The Ultimate Workaholic Guide

Four Signs you are overworking yourself and Five ways to find balance

I am my father’s daughter in that I am a workaholic. My dad’s the guy who works a full time job, then comes home to do more work at home. He even had two jobs and was working everyday with no break days for weeks at a time. I find it very difficult to just sit around, not have plans, or a to-do list. So I know I definitely get my work ethic from him. Being a productive person with a strong work ethic is not a bad thing, but it is definitely draining. Though I like to keep busy, at times I feel overworked. Have you ever felt that way? You begin to feel anxious, start to have a short temper, lose sight of what is really important to you, and sometimes even want to give up.

That part of being a workaholic is neither healthy nor fun.

So how do you know you’re overworking yourself if you are just so used to always being a busy bee?

  • You sleep even when you have a lot to do: Sleeping is a quick way to avoid the real issue at hand: the 42 things on your cute to-do list that aren’t so cute by Friday. It may seem like a no-brainer, right? Just do the tasks and stay away from the mid-afternoon naps. I know it’s much easier said that done though because I face that dilemma quite frequently. Plus, being a workaholic is mentally exhausting because your mind is always racing. You always are trying to think ahead. When your mind is so clouded, temporarily avoiding those thoughts sounds better than handling them in that moment.
  • You procrastinate or distract yourself from what really needs to be done in an attempt at avoidance: Ever find yourself making silly faces on Snapchat with all the absurd filters? Then 30 minutes pass by and you wonder, “What in the world was I just doing? I have so much to get done!!”. If you’re anything like me, you then get frustrated with yourself because you wasted precious time. You know you have that to-do list lingering in the back of your mind, but just like sleeping you find a quick way to avoid it temporarily. Sometimes you will distract yourself just because you have no idea where to start on your tasks.
  • You constantly feel unaccomplished:  Last Saturday I woke up around 5:30AM, went grocery shopping at 7AM, went to the movies at 10AM, volunteered at the animal shelter for two and a half hours, and then went to the gym for a leg workout. As the evening was coming to a close, I thought, “well I didn’t accomplish much today.” Then I took a step back to really process what I was thinking. I probably did more than what any normal person my age does on a Saturday. Yes, I went to the movies (which is actually because my sister and I are trying to incorporate more “fun” time in our busy lives). I constantly feel unaccomplished because I set such high expectations for myself on a daily basis. It sometimes can also relate back to the fact that you have too much on your plate. Because of this, you end up spreading yourself thin and never truly feel great at the tasks you are completing. You just feel somewhat average so that tends to get frustrating pretty quickly.
  • You feel guilty about relaxing and having fun: As I said above, my sister and I are making an attempt at doing more for ourselves on a regular basis. We have noticed that we both are starting to feel burnout in a lot of areas of our lives. It’s such a weight on your shoulders when you constantly carry around what you have to get done to the point where you can’t really be in the moment. I know for myself, even having off on the weekends, if my friends invite me somewhere, a lot of times my mind wanders to, “I should be home doing lesson plans”, or “I really have so much to do and I need to go home.” It’s not that you don’t enjoy hanging out with your friends, having fun, or going out, you just feel guilty. You see time as something that you don’t have enough of in a day. This can also definitely make it hard to be in a relationship with someone because you have a hard time removing yourself from productivity. This area has probably hit me the hardest when it comes to feeling overworked. I’m almost 27 years old and I honestly feel like I’m pushing 40 and I’ve felt that way since I was in my early 20s.

So what does all of this mean? Do us workaholics need to go with the flow and forget about our normal ways? No, we can still have that awesome work ethic that a lot of people admire. However, it’s about finding balance and not feeling overworked to the point of facing anxiety.

  • Let go of the idea of perfection: As much as you may love everything going as planned and being exactly as you envision, that’s not always realistic. That is okay! As long as you know you did your best ability given your circumstances, then be proud of that. When you set perfection as your standard, you end up letting yourself down a lot. This is not an accurate representation of your achievements though. Give yourself some credit, accept mistakes, and learn from them.
  • Stop micromanaging: As a middle school teacher, I realized I had to start to find a way to free up some of my many daily to-dos. I rarely asked students for help for minor things like hanging up math sheets, cutting task cards, or passing out supplies. You ever heard the phrase, “if you want something done right, do it yourself”? Well, sometimes I have that mentality. I don’t want to ask other people to do things because I know exactly how I envision it. However, I started to realize that the things I wanted to be so right were extremely miniscule. I’m not asking my students to grade a test or teach my lesson. So what if they hang the poster in a weird spot! Oh well, the task cards are cut a little messy, but will they work? Yes! When you stop micromanaging all those little, mindless things in my life, you end up freeing space for what you really need to focus on.
  • Plan relaxing or fun times in advance so you can prepare yourself to be dedicated to enjoying those moments: Alright, so we already know that workaholics also tend to be planners. Why not plan an event or a moment for “me time” to decompress occasionally. Planning fun times or relaxation in advance allows you to mentally wrap your mind around the idea of not working. It’s not spontaneous so you don’t have to worry about what you should be doing instead. My sister and I will sit down and look at local events in our community or a movie we want to see or a restaurant we want to try out. We schedule that event into our personal planners. It has really helped me enjoy more of those in the moment situations.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.

  • Schedule your priorities and non-negotioables: Figure out what is most important to you and what is top priority when it comes to getting a task done. So a priority for me each night is making sure my lesson plans for the next day are complete. Lately I have been trying to incorporate more non-negotiable aspects into my life that are less work related and more personal/goal oriented. For example, I make an effort to go to the gym at least 5-6 times a week. I will schedule grading, e-mails, cleaning, etc. around going to the gym because my health is very important to me.
  • Politely say “no”: No. What is that word? Workaholics are pretty much the yes-men and yes-women of the world. We don’t like to let people down and we want to step up to take action. Yet again, a great trait to have, but in moderation. How can you truly put forth the best you if you have too many other commitments. So if you are leading a group or in charge of a project at work, work on delegating. People typically understand that you are busy or already have a lot of commitments. Find a few things to say yes to, become really great at those, and politely say “no” to the rest.

Shifting your mindset and actions will be challenging, but you’ll begin to notice that you are a more effective being when you aren’t feeling overworked.

What can you do differently on a daily basis in order to feel less overworked?