After a day crammed with email, meetings, and more office politics than you care for, you’re finally home.
You try to relax even though your mind is racing. A hot shower… a cup of herbal tea… nestled in your bathrobe and slippers.
But did you remember to email that guy from the other department at work? He said it was urgent. So you check your email.
You think, “Why didn’t I do that before I left the office?” Well, you decide it’s best to respond now so you don’t have to hear about it tomorrow. And how about putting the finishing touches on that report for next week while you’re at it?
Now you’ve got to make dinner, too. But that’ll have to wait.
Does this or something similar look like a typical day to you? If it does, you might have “workaholic” tendencies.
Workaholics keep busy as much as possible. Whether it’s productive or not. Whether they have the energy for it or not.
They become overwhelmed with tasks and things to do — primarily at work, but also in life in general.
And surprise, surprise… they feel burnt-out.
Even when workaholics attempt to relax and recharge, it’s sabotaged by the almighty to-do list.
It’s easier than ever to be a workaholic, too. Think about how the line between work and home has blurred over the past few years. Smartphones and computers keep us super-connected at all times.
Now think about how often you personally use your smartphone for work-related tasks. When it’s well past time for you to be doing so.
Do you really need to read that 13-email-long thread from after your meeting right before you go to bed? Some people brush this off as being dedicated to their work.
But honestly, working all the time without letup has some serious side-effects.
The Dangers of Overworking and Overcommitting
Being tired, constantly. The feeling that you don’t have control over your life. Hopelessness, irritability, and strained relationships.
These are signs of emotional and physical exhaustion.
It has a name: vital exhaustion.
Vital exhaustion (VE) is associated with overcommitment. And it’s been linked to other health and mental health issues. Most notably heart attacks and depression (some even say VE and depression overlap).
That’s because all of your mind’s ways of coping with stress have broken down. You’re running on fumes. And by continuing to overcommit — to the people and tasks in your life — you make the problem worse.
Overworking. Overcommitting. Overdoing. How can you get out of the bad habit of overcommitting yourself?
How to Set Healthy Limits (But Still Be Productive and Get Things Done)
You don’t have to move to an ashram and sit in lotus position all day to overcome overcommitment.
But you do have to set healthy limits. Learn how to plan and optimize your time during a day. Learn when to say NO to more to-dos.
Dr. K.R. Subramanian conducted a meta-analysis on the effect workaholism has on productivity.
He said, “High performers give 100% at the right time. Workaholics give 110% all of the time.”
That means workaholics don’t necessarily get more done.
Being busy all the time doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Being productive means completing what you need to do with calm, ease, and efficiency.
So we need to set limits, not only for our health and sanity, but for productivity too.
5 Productivity Tips to Avoid Overcommitment and Workaholism
- Make The Most of Your Time With Time Management — You’ll be more focused and productive. The Pomodoro Technique is a popular system that’s been around awhile. Find what works for you. Remember this is about putting in 100% at the right time, not all the time.
- Schedule Your Day (Especially if You’re Super Busy) — Block out work events in a journal, day planner, on your smartphone, your computer’s calendar… wherever! This doesn’t only apply to work either. Use it to schedule anything that requires your time and attention. Even things like chores around the house — you’ll get them done efficiently and they’ll feel less like “chores”.
- Do The “Most Important” Things Early in The Day — Your brain’s focus is at its peak in the morning — after your sleep inertia has worn off — usually around 30 minutes after waking. But up to four hours if you’re severely sleep deprived. Aim to knock out your most demanding work during the earlier part of the day. And let less pressing matters come later in the day.
- Learn to Say NO to Overcommitment (And Stress) — Endless busywork is not your life purpose. So no matter how much you love your work… you can say no to tasks that will overburden you and lower your productivity. Scheduling (see #2) will help you be aware of which commitments are too much for you to handle.
- Disconnect Regularly Throughout the Day — Disconnecting from work and work devices (like smartphones and laptops) is crucial. It gives your mind a chance to recuperate from all the work it did during the day. But consciously make time for it or else it won’t happen!
Give your mind a rest. Go out to lunch with coworkers… grab a coffee with a friend… do some yoga or get a massage… do whatever it takes to put your work commitments aside.
You need to listen to your body and mind. Be aware and mindful.
It was shown that people who took an online mindfulness program were better equipped to manage overcommitting. They were less fatigued, anxious, and were generally more optimistic.
That leads us to something really important…
Time Off Isn’t an Option. It’s REQUIRED!
Going on point number five above: you need to take breaks.
Sometimes a long break.
No, not a 15-minute coffee break. We mean a vacation. Extended respite. Breaking your routine.
It gives your body and mind a chance to rest and reset (see how close those two words are?). You’ll be more productive when you get back to work too.
A German study that followed 113 teachers found the beneficial effects of a vacation — less feelings of burnout and stress — wore off after about a month. So how can you keep the effect going?
Leisure time. Even after you’ve had a vacation.
Think day-trips and mini vacays, staycations, an afternoon playing your favorite sport, or a long lunch with friends. The point is, you need to prioritize leisure time year-round.
And please (PLEASE) put your smartphone away now and then.
Especially when you’re at work. Just having a smartphone near you impairs cognitive abilities. They’re a brain drain… literally!
It takes awareness and planning to avoid the perils of overcommitment and overwork. But you’ll find once you do get a handle on it, your days will be smoother and less stressful. And your nights more relaxing.
If you practice the points outlined above you’ll find they make a difference in your overall psychological and physical wellbeing.
Maybe people that used to drive you crazy won’t irk you as much. Maybe the tasks that used to stress you the most at work will seem doable and less “tasking”. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find some stillness in the storm of life’s events.
Because life is meant to be enjoyed. It shouldn’t be a struggle.
Don’t let it be.
And when work and the people in your life demand the most of you… know that you’ve got this!
Do you overcommit? What are your strategies for coping with a full schedule? Share in the comments below!