Harping again on the subject of stress and burnout, I recently learned about the art of saying no. You will find that regularly taking on any job that you are asked to do will result in more tasks and projects coming your way. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, don’t be tempted to agree to everything that is thrown at you. Remember, nobody is indispensable when they are dead.


Sound familiar? Have you ever noticed that some of your colleagues seem to work the normal 9-5 and you get to run around for 12 or 14 hours?

Does your office have a long-hours culture? At one of my previous employers the culture was very much geared toward proving one’s commitment by working longer hours than the next person. There was even a system of appearing to be in the office — a jacket left over the back of a chair, PC left on, and files open on the desk were intended to give the impression that the person had just stepped away from his or her desk for a moment; whereas in reality the employee had gone home. It was all a game that people played to try to appear busy; there was a lot of fear about job security.

Bitter experience has taught me that working longer does not necessarily mean that you will be more productive. I was told by my present boss that my job had been designed to be achievable in the hours I was paid to work. If I wasn’t able to complete all my tasks, then it must be my lack of organization rather than a shortage of time that was the problem.

I took this advice on board and rearranged my working day. My priority is my own health and well-being; the work comes second. I reviewed the jobs I was doing and pruned the ones that it was not possible to complete in the hours allocated. These days I work until my contracted time, and then I go home. Unless there is a good reason I don’t start in the morning until 9.00 am, my scheduled start time, and I finish at 5.00 pm.

I don’t worry about the things I can’t change, and things have gotten a lot better.

I’m working about twelve fewer hours each week, yet at my recent review, I was surprised to see that my productivity was one of the highest in the company. It means that work is going well, and I still have time to spend an hour on the beach each evening. As I am field-based, I am at the mercy of a mobile phone. A friend of mine regularly complains about the intrusive nature of his mobile, but the answer is simple. Record a suitable voicemail message and remember the single most useful feature of the mobile phone, the on/off switch. Mine goes on in the morning and is turned off at the end of the day.

I urge anyone who is finding it hard to keep up with the demands of his or her job to learn to say no to jobs that you can’t complete in the time allocated.