When was the last time you tallied up your working hours? With competitive salaries, many professionals lose count of the time they spend working, especially since it spills into after hours, burning the midnight oil. The same goes with a new generation — and growing market — of freelancers, who feel the need to be on 24/7 to keep their cash flow steady.
Coined as ‘overworking’ leadership development expert Elizabeth Whittaker-Walker explains it’s less of a trend and more of a societal norm. “It’s often confused with work ethic and performance potential. In days of old, it signified a commitment to a company, and the ability to get the job done. Even though research suggests the contrary, it’s an idea that many find difficult to shake,” she explains.
When we push ourselves not only to, but beyond, our limits our performance and health suffer significantly. If you’re worried you’re on the fast track to burnout, here career experts provide the all-too-clear signs you’re working way — way — too much, and what to do:
You can’t remember the last time you had a real vacation.
Seriously think about it: when did you go somewhere tropical or fascinating… and stayed logged out of your work email the whole time? If an image doesn’t instantly pop into mind, career advice expert at TopResume Amanda Augustine says you’re due for a disconnected getaway. Even if you don’t ever leave town.
“It may feel impossible to get away from work, but it’s worth the effort. If work is making it tough, aim to take off at least a full week during your industry’s slower season,” she continues. “You don’t have to necessarily splurge on a fancy getaway. A staycation — where you’ve disabled your work email from your phone — can get the job done, as well.”
You’re skipping out on your friends.
Sure, everyone gets pulled into a last-minute, urgent meeting occasionally, preventing them from meeting up for happy hour drinks with a pal. But if your social life is basically non-existent these days, career and branding expert Wendi Weiner says it’s time to restructure your priorities.
“Maintaining a work-life balance is important, and there should be a line of separation drawn. Making the time to attend personal events such as family dinners and nights out with friends should be important to you,” she continues. “Give yourself at least two nights a week for personal events.”
You’re not sleeping.
Or, you don’t give yourself enough time to catch the shut-eye your body — and mind — are begging you for. When thoughts of timelines and clients keep you from your nightly date with the Sandman, career author Paul Jarvis suggests shifting your mindset to be targeted less about $$$ and more about Zzz.
“Build your day around getting a full eight hours since you’re not being productive if you can only get four to six hours of sleep per night. Sleep is an essential need, just like eating, and needs to be treated as such, otherwise, we will eventually suffer the consequences,” he shares.
You’re suffering from ‘hero’ syndrome.
Alright, close your eyes and think about your working style. Are you collaborative? Do you allow others to help — or do you lack the ability to delegate? Career expert and president of Ignite Social Media Deirdre Bounds explains being honest with yourself about some traits you have could cut back on the number of deliverables you place on your shoulders.
“Do you think you’re the only one who can properly complete EVERY task? Do you see asking for help as a sign of weakness? Do you thrive on saving the day?” she asks.
If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’ — you could consider yourself diagnosed with ‘hero’ syndrome, and need to practice the fine art of letting go.
You find yourself forgetting to eat lunch.
When you’re racing to finish a project, meet a deadline, respond to emails and take notes at three meetings, all before 1 p.m. — it’s easy to ignore that growls from your stomach. But it definitely isn’t healthy, according to Augustine. What you put into your body fuels your ability to concentrate, brainstorm creative ideas and remain productive, making lunch a necessity.
“If this is happening to you, it’s time to start blocking off time on your calendar for meals. Book your lunch break as though it were any other work meeting,” she continues. “And, walk away from your desk. This is important. Even if you only walk a lap around the building, it’s important to get up from your screen and recharge.”
You’re dreaming about work.
It’s one thing to have steamy or romantic dreams about a new person you’re dating — but thinking about the office when you’re supposed to be regenerating? That’s more like a nightmare.
Whittaker-Walker explains if you find yourself continuing office conversations, meeting with team members, and redoing work you’ve already finished in your dreams, you’re probably working too much.
It could be an indication that you haven’t allowed your brain to transition from your workday to your personal time, probably since you were responding to emails until you turned the lights off. To combat this, drag yourself away from your phone and laptop at least an hour or two before bedtime.
“You can use the extra time to do some stretching, meditation, or another relaxing activity that helps you get your mind off of work,” she adds.
You never feel great.
Sometimes you feel okay-ish. Other times, you’re downright exhausted. Whether it’s head or body aches, sudden weight loss (or gain) or constant coughs or sniffles, Whittaker-Walker says when you never feel your best, you’re likely dealing with too much pressure and angst.
“Stress can wreak havoc on your immune system, increase blood pressure and so much more. It can literally live in your body, causing pain,” she explains.
If you’re teetering into this dangerous zone, Whittaker-Walker suggests to schedule rest on your calendar as you would anything else for work. And when you can, add more movement into your daily life, even if it’s not intense.
“A midday walk around the block, through your building, or in a nearby park can do wonders. Exercise is one of the best cures for stress,” she adds.
Your attitude is negative.
There’s a difference between being gaga over your job … and ahem, acting cray-cray. Weiner shares if the only topic you talk about is your work and you tend to be upset about it, it’s time for a gut check.
“If you are constantly focused only on your work and not able to shift your attitude to de-stress and decompartmentalize, then it is a clear sign you are being overworked. Consider putting up hard stop times with your work and stick to them,” she shares. “During the ‘no work’ periods, focus on enjoying other aspects of your personal life and take notice of your attitude and mood changes.”
You’re missing deadlines.
When you can’t stop yourself from raising your hand — or taking on new work — it’s important to remember quality is far more important than quantity. When you are stretching yourself too thin, you’ll start slipping up — making mistakes, missing deadlines and not giving your all.
“The more you take on, the less mental bandwidth you will have to complete tasks timely,” career transition coach Tiffany Dyba says. “Instead, try focusing and saying yes to things that will ultimately move the needle and help the business, as well as things that you are energized by.”