Wearing The Honorable Badge of Hours Worked

Guilty as charged

I’m guilty of it myself.

While I love working in customer service, I admit, I’ve done it.

Done what, you ask?

I’ve worn the honorable badge of hours worked. 

I was caught up in the swirl of “the more I work, the more worthy I am”. The more valuable I am. The more people I can help. The more I can lead my team. The more of a hero I become. To infinity and beyond I go!

I worked for a great company. It was growing fast. I took it on myself to pull 10-12 hour days.

I thought that I was a failure. That I was lazy. I was exhausted – physically, mentally and emotionally.

I had to work. And, I had to work hard. Because I’m nothing without work. And there is no money without work.

I thought I was weak because I felt burnt out from so much work. I couldn’t keep up. I was a total grump. I felt horrible. I was suffering from high stress and digestive issues.

I’d hear stories from other people in and out of my company sharing how many hours they worked. I was on the lower end. Friends pulling 14-16 hours a day. Not sleeping. Not spending time with their family. Leaving work at the end of the day only to go home and hop back on the computer to work.

On weekends, I’d answer emails on the go. I’d hop online to answer a few questions, that  of course turned into a few hours of questions.

I thought this is what I had to do. So many others were doing it.

Several years and many anxiety attacks later, I realized that I don’t have to be a superhero. And, that I can work smarter, not longer. 

I took off my badge of working long hours just one year ago. It is still fresh in my mind and let me tell you – it’s been a game changer. And, as a health coach, I can now support my clients in removing their own badges.

So, how did I do this?

I gave myself a reality check.

I asked myself, “What is the cost of continuing down the path of working long, stressful hours Jenny? Is this the story you want to tell on your deathbed?” After yet another anxiety attack, I knew that my body was trying to tell me something. Was I actually going to listen this time around? Was this the life I wanted to live? I did a lot of journaling and talk therapy (yes, I went to therapy – I have no shame in admitting that) throughout this process. It wasn’t easy but I had to admit that a change was necessary. I wrote out what I was looking for in a job. I took a risk and left a job that treated me like royalty but wasn’t the best fit in my heart. And eventually, I landed a stellar role that fits into my lifestyle and keeps a smile on my face.

I say “no” more often.

I was taught from a very young age, like many of us, to be a “yes” person. Don’t say “no” or else you will disappoint. This was tough for me and to be honest, it is a struggle I continue to work on every day. But let me tell you – when you have those boundaries set and you can say “no” from a place of kindness, it’s the most magical way to lift a weight off of your shoulders. How did I do this? I once heard someone say to me, “I can’t do this but I can do ___” and something clicked in my head. I could say “no” and also suggest an alternative that fits into my life. Within hours, I was a “no” machine. And, good news for you – Marie Forleo just shared her Ultimate Guide to Saying No this week from which I have taken a few new tips.

Listen, I am not here to change your mind nor am I here to force you away from working long hours. Everyone is different and some people thrive in this condition.

However, I’m not that person and I did want to share a snippet of my journey with you about how I had to make some shifts. Because, it is possible if you believe it is possible. You can make the change.

PS: I’m a health coach over at Dempsey Wellness – non-diet, body positive health coaching for busy people in the real world. If you’d like a free session, connect with me via email jenny@dempseywellness.org or via one of my social channels linked below.

Jenny Dempsey is the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn.com. With over a decade of customer service experience, Jenny has been recognized through social media channels as a thought leader. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on the Customer Service Life. When she's not helping or singing to customers, she is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, coaching clients over at her side passion project, JennyDempseyWellness.com.

4 comments

  • Well done, Jenny. I learned this lesson myself years ago. If the first way we describe our contribution is “I worked ____ hours today,” then we probably aren’t making the right kind of impact.

    It’s counterintuitive, but we get more done when we’re fresh and focused. There’s a limit on that for all of us.

    • Thanks, Jeff. I like how you describe this with that sentence with ___ hours. If that is what people are saying, then you’re right – that is not the right kind of impact one should be making. Cheers to being fresh, focused and finding our own limits.

      • Likewise, I’m leery of anyone who leads with _____ years of experience as their primary qualification. What have you accomplished? What experience have you gained? To me, that’s far more relevant than how much time you put in.

        A colleague of mine once wisely said, “There’s a difference between having 20 years of experience and having 1 year of experience 20 times. Both take 20 years to accumulate, but only the person with 20 years of experience has gained from it.”

        I think the same is probably true for hours worked. Who cares if you worked 5, 10, or 15 hours. What did you accomplish?

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