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Are You Actually Working Too Much?

8 minute read

David Ning

By David Ning

Our society just idolizes “more” for some reason. We often talk about the mentality of “keeping up with the Joneses” in the context of material possessions often. However, I’ve noticed lately that people are just as impressed with those who seem to be “doing” more — and no, not doing more at work. We also praise those who have rigorous exercise regimes. Or those who are always shuttling their kids to all kinds of after-school practices. All of those things are extra hard when you also have a full-time job. But there are only so many hours in a day. Eventually, something has to give, right? It’s possible that you’re actually working too much.

Being Too Efficient May Not Garner Respect

I work by myself. That means my workload has fluctuated pretty dramatically over the years. Since the people I generally hang out with on a regular basis have changed over the years, they all seem to have a different idea of what I do. I have friends who think I work 12 hours days, every day of the week. Other friends seem to think I’m already semi-retired and living the easy life.

Neither group really has a true view of my situation. I don’t work 24/7 and I don’t really have to worry about money these days. However, all my work is basically done with a laptop. It can sometimes seem like I’m never really working that hard. Oddly enough, you’d think the friends who believe I’m already semi-retired (at a fairly young age) would respect me more. After all, if I can make a living by putting in hardly any hours, I must really be good at something, right?

However, the opposite is actually true. It’s actually the group of friends who think I work crazy, long hours (on top of being there for my wife and two kids) that seem to respect me the most. But why is running yourself ragged more honorable than a more balanced lifestyle?

So, Should You Work Even More?

At this point, you’re probably thinking that I’m advocating for you to work a whole lot more. But no, I don’t actually believe that at all. In fact, I’m saying the opposite — sometimes we are trying to do too much. Sure, it’s nice when everyone around you respects you for all the grinding and hustling you’re doing. And sure, all that extra work probably brings home more bacon too.

The real question is whether all that extra is really worth the energy. What else are you giving up when you work more? Let’s dig a bit deeper.

Work Can Consume Your Life

I’ve definitely worked really hard in the past. Remember my friends who I said respect me more because I worked 12-hour days? They don’t even know the half of it. That’s because when I really worked more like 24/7. No one except my wife really knew about it.

I was working a demanding sales job that was typically a 10-to-12 hour day task. I had customers all over the country. A good part of my week was spent running from airport to airport, trying to make sure I didn’t miss a connecting flight to my next important sales meeting or client visit. On top of all that, my website was starting out. I was spending another 6-to-8 hours a day to get it off the ground. It’s a wonder I even found time to eat or sleep.

None of my friends really knew. After all, when would I tell them? It’s not like I had any time in my work schedule for a social. For a few years, my life was just work, work, and more work.

Man stressed out by mountains of work

Shutterstock

The Tale of My Dad

Maybe I got the work bug from my dad. He worked really hard his whole life. When we were young, my dad would leave for work early in the morning. He wouldn’t come home for dinner until 9:00 or 10:00 pm. My sister and I really only got to see him on the weekends, since our bedtime was at around 8:30. Even then, my dad would sometimes have to go to the office on Saturday and Sundays.

He worked so hard, for so long, that it took a toll on him. He’s had a weak liver for as long as I remember. While I can’t fully blame that he passed away at a relatively young age on his work schedule, it’s hard to not look back and wonder. For decades, he was extremely tired from working all those long hours. He became much less active than the typical retiree, who tries to stay healthy once their working days are done.

Running At 120% Isn’t Healthy

Here’s the thing. We’re all given the same number of hours to work with every day. However, some people are able to accomplish so much more in those 24 hours than others. That’s why it’s easy to look on with envy as our coworkers or friends juggle a demanding job, family life, volunteer work, hobbies, and a robust social life without missing a beat. However, that master juggling act isn’t always as healthy and admirable as it seems — especially when you start to look under the surface.

While we’re all unique in the number of demands and stresses we can handle (often based on factors we can’t even control, like genetics or upbringing), we all have a breaking point. Pile on enough tasks and responsibilities, and eventually every master juggler will start dropping the metaphorical balls. Soon, the whole perfectly-balanced circus comes crashing down.

You May Not Know Your Breaking Point

You might think you’ll just magically know when you’ve reached your limit. For instance, when your calendar is completely full and you can’t possibly fit anything else in. The problem with this thinking is that you’ve probably already reached your actual limit. By that point, you’re only one slip away from a meltdown — without even knowing it. Maintaining this level is just not a good idea.

How do you know how busy is too busy for you? Where do you draw the line? While I can’t answer that for you, I can share some of the signs that might be indicating you’re dangerously close to overload.

Signs You’re Doing Too Much

There are certain telltale signs which are indicators you might be working too much. Or juggling too many after-work activities into your schedule. Or just in need of a bit of a break, in general. One of the biggest is fatigue and sickness. Your body (and your brain) need time to just relax. If you’re not getting that, you’re going to start showing signs of fatigue.

When your body is worn down from stress and lack of rest, it’s more vulnerable to sickness. Are you constantly feeling sluggish and tired? Are you getting sick a lot? It could be a sign that you’re doing too much.

Your Temperament Can Change

Another sign is a change in temperament. Much in the way that physical demands wear on your body, mental and emotional stress can also take a toll on your personality and demeanor. If you’re uncharacteristically curt or unpleasant to those around you, find yourself getting more impatient than usual, or exhibit other behavior that’s “not you,” take a pause. It could be a sign that you might be doing too much and need to scale back a little.

Everyone has tense moments or acts differently when frustrated or under stress. The key is to look for instances when you’re irritable for no apparent reason. This is something that doesn’t just affect you. It can sink your relationship with co-workers or create stressful relationships with your family members. Try to remember that it’s not only about you.

Doing More Doesn’t Always Mean Earning More

When your schedule is tight, you expect your brain to function optimally. However, putting too many demands on your mental faculties maybe cause you to experience some negative effects. You might find yourself suffering from creative burn-out, difficultly thinking clearly, forgetfulness, or problems concentrating.

All of this affects your productivity, your job performance, and your ability to perform even routine tasks. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, decide which tasks need to go — before your boss decides that you need to go.

During my true 24/7, all-work-no-life days, I was working so much that I noticed both my website and my sales job were suffering. I wasn’t able to produce for the website at the level I was capable of, and my sales numbers were starting to dip too. Basically, I was trying to do two full-time jobs, but not giving either the full time and attention they required.

Eventually, I knew I had to make a choice. I was slowly running both opportunities into the grave. I needed to either give up on the website or quit the sales job. I couldn’t keep trying to perform daily double-duty miracles.

If I had tried to hang on to both, I would likely have gotten myself fired. That would have given me a bad reputation in the industry, while simultaneously destroying any chance of getting my website off the ground in a meaningful way. And that’s assuming the burnout didn’t lead to a major medical problem or my wife getting fed up and leaving me. (That’s a joke — mostly.)

Team of overworked employees

Shutterstock

Sometimes Less is More

I ended up quitting the much higher paying sales job to pursue the opportunity to build my website. You could also say that I chose sleep. But in all seriousness, I chose the chance to be my own boss and make something on my own. In a much truer sense, I also chose my family and my health over a few dollars in the bank account.

Fast forward to 15 years later. I have two beautiful kids that I actually have time to hang out with and be their parent. I have time to stay active and keep a normal sleep schedule. Oh, and my wife is choosing to stay married to me! You simply can’t put a dollar value on some of these things.

Sometimes, I still have to defend myself to ignorant friends who think I’m semi-retired or not working very hard. I still do plenty of work, but I’ve chosen a life that balances that work with the other things that are important to me. Overall, it’s a tiny price to pay for the wonderful life that I’ve carved out.

Enough is Beautiful

So what if I was wrong? Let’s imagine, for a second, that I could have kept doing both the sales job and the website project — and performing well at both of them. If I could have kept up with the high demand, I might have ended up fabulously rich. You know, a huge house, fancy cars, paid servants, and all that. But what would the cost have been?

Would I still be married? Would my children remember that their Dad had time to play with them? Or would I be some mythical figure, who only emerged from his office on weekends? How many soccer games or dance recitals or other important moments would I have missed?

When it comes to money, “more” is always nice. But sometimes, it’s perfectly alright to merely have “enough.” There’s a simple beauty in having enough, and being okay with that. It’s something we should all try harder to appreciate.

The Bottom Line

WalletGenius is a website about money. So is MoneyNing, for that matter. So we’re not going to sit here and tell you that money isn’t important. Being productive is a good thing. Earning a consistent income is something everyone should strive for. However, if your career prospects or home life end up suffering because you’re overworking yourself, you’re only sacrificing quality for quantity. Quality is important too.

Earning a few extra dollars of overtime isn’t worth the possible effects on your physical and mental health. Saying “Yes” to every proposed project can easily lead to burnout. Learn to read the signs your body is giving you and find your personal balance.

David Ning

Experienced Finance Writer

David is a published author, entrepreneur and a proud dad. He firmly believes that anyone can build a solid financial foundation as long as they are willing to learn. He runs MoneyNing.com, where he discusses every day money issues to encourage the masses to think about their finances more often.

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