Are You Caught in the Work Trap?


What are you doing with your weekends?

Three things promoted me to write this article.

First, the realisation that I need to get my working life into perspective and to practice what I preach!

Second, an article I recently read by Travis Bradberry on ‘How successful people work less and get more done’.

Thirdly, a few weeks ago I had a complete weekend off – went boating, caught some fish, walked and talked with my wife Angela and our chocolate brown labrador – Poppy, (yes, dogs talk too) and generally chilled out.


So much so that Angela and Poppy (pictured below) have talked about it nearly every day since!


And I want to do that more often as increasingly I’m working longer hours and often over weekends too! (Those of you who own a business or have high responsibility as an employee know how easily it is to get trapped into 24/7).

I think there is a serious condition called the Work Trap and we need time to ‘unplug’ (no longer ‘unwind’) from the day-to-day to get more perspective, think more deeply and reflect on the bigger picture of our lives.

 … people who work as much as 70 hours per week
only achieve the same amount as people who work 55 hours

A new study from Stanford found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the work week exceeds 50 hours and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours there’s no point in working any more. Apparently, people who work as much as 70 hours per week (or more) only achieve the same amount as people who work 55 hours.

Successful people know the importance of shifting gears on the weekend to relaxing and rejuvenating activities.

Those who have participated in our Power of Your Purpose programs, will recall the activity where we work together on building your ideal On-Purpose day or weekend. Both of these create space and quality time for the things that matter most – your core wants and top priorities which align with your Purpose and Values.

This might be less difficult than you think!


Creating Life Integration on Weekends

Activities that successful people do to create life integration on weekends

So, drawing on the post by Travis Bradberry, here are practical things that successful people do on the weekend to re-enter work on Monday morning feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

1. Disconnect
Disconnecting is the most important weekend strategy on this list, because if you can’t find a way to remove yourself electronically from your work Friday evening through Monday morning, then you’ve never really left work.

Making yourself available to your work 24/7 exposes you to a constant barrage of stressors that prevent you from refocusing and recharging. If taking the entire weekend off handling work e-mails and calls isn’t realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking e-mails and responding to voicemails. Scheduling short blocks of time to attend to emails will alleviate stress without sacrificing availability.

2. Minimise chores
Chores have a funny habit of completely taking over your weekends. When this happens, you lose the opportunity to relax and reflect. What’s worse is that a lot of chores feel like work. So if you spend all weekend doing them, you just put in a seven-day work week. To keep this from happening, you need to schedule your chores like you would anything else during the week, and if you don’t complete them during the allotted time, you move on and finish them the following weekend.

3. Reflect
Weekly reflection is a powerful tool for improvement. Use the weekend to contemplate the larger forces that are shaping your industry, your organization, and your job. Without the distractions of Monday to Friday busy work, you should be able to see things in a whole new light. Use this insight to alter your approach to the coming week, improving the efficiency and efficacy of your work.

4. Exercise
You have 48 hours every weekend to make it happen. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a soothing neurotransmitter that reduces stress. Exercise is also a great way to come up with new ideas. Innovators and other successful people know that being outdoors often sparks creativity.

Whether you’re running, walking, cycling or gardening, exercise leads to endorphin-fuelled introspection. The key is to find a physical activity that does this for you and then to make it an important part of your weekend routine.

5. Pursue a passion
You might be surprised what happens when you pursue something you’re passionate about on weekends. Indulging your passions is a great way to escape stress and to open your mind to new ways of thinking. Things like playing music, reading, writing, painting, or even playing with your kids can help stimulate different modes of thought that can reap huge dividends over the coming week.

6. Spend quality time with family
Spending quality time with your family on the weekend is essential if you want to recharge and relax. Weekdays are so hectic that the entire week can fly by with little quality family time. Don’t let this bleed into your weekends. Take your kids to the park, take your spouse to his or her favourite restaurant, go to the movies and go visit your parents. You’ll be glad you did.

7. Schedule micro-adventures
Buy tickets to a concert or play or get reservations for that new hotel that just opened downtown. Instead of running on a treadmill, plan a hike. Try something you haven’t done before or perhaps something you haven’t done in a long time. Studies show that anticipating something good to come is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable. Knowing that you have something interesting planned for Saturday will not only be fun come Saturday, but it will significantly improve your mood throughout the week.

8. Wake up at the same time
It’s tempting to sleep in on the weekend to catch up on your sleep. Though it feels good temporarily, having an inconsistent wake-up time disturbs your circadian rhythm. Your body cycles through an elaborate series of sleep phases in order for you to wake up rested and refreshed. One of these phases involves preparing your mind to be awake and alert, which is why people often wake up just before their alarm clock goes off (the brain is trained and ready).

When you sleep past your regular wake-up time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired. This isn’t just disruptive to your day off, it also makes you less productive on Monday because your brain isn’t ready to wake up at your regular time. If you need to catch up on sleep, just go to bed earlier.

9. Prepare for the upcoming week
The weekend is a great time to spend a few moments planning your upcoming week. As little as 30 minutes of planning can yield significant gains in productivity and reduced stress. The week feels a lot more manageable when you go into it with a plan because all you have to focus on is execution.

Final comments

Trying to implement all of these at once will be overwhelming. So next weekend pick one or two of these to get you started. Commence with the ones that will give you the most meaning and fulfilment. Start planning your weekends intentionally. None of these will happen unless you are really serious about breaking the Work Trap.

While you are planning your next weekend, get some overall perspective back into your life and ask the big questions:

  • What is the ultimate purpose of my life, work or career?
  • What am I living for?
  • What do I want my life to be about and stand for?

Wait for the answers to emerge from deep within you. They will come. Just give them time and space.

One more tip. Start observing yourself more. Watch your actions and thoughts as you develop deeper self-awareness about your life and work. We are all so self-absorbed we give little time to being self-aware.

So now it’s up to you but many people find a coach useful for accountability. If you need some assistance to get you going, please give me a call or send me an email.

This is too important to be left to chance.

© Dr Edward Gifford, On-Purpose Partners®