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Editorial -When Enough is Enough

If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked how I fit in all the different things I do, well… I would probably be rich enough not to have to fit in all the things I do.

But it’s becoming ever clearer to me that being a ‘superwoman’ isn’t a badge of honour. Much as we – and women in particular fall prey to this – start to believe the myth that we can have it all and do it all at the same time, the badge should probably read something quite different. Because the reality is that too many of us are doing far too much, and it’s not healthy.

Rather than something to beat our chests about, our overly-busy lives – some of it undoubtedly self-imposed if we are brutally honest – is more an admission of our failure to prioritise what we do. Instead of focusing on what matters, too often we try to give equal weight to things which, in the final analysis, probably don’t matter.

TGI Friday…Or Not

Being both a writer and a self-employed businessperson, it’s very easy for the boundaries between work and leisure to become blurred. And, to judge from some of the studies I’ve come across, I’m far from being the only one who welcomes the end of the week, but then carries on working through the weekend as if nothing had changed.

A poll by employee benefits firm MetLife revealed that weekend working is commonplace, and that almost half of the 1000 UK employees surveyed (47%) who work Monday to Friday, put in extra hours at the weekend. The research suggested that work has disturbed weekends for 9.7 million people in the past 12 months. While the average number of weekends people worked extra hours is just eight, 14% of poll respondents said they had to work on more than 21 weekends in the year to keep up with their workload.

Trying to be Superwoman (or Superman) usually means that we are not being mindful of how we choose to spend our time.

Predictably, the results also revealed that women find it harder to switch off at weekends, with 38% of female workers admitting that this is an issue, compared with 32% of men.

So why are we turning into a nation of people who struggle to relax?

Need vs. Want

While the obvious answer may be ‘money’, studies show that this doesn’t always account for why we go beyond the extra mile. For some people, overworking is a habit that they find hard to break. As they spend less and less time on leisure activities, they lose the desire to engage in them, and without any hobbies or outside interests, work becomes the only activity left to pursue.

Even for those who believe it’s about money, what do we need versus what we believe we want, and when is enough...well, enough? Because it seems that some of us want to work excessively even when our financial needs have been satisfied.

A fascinating study by Christopher K. Hsee, Jiao Zhang, Cindy F. Cai, and Shirley Zhang of Booth School of Business, University of Chicago; School of Business, University of Miami; and Antai College, Shanghai Jiao Tong University researched the question of ‘overearning’ - why we work so hard if our “needs” are met. If technological gains now allow us to produce more with less, why are we still working so many hours?

The authors studied the question of whether people overearn—forgo leisure to work and earn beyond their needs. Among their conclusions was the disturbing finding that individuals overearn, even at the cost of happiness, and that overearning is a result of mindless accumulation—a tendency to work and earn until feeling tired, rather than until having enough.

"Overearners forgo the pleasure of leisure and endure the pain of extra work. Overearners may also lower the wellbeing of people around them by imposing more pressure on peers… and giving less time to loved ones."

Just (Don’t) Do It!

Trying to be Superwoman (or Superman) usually means that we are not being mindful of how we choose to spend our time, and the question we must ask ourselves is ‘In the final scheme of things, will this really matter?’

Daughter One recently remarked that I’m obsessed with death (possibly because I’ve warned her that even if I’m hit by a bus, she still needs to study and pass her exams). But recent losses remind me that our time here is short and shouldn’t be wasted on things we don’t want to do.

So, whether it’s finally starting that exercise routine or reading the books gathering dust on your bedside table, what are you waiting for?

If, like me, you are just plain tired of being any kind of superhero, here are some questions to ask yourself: What are you still holding onto that you can now let go? What are some of the projects you swore you would undertake but which, frankly, no longer interest you? Which time wasters that you’ve allowed to take over as routine can you now eliminate?

Let me paraphrase a morbid joke: Question: ‘What do you call someone who works too hard?’ Answer: ‘An organ donor’. We need to be responsible enough to sometimes be irresponsible. As the Jamaican proverb reminds us, ‘When belly full, jaw must stop’.

The traditional holiday months are upon us and it’s a good time for all of us to rip off our super cloaks, down tools, and declare that enough is enough.


Author of the novels ‘Imperfect Arrangements’ ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ and the books I Want to Work in… Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent’ and ‘Everyday Heroes – Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals’

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