- 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!
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.