Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


I seem to be working every hour God sends, but getting nowhere. Is life meant to be a treadmill? I haven't been promoted for ages, and my workload is increasing. What do I do? Please help!


Your heartfelt plea deserves a full answer. First, we are living through a time of increasing global competition for resources and, in the West, the recent recession has made things tougher. Thankfully, there are signs now that prosperity is coming, but meanwhile, many are left with the burden of over-working. I think we can focus on several strategies.


Analyze your activities
Prioritize your time
Plan your life and get off the treadmill
Evaluate your progress

1. Analyze your activities.

  • Recognize you can make more of anything, except time! You have 168 hours per week to play with. Think what Julius Caesar did with his!

  • List down all your time-occupying activities, differentiating the work you do to earn your living, from chores and other tasks. Keep a journal to log how you spend a typical day, for example. Add everything, including meals and travel time. Keep this monitoring going for a week if you can.

  • Using your list, divide your activities into those which make you feel happy and those which make you feel unhappy. Reflect on what it is that guides your decisions about these.

  • Be aware of those things you do out of duty or compulsion. Imagine your life is a balloon basket. To gain height, keep only the habits that are beneficial. Look to dump baggage here.

  • Imaginatively and fearlessly, add in activities you have avoided due to fear, guilt or laziness. Can you swim? Do you want to fly?

2. Prioritize your time.

  • From your list, choose the 3 most and the 3 least desirable activities.This will help you to start a priority list.

  • Allocate a nominal time allocation to each activity. For example, playing golf might be allotted 6 hours a month. These are tentative timings, so don't feel legalistic about them.

  • Ruthlessly delete from your future time allocation those things which you find give no reward.

  • Fit in all remaining activities in the order you consider most reflects their importance.

  • Don't waste your leisure time. Guard it, plan it, and enjoy it. Don't let evenings and weekends just come and go. They are prime time, not just punctuations in your working life.

3. Plan your life and get off the treadmill.

  • Use a calendar or diary to plan the month ahead. Your word processor may have the facility to generate one for you.

  • Block out leisure and R&R time on a regular basis.

  • Carry your diary or organizer file at all times. When asked, "Can you just..," consult your diary before answering. Remember, it's OK to say "no."

  • Use a time and event planner, which could be PC based, such as Sidekick!, Time and Chaos or Lotus Organizer, or the paper fact-file type, to get a grip on your diary activities. Think of time as more-than-money.

  • Get involved in group activities. Learn to socialize. Workaholics are sometimes guys who are just avoiding social contact. If you work irregular hours, look for others who have a flexible week to join in with you in leisure. Many clubs operate on a drop-in basis. Take that sauna!

4. Evaluate your progress.

  • Review your time journal regularly. Are you slipping back into old time-wasting ways?

  • Ask yourself if you might be able to earn more in a shorter time -- legally! Remember, your biggest resource is that 168 hours we ALL get.

  • You should be finding that you are getting more done in less time by now. That 168 hours will stretch remarkably.

  • Don't stint on sleep. Do get up at a regular time if you can, and don't rush in the morning. Where you can, develop regular patterns of rewarding behavior in your schedule. Soon, you'll be passing on time-saving tips to others! You'll discover overworking is almost always associated with poor time management. Finally, if you are a work addict, make sure the work you do is something you enjoy.

I hope that helps, guys!


Trevor Harvey, M.Ed combines lecturing in the School of Health at the University of East Anglia, with writing and counselling, and is based in Norwich, England. After a 12 year naval career, including the Falklands War, he became editorial board member/series advisor with The British Journal of Health Care Management and founder of the men's group AMICUS. He focused on health-related men's issues, particularly the way men negotiate personal transition through relationship crises, and is currently studying the management of information overload. Whenever possible, he combines his passion for photography with hill walking, and piloting his boat on the local lakes and rivers of eastern England.


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