Are You Overworking? 4 Tips on How to Stop

If you are overworking, you are not alone.  Here are some statistics on how hard Americans work today (see detailed infographics at the end of this post):

  • Over 75% of Americans work more than 40 hours a week, and about 10 million Americans work more than 60 hours a week.
  • 10% of worker take work home every other day, and 24% of workers think about work at home or at social events.
  • 1 in 3 American adults don’t take their vacation days.

Being overworked comes at a price to the employee and the company they work for – increased chances of disease, less time with family, disturbed sleep, more stress, and less productivity.

  • Workaholics are 67% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than those who work < 8 hours a day.
  • # of stress related disability claims for American employees have doubled.
  • 56% of workaholics don’t think they accomplished much throughout their day.

If you think you are overworking, what can you do?  Well, a lot more than you think.   Many of us who are overworking feel trapped in that mode.  First, we blame others (like our boss, job, deadlines) for our situation. Second, we feel like there are no good alternatives that could change the situation.   Neither one is true.  Here are 4 tips on how to stop overworking — today!

  1. Stop being a victim and take control – We control how much we work.  When too many things are put on our plate, we can communicate and negotiate for staggered deadlines, or get help from colleagues.  Often times we don’t do this, because either we don’t know how to say no, how to get help, or we are afraid of how saying no may affect our career.  Many of our fears are exaggerated in our mind.  Remember, fear stands for: False Evidence Appearing Real.  Realizing that we are choosing to overwork is the first step to regaining control and giving ourselves options to change.
  2. Realize overworking has long term negative consequences – Many times we overwork because we put too much weight on what we may gain from overworking: a faster track to promotion, more money, praise from the boss etc.  We easily do this because we see the short term benefits and attribute them to us working hard.  Unfortunately, the negative consequences of overworking happen later (as seen in the above statistics of higher risk of disease, etc.).  It’s important to realize that every time you decide to bring work home or work overtime, there could be long-term negative consequences.   In my last contract job, I knew 3 people that got seriously ill in their late 40s and early 50s, and 1 person who died of cancer.  If your health is already affected because you are overworked, do you want to wait until you catch a serious disease to stop it, or do you want to try to stop it early?
  3. Lower your financial burden –  Many of us feel like we have to overwork because we need to make more money to support a certain lifestyle – house, car, vacations, private school, etc.   But remember: we only need about $40-75K a year to be happy.  Material things do not lead to happiness; kids can go to public school and still excel; we can be just as happy driving an Acura vs. a Jaguar.  If you are actively choosing a lavish lifestyle which requires you to overwork to support it, then you are implicitly saying that these material things are more important to you than your health and your time with family.  However, you chose it, which means you can stop if you want to.  Life is a balancing act of trade-offs.  The question is, what are truly the most important things to you in life?
  4. Put work in perspective- – Last Sunday marks the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.  I bet you anything, none of those workers thought they should have worked more or bought another fancy car when they were faced with death in the twin towers.  No one ever wishes for more work on their death bed — they usually wish for more time with family, more time to pursue their hobbies, and more time to enjoy the small things in life.As morbid as it is, death is inevitable for everyone.  Sometimes, we are so tied up with the daily grind, we act like we will live forever – delaying vacation time or personal enjoyment.  Unfortunately, the reality is that tragedies like 9/11, car accidents, or sudden disease can happen tomorrow.  The only time we have is now – so enjoy often and never retire.

It’s very possible to stop overworking, but the change has to come from you and not others.  You need to choose to stop it.  The question is, will you start to say no to too much work?  Will you start taking vacation time with your family even if work is busy?

If your answer is yes, then here is how to change: The next time you are faced with a decision to overwork or not, do the opposite of what you usually do.  It will feel immensely uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to start.  Overworking can be a habit, even an addiction; you do it even when you know it’s not good for you.  To create a new habit, today’s decisions need to be different from the ones you usually make.  The first time is the hardest, but it gets easier.  Once you have said no to overwork a few times and see how it shakes out, you are well on your way to creating a new and healthier work and life habit.  I look forward to your comments.  I am always in your corner.


3 thoughts on “Are You Overworking? 4 Tips on How to Stop

  1. Pingback: Perfect Leadership Is All About Balance

  2. Lynx

    So I read this article as I am searching for a cure for my overworking.You only coverd though the people that overwork who obviously make enough to support a family..How does one stop overworking in my position? Minimum wage job.Mother of two.Basically disabled husband.

    Work doesn’t end when you clock out. There’s a house to clean and mouths to feed.Chores to do that simply wont get done unless you do them yourself.And after an 8 hour day you just want a nap.But someone needs help with homework another needs their diaper changed while hubby is trying to hobble down stairs on crutches.No one has taken the garbage out or vacuumed so it simply must get done.Then at work you get calls from home saying they cant survive without you.Being the only money maker you have to make a choice to stay at work or go home.

    Disappoint your boss or your family?Buy groceries or have to survive on local food boxes from salvation army because you had to miss work..Pay your rent or suffer the consequences of being late and possibly becoming evicted because your family had 3 emergency room visits in one week?. I’m not complaining. I’m simply searching because this is who I am now. And overworked and burnout are understatements. Work will understand to a point but when I simply become unreliable because of family and having no energy at work.They will tend to be less forgiving.As well as will your family if you choose work over them..How do you draw that line?..And how does one person support a family on minimum wage without overworking? Even without missing work days. Its an accomplishment just staying afloat another month.

    1. Lei Han Post author

      Lynx, I can’t begin to imagine your situation. You are right. This article is not helpful to you. I am sorry to hear you are in this situation. While overwork is likely to be the norm for you, there are still a few things you can try to do to maintain sanity and survive. These are just suggestions as obviously I am not an expert in this situation. I hope rhese suggestions help.
      1. Give up trying to do it all. You will break and potentially lose your job and be in a worse situation. Ask yourself what you must do to survive for the long run. You need your job, so you need to make sure your job is intact. Frankly as long as your family is not in mortal danger, you may have to do less for the family so that you can feed them and they can stay under a roof.
      – Ask your family for help. They cannot just all be takers. You are in this together as a family While you are the bread winner, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything else also. I don’t know how old your kids are and how badly your husband is injured. If your husband can move, he can also take out the garbage, change diapers, and clean around the house. It may take him longer but he has all day if he is at home. If your kids are at least 4 years old, ask them to clean up after themselves. Sometimes, we women, think we must do it all, but it will only burn us out. Ask each person in your family to help where they can and expect it from them.
      3. Appreciate and love yourself. You are doing the best you can. You also need your health, so take care of your own basic need so you also don’t get sick. Without you, it will be a mess for the family long term. So give yourself a break and skip the vacuuming once in a while and take a 20 min nap instead.
      4. Trim down on your and your family’s need. Reduce your expenses wherever possible to take the burden off of you somewhat. I lived off of salvation army clothes for about the first 8 years I was in the US. I had a $2 bike that every classmate ridiculed. My parents had no money. My college educated mom, went to clean houses for others or worked at jack in the box to make minimum wage while my dad finished his PHD. But we survived and was even fairly happy because we are survivors. You sound like a survivor and you can teach your kids how to survive as well. There is no shame in saving money. Survive first, win later.
      I don’t know if any of this really help you but I hope it did in some small way.

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