Make sure your passion for work is productive

Last week, I talked about thinking differently to improve productivity. A big part of that post is about loving your work and taking the time to live, instead of working all of the time. In short, having a healthy passion for work and life in balance can be a big productivity booster. But too often, that passion for work can veer too far into workaholic tendencies, especially for web workers.

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, Scott Barry Kaufman talks about the difference between harmonious and obsessive passion.

“Those with harmonious passion engage in their work because it brings them intrinsic joy. They have a sense of control of their work, and their work is in harmony with their other activities in life.”

… “those with obsessive passion perceive their work as representing a passion for them, and view their work as highly valued. A major difference is that they have an uncontrollable urge to engage in their work. As a result, they report feeling more conflict between their passion and the other activities in their life.”

I see a lot of both types of passion within the web worker community. I have friends who have selected a web working career because it allows them to travel the world and have the free time to have amazing experiences while others work constantly and can’t disengage from work for even an afternoon of fun without worrying about what they are missing.

Here are a few tips to help you shift your passion from obsessive to harmonious:

  • Delegate. Spend some time with a coworker or employee that you trust and start training them on providing coverage for you when you aren’t available. This is the person you’ll list as the contact while you’re out, and you need to delegate the work to them while you’re out of the office. As a last resort, they can always contact you in the case of a dire emergency, but make it clear that it should be a real emergency before they call you on vacation. If you are a solo web worker, this can be more difficult, but you can usually work something out with your clients to cover some basic tasks while you are out of the office.
  • Go cold turkey. Take an exotic vacation on a beach where your technology would be in danger of getting covered with sand and water. This forces you to leave that cell phone and computer up in the room safe. Just make sure to actually leave it there — don’t try to sneak up to the room to check email every five minutes.
  • Buddy system. Just like in grade school, you can work with someone else and hold each other accountable. On vacation, you can give your significant other permission to help you enforce your no work time by making sure that you aren’t always checking into work. A helpful friend who can remind you to put your cell phone away can also help.
  • Wean yourself off of work. Maybe the cold turkey approach won’t work for you, but you can gradually wean yourself away from work. Start with 30 minutes every evening where you read a book, go out with friends or go for a walk without checking email or other work and gradually increase the amount until you are spending a couple of hours a day — and more on weekends — away from work.

The key is to shift your obsessive work time into fun activities that you enjoy to help bring your work and life back into balance. At first, these activities may need to be fun enough to really distract you from your obsession with work, but eventually, you should be able to shift into a more harmonious balance.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user tashmahal.