant to you. Perhaps that simple, “Way to go!” from your boss pales in comparison to the booming “Hallelujah Chorus” and fireworks you’ll surely experience when you finally achieve that big objective. But, your success is still worth recognizing.
There’s nothing wrong with being motivated in your career. In fact, most would say that’s a good thing. However, despite popular belief, there’s actually a big difference between being driven and letting work completely overtake your life. Put these tips to use, and you’re sure to find that happy medium!
Do you have any strategies you use to avoid turning into a work-obsessed robot? Let me know on Twitter!
Photo of working woman courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author