As communications become more convenient, it also becomes easier to immerse yourself in work and never look up from it.
If you are like me, you find yourself checking e-mail at all hours and addressing mid-level professional concerns via email or on the phone when on vacation, out with friends or even playing with the kids. This is not just a bad habit but it is detrimental professionally, psychologically and physically, too.
Who is to blame for this condition?
Is it your superiors who need your council at all hours of day and night? Is it your own sense of inflated worth? Are you really needed every moment? Or is it your needless guilt in saying no to projects that you should really decline?
At this point, you are probably cursing under your breath at an article like this, thinking that as part of the gig economy. You can’t just stop and unplug because you might jeopardize your livelihood. Perhaps, you are working several jobs and need that financial support to survive.
Though that may be true, overwork is actually setting you up for failure. Creating positive and selective work habits, however, will allow you to reduce stress and be more successful.
Overworking is Bad for Business
Ultimately, it has been shown that those that claim to work huge volumes of overtime are less productive than those that work less hours but with more sustained and focused time.
The 40-hour work week was originally put in place because it allowed for the best possible work to get done without jeopardizing products. Studies showed that workers who toiled for ten hours a day compared with eight had the same level of output. Basically, that means that employers were paying overtime for no return.
The same is true of any job. We only have so much ability to get things done before losing focus or being dazed by overwork and lack of sleep.
What To Do
To make sure that your work time will be productive, take the hours off that you are supposed to.
• Lunch away
Be sure to take your lunch away from your computer and plan to leave work on time. Setting that deadline for yourself will force you to stay on task rather than procrastinate.
• Take vacation
You are more productive if you have time to unwind and return to work fresh. Do not leave your vacation time on the table.
• Keep personal time personal
To keep professional resentment at bay, make sure that you have the time you need for your family.
• Ask about a revised schedule
In the digital age, more people are working on a flexible schedule. See if this is something your employer would consider for you. After all, who cares when your work gets done as long as it’s done?
Overworking is Bad for Your Brain
Psychologically, working without a break can lead to depression, sleep deprivation and even cause memory loss. These things can surely affect your effectiveness at work. Research into this phenomenon have revealed even more unsettling results.
For example, a Norwegian study from 2014 looked deeply at the relationship between psychological disorders and overwork in over 16 thousand workers . It found out that those that were classified as workaholics were about three times as likely to show symptoms of ADHD, OCD and clinical anxiety and four times as likely to show signs of depression.
What to do
If you find yourself feeling off because of overwork, take some immediate steps.
• Catch more sleep
Want to be more useful at work? Sleep is key. Though this may cut into your “leisure time” a bit, more sleep will allow you to process effectively, help your memory and keep you focused. Think you are just one of those people who don’t need as much sleep and can go on 4-5 hours or so and be productive? Think again!
• Get deep
Deep work is a strategy that actively cuts down on distractions in favor of a protracted amount of focused time. If you feel like your multi-tasking is out of control, it might be time to detox on distractions and see if deep work concepts are right for you.
• Ask yourself if there may be a larger problem
If you find yourself increasing your workload, make sure you ask the question: Is this because of drive or a more deep-seated psychological issue?
Overworking is Bad for Your Health
There are many studies that show that overwork is bad for you physically. It can increase your likelihood of causing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and increased fatality. Like a watch, we need to be wound down or our springs will start popping out.
Working more than 55 hours a week, says one study, gives you a 30% higher risk of stroke and 13% higher risk of heart disease as well as increased dangers for diabetes.
What to do
To protect your health, consider the following actions.
• Find time for exercise
Obviously, this is easier said than done. Make sure you take time, even if it’s just a walk at lunchtime or getting up to talk to someone on another floor rather than sending an email. And when you go there, take the stairs.
• Stand up for yourself
Prolonged sitting is pretty bad for your cardiovascular health – make sure you take a couple of minutes every hour or so to move your joints and get your blood flowing.
• Eat right
Overwork can lead to some strange eating habits (ever heard of Soylent, for example?). By planning your meals and investing in bringing healthy snacks, like fruits and veggies, to work, you’ll be able to lower your cholesterol.
Perhaps the best way to start balancing life and work is to be honest with yourself about what is possible to accomplish in the time you have allotted for work.
Most of those who end up being overworked do so because they have said “Yes” to too many projects. However, there are ways to say no to your boss or peers that will make you look both smart and sensitive, rather than a basket case or a slacker.
Check out this infographic from GetVoIP to learn more about how to respectfully say no at work and avoid overworking yourself.
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Author: Andrew Dennis
Senior Content Marketing Specialist at @siegemedia & @sengineland columnist