Do You Overwork?

Published by Mikala on

Question for you, are you prone to overworking?

What do I mean by this?

  • Do you tend to start work early and finish late?
  • Do your work days often extend beyond what you have scheduled?
  • Do you find yourself working on weekends when that wasn’t in your original plan for your week?
  • When the going gets tough, do you get working?

It’s more common than you think

I get it – there’s zero judgement here. I own my own business that I’ve built from the ground up and I’m in the process of launching another one with a business partner. I’ve worked early mornings, late nights and weekends to get stuff done.

But the important difference is – do you only overwork occasionally? Or is it a regular habit?

Occasionally is not ideal, but it’s OK. You’ve procrastinated a little too much or life threw a couple of curve balls at you so as the deadline looms you need to put your head down and push through to get it done.

Regularly is not so OK. It means either intentionally or not you’ve developed an unhealthy habit that can and will negatively affect your mental and physical health, happiness and relationships.

A lesson for us all

I want to introduce you to Kate (not her real name). Kate is my personal finance manager and I made contact with her about four weeks ago to enquire about some changes to my mortgage. As is the case these days, I had to call a number and leave a message with an assurance that someone would call me back within a few days. I received the phone call, we talked about what I had in mind and what Kate needed me to send to her and she rang off with the promise that she would get back to me within a week.

That week turned into two, and then three. Four unanswered emails and two phone messages later Kate finally returned my call.

At 7.05pm. On a Friday night.  

To say Kate was in a calm and healthy state of mind would be a massive lie. I could tell within the first 20 seconds of the call that Kate was overwhelmed, overwrought and exhausted. The coach in me immediately kicked in and so I asked her about it.

She admitted through welling tears that the past 6 months at work (as a result of COVID) have been brutal. She’s been working 10+ hours a day, five days a week and just keeps falling further and further behind in her work. 

What should have been a quick 5 minute phone conversation to let me know of the delay turned into a 20 minute offloading session. Kate’s thoughts were jumbled, anxious and she was stuck on a loop repeating the same statements and information again and again.

How overwork harms

In short, Kate’s attempts to get on top of her workload by working longer hours were having the exact opposite effect.

  • She lacked focus and clarity of thought
  • It took her longer to perform tasks
  • She was eating for energy instead of health
  • She was having difficulty sleeping at night and unwinding on weekends because her brain wasn’t being given enough time to disconnect from her work and rest.
  • Her problem solving skills were almost non-existent

Now I understand that Kate’s position can be fraught because she doesn’t work for herself, she has a boss and a corporate machine to answer to. But she definitely is part of her own problem by not setting reasonable expectations with her clients and boundaries within her role.

By not being upfront with her clients and communicating clear and honest timelines and expectations, her inbox and phone message lists were filling up with requests for status updates and enquiries about why responses hadn’t been received. 

Creating more work.

By not being honest with herself (and potentially her employer) about how many hours she could healthily work on an ongoing basis, she was operating from a place of exhaustion which means her tired brain was struggling to focus so tasks were taking longer to complete and mistakes were becoming more prevalent which meant she had to spend more time double checking her work for errors. 

Creating more work.

Learn from Kate’s mistakes

And herein lies the lesson for us as business owners. The more we overwork and run ourselves into the ground, the LESS productive and effective we become. 

How can we avoid overwork?

  1. Take regular and scheduled breaks throughout the day. Take time to eat and enjoy your lunch. The time away from your tasks will allow your brain to recharge and recalibrate so it’s ready to dive into your next task or project.
  2. End your day when you said you would. Whether it’s a promise to yourself, your spouse or your kids, honour it as much as possible and make overtime the exception instead of the rule.
  3. Focus on being productive instead of busy. If you want to learn more I’ve written a blog post on what this looks like here.
  4. Set realistic deadlines for yourself, life throws curve balls – expect it and plan for it.
  5. Be open and honest with your clients. We’re all humans experiencing life in this crazy world. Own your choices and limitations, when necessary apologise and make amends.

If you’re struggling with overwork, sometimes it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. I can help. Reach out, book a discovery call and let’s chat about where you are and what you need.