Working is as synonymous with adulthood as play is with childhood.
On average, people work 42 years of their lives before retirement. With an average lifespan of 72, our work life takes a huge chunk of our lives.
Dedicating one's life to a worthwhile career can be one of the most meaningful and impactful things a person can do, however, there is such a thing as overworking – no matter how important that career is.
Overworking is simply working too hard or too much for way too long. In simple terms, it is working beyond the normal threshold. Beyond your capacity. It is working to the point when the work ceases to excite and feels more like a punishment or a chore.
For most people – especially those living in underdeveloped or developing countries – overworking is mostly imposed on them. But for those living in more developed countries (and who are working white-collar jobs), overworking is mostly by volition. However, in either case, it is not healthy.
Overworking leads to all sorts of dark places - from emotional to physical.
Overworking can cause people to grow resentful of their jobs, and of course each working hour.
These lead to other negative consequences such as substance abuse, and lower creativity and productivity among others. It could also lead to chronic stress and anxiety, which can go on to trigger depression and can become toxic for both personal and professional relationships.
Prolonged periods of overworking is stressful and causes fatigue, loss of concentration, insomnia, headaches, neck pains, lower back pain, changes in appetite, and in prolonged cases also weaken the immune system which then makes room for a swam off other illnesses.
Stress also contributes to aging and other metabolic disorders.
Needless to say, overworking is not something to be proud of, especially when it goes on for a prolonged period. Below are some simple strategies you can employ today to curb overworking, whilst getting the most of your working time.
There is no end to what can be done. So, if you open up your schedule, it is sure to get filled up with a lot of super urgent tasks.
But you need to pause and ask yourself, “Is this task important?”. Most times your answer would be no, and you should relegate those urgent tasks to the back – if they can’t wait, they should slide up.
On the other hand, you want to go to bed each night with a list of the important things you need to do the next day so that you know exactly what your priorities are as the day breaks.
This follows from the first.
You want to do those important tasks first so that at the end of your working hours, only the less important things are left; and since they aren’t really important, you can decide to leave them for the next day.
However, if you put aside an important task earlier, you would be forced to work overtime in order to complete it. So, by first picking, then prioritizing, you essentially weed out the need to work past the allocated time.
The better you pick, prioritize, and delegate tasks, the more effective your work would be.
This could mean asking for help on a very important project rather than spending all day on a single major task, while others are free or playing around with unimportant jobs. If it is work that has several parts to it, you would achieve more by delegating than trying to do everything yourself.
If after picking, prioritizing, and delegating, you find extra work finding its way to your desk, you must learn to gracefully decline.
The problem with a lot of overworked workers is that they are always trying to please people, and this is something you don’t want to be identified as. Then you’d be exploited, and grow resentful of the work and the people you are assisting.
So having said that, focus on what’s important in your business and not someone else’s.
As you work, also note that time and space on your schedule aren’t the only indicators of how much you’ve worked. You also want to listen to your body. If you feel stressed or exhausted, don’t hesitate to drop what you are doing and have a break from time to time to get your groove back.
You can also willfully block out time to relax. It doesn’t matter if you are tired or still have some work to do. Simply ensure that once it is time for a break, you take it; and later return to whatever you were doing.
If you find yourself in the habit of always pushing yourself beyond your limits, get an accountability partner to help out. Inform this person that you do not want to get into (or that you are already into) the habit of overworking, and that you’d love them to help keep an eye on you.
Feeling the heat? Read this next: Keep it or Sweep it: The Litmus Test for a Life of Less Stress
When you work in this fashion, you would come to realize that your energy levels would always be high, your creativity at its zenith, and your enthusiasm as hot as it ever were. Obeying these little self-care practices can be the difference between a delightful 42 years of employment, and 42 years of misery in the labor market.
In other words, stop believing that working or grinding all the time is the only way to succeed. It is important to remember that rest, recovery, and reflection all contribute to leading a happy and successful life.