How To Put Yourself First At Work (Without Losing Your Job)

You should put yourself first at work because it is essential for your wellbeing. But if you are not careful it could be a career limiting move. Today I want to explore with you how you can put your wellbeing first and not only keep your job but thrive.

Because one thing we tend to forget is that one of the reasons successful people are successful is that they are healthy and happy. Let me explain.

Why you should put yourself first at work

There are several reasons why you should put yourself and your wellbeing before your job.

If you don’t, you might:

  • burn out
  • get depressed
  • miss out on promotions

Take a good look at the people at the top of the food chain. Are they working around the clock? Are they walking around looking like zombies? Unlikely. And I’ll tell you why.

A good leader needs all of his brain capacity all the time, because she needs to be ready to make difficult decisions at anytime.

When you are tired, you are more likely to make a mistake and take forever to solve a problem than when you are rested and energised.

How to do it

Set some boundaries

Be clear on what you are willing to do and not to do. The process of setting boundaries is simple:

Step 1: you create the boundary, i.e. you decide where the line is  

Step 2: you communicate the boundary clearly and with confidence

Step 3: you maintain the boundary by reminding people of the boundary when they cross the line

Once you have set a limit, it is important not to let anyone cross that limit without consequences because you will lose credibility if you do. And it will be much harder next time you try to re-affirm your standard.

Be unapologetic about your priorities

People will respect you more for it.   

For example, my health is my priority and everyone at work knows it. This means that if I am ill, I take time off sick to fully recover. I am no use to my company if I am logged on, but not really functioning or if I come back to work before I have fully recovered because there is a higher chance that I will relapse.

My boss and my colleagues know this and they would never question it.

Maybe you have children, and your priority is to be able to spend time with them in the evening.

Just be clear on what it is that you will not compromise on. Because at the end of the day, what you are working can probably wait, but your health or your family need you now.   

Work your hours and work better

This is important and in fact it will make you a better employee. We tend to do what it is we need to do in the time we allocated for it. If you decide that your work needs to be done in 40h a week, you will get it done in 40h a week. But if you allow yourself to do an extra 1 or 2hours a day, your work will take you longer.

This strange phenomenon is called Parkinson’s Law. Here’s a short video that explains how it works:

So be really productive so that you don’t feel bad when you leave work on time because the work is done. If you want your boss to support you on this, you need to show her she is not losing out. In fact, the quality of your work should be even better.   

If you are enjoying this article, you might enjoy this one too:  Emotional Dumping: What Is Emotional Dumping? By Oliver JR Cooper

Protect your time off

There is a reason we get time off and that is so that we can rest and look after ourselves. You will be more productive and happier when you get back from your holidays, if you have had a full week off with no calls/emails from work and you have been able to switch off completely.   

The same goes for evenings and weekends. I created the concept of the Blackberry drawer a few years ago (at the time when we all had Blackberries as work phones!). When I would get home from work, I would put the Blackberry in its dedicated drawer so that I would not see it flashing at me. That way, I was in control of checking it only when I decided I wanted to, and I could really switch off. 

Do not do other people’s work

That will free you time to do your job better and you will be able to leave on time 😊  

Sometimes we get sucked into doing tasks that should be with someone else. Sometimes we do this because we don’t know how to say no or because we think it’s easier if we do it because we will do the work faster or better than our colleagues… Any of that resonates?  

Either way you are doing yourself a disservice. Doing other people’s job will not get you points when your annual review comes up. If you are working extra hours, your boss might think it is because you are not very efficient. And that will not get you a promotion.  

Have a life outside of work

This will help you leave work on time. If you have something exciting to do, you will want to make sure your work is done so you can leave with a free mind.

It will also help you setting that boundary when people are trying to get you to do work outside of business hours, as you will have a great reason to say no.   

It will also make you more interesting which will help with networking. We will cover that in another article this month.

Key take-away

If you put yourself first at work and manage to get your work done at a high level within your hours, you are showing your management that you are leader-material. You know how to set priorities, you can handle pressure and you are reliable, because you are unlikely to go off for stress or burn-out.

And this, my friend, is how you get promoted.

Let me know if this resonates with you, or not. I would love to hear your stories!

This article is part of the series Happier At Work, which you can find here.

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2 thoughts on “How To Put Yourself First At Work (Without Losing Your Job)”

  1. So important to take care of ourselves and set boundaries in our job ! And I approve the efficiency over the time passed. Thank you for this good article on a subject that should be more expressed !

    • Thank you for your comment Claire! I agree, we don’t talk about it enough. This is why I am going to write a book about how to be happier at work 🙂


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