Most people are fully aware of the theory of a work/life balance. It’s a concept in which you properly prioritise between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation) to create a “healthy balance” of the two. It doesn’t have to mean an equal balance, but it does mean scheduling time for both.
But actually putting this work/life balance concept into reality is no easy task. What works for one might not work for another, and there are no set rules or any real way to structure the scales without the theory sending your brain into overdrive. Only you can find your ideal balance.
The workaholic lifestyle
What is easier to discuss is the problem of overworking. This is when the scale very clearly sits in the working side, leading to signs of exhaustion, irritability, and stress.
Despite being told to find work/life balance, the “workaholic” lifestyle is gaining momentum. We’re constantly being told that in order to succeed at work we must out-perform our colleagues, so it’s little wonder more and more people are working overtime. In today’s fast-paced corporate world you must compete to survive, but at what cost?
Research clearly shows that those who work more than 10 hours per day have a 60% higher chance of a heart attack. Overworking can lead to anxiousness, sleeplessness, frustration, impatience, depression, dementia and exhaustion. It can also lead to problem drinking and gambling, marital stress and tension with friends and colleagues. Children can be left feeling neglected, and important milestones can be missed.
Overworking can most certainly have a profound effect on overall health and happiness.
So what are the signs that you’re overworked?
1. Weight gain
While there are many reasons for weight gain, overworking can definitely be one of them. If you sit at your desk all day, you’re making no time for exercise; and without these energy-supplied endorphins, you’re probably turning to snacking to fuel yourself.
Solution: Enrol in a lunchtime fitness class to force you out of the office, or get a like-minded buddy at work to join you in a brisk walk during your lunch hour.
2. Your social life is with the night staff
If you’re still in the office when the night staff arrive for their shift, it’s a pretty clear indicator that you’ve been at the office too long.
Solution: Use their arrival as a trigger to go home.
3. Your car is the only one left in the car park
If you look around the car park and notice all the other cars gone, you’ve been at the office too long.
Solution: Keep your eye on the car park. If you notice it’s emptying, it’s time to go.
4. The kids are asleep
If you repeatedly miss saying goodnight to the kids, you’re clearly putting work before family life. Making it home before bedtime should be a priority.
Solution: Set an alarm to make sure you’re home in time.
5. You’re up at 5am on the weekend
If your brain won’t allow you to switch off and have the occasional lie-in on a weekend, it could be a sign that your brain is overworked and programmed to stay stimulated.
Solution: Make your bed so comfy you never want to leave it. Additionally, there are several meditation techniques that could be helpful to switch off your brain long enough to get some more sleep in.
6. Your body aches
Being hunched over a desk staring at a computer for too long is linked to musculoskeletal disorders and poor posture.
Solution: Set a reminder that goes off every hour to ensure you stretch and take a quick walk, even if it’s just around the office.
7. The only people on the train with you are going out for the night
On the way home from work, take a look around at the people on the train with you. If you notice they are dressed for a night out on the town, then it’s time to take the work clothes off and join them.
Solution: Take a change of clothes with you to work, and enjoy dinner or a drink before heading home for some social time.
8. You rely heavily on caffeine
If you’re drinking multiple coffees and hitting the vending machine for energy drinks every day, then your body is tired.
Solution: Switch caffeine for a natural stimulant like a quick jog or better yet, get some more rest!
9. Your boss tells you to go home
It’s good that your boss notices your efforts to stay on late to get your work done, but if you’re seen to be all-consumed by work all the time then it can sometimes appear as inefficiency.
Solution: Take heed of the advice and go home or discuss with your boss that you would like to go on a time management course.
10. You’re not enjoying your job
If you once loved what you do for a career but suddenly find you’re painfully dragging yourself out of bed every morning, you could be overworked. Nothing is going to stay fun forever if it’s all you ever do.
Solution: Find yourself a new hobby to break up the monotony.
11. You haven’t seen your best mate in ages
If you can’t find time for the person you love to hang out with the most, your priorities are set to work mode. If your best mate feels abandoned, imagine how slack you’re being with the rest of your friends.
Solution: Have your mate meet you at your work, and avoid saying “I’ll meet you there” as it’s too tempting to bail at the last minute.
12. You can’t remember the last time you felt sunlight on your skin
If you’re ghostly white because you’ve been locked indoors all day, it’s time to get out in the sunshine. And this doesn’t mean go and get coffee so you can get back to work!
Solution: Pack up a picnic and head to the beach for a relaxing “Sun”day.
How to recognise you have a serious problem
1. Your input/output is out of balance
If you’re seeing no results from the hard work you’re putting in, then you’re not working efficiently and effectively. The aim is to produce more than you invest, so it may be time to recalibrate.
Solution: Delegate some of the work to others. Focus on what you’re good at and what you enjoy.
2. You’re cutting corners
You’ve always been focused on your tasks and genuinely interested in each project but you now find yourself cutting corners. If you lack interest and enthusiasm, and run out of time because you’ve taken on too much, your results will lack quality.
Solution: Start saying no. Before taking on a new client/project/responsibility, make sure you’re giving enough attention to the ones you have already.
3. You’re tossing and turning at night
Not sleeping in is one thing, but if you’re not able to sleep at all because the cogs in your brain keep turning then you are overworked.
Solution: Create a “no work before bed” rule that sees all screens switched off 1.5 hours before bed. This will give your brain a chance to wind down before sleep.
4. Your task list seems endless
If you’re asking yourself “where do I start” each morning, your task list is too long.
Solution: Simplify your list by reviewing it the night before and setting a clear focus for the following day. Remove anything that’s not urgent.
5. You’re finding excuses not to go in
If you’d rather do anything than go into the office (scrub the floors, sort out the attic, clean out the garage), you could be on your way to a burn out.
Solution: Remind yourself why you used to love your job and find ways to get back there.
6. You’re irritable
If you’re snapping at your loved ones for no apparent reason, you could be highly stressed from overworking. You know it’s time for a break when you can’t keep your emotions in check.
Solution: Remember that it’s you who has the problem and it’s no one else’s fault. Only you can fix it, but they’ll be more understanding if you explain to them the stress you are under.
7. You’re apathetic to your business
If you have emails awaiting replies and bills needing to get paid but you can’t seem to get off Facebook, it’s a pretty clear sign you’re overworked.
Solution: Take regular breaks to stop yourself from putting so much off that you can’t catch up.
8. If you’re Googling signs of ‘burnout’
If you think you’re burning out, chances are you’re right on the money. If your body is telling you it’s burning out, then it’s time to listen to it.
Solution: Hop off Google and step away from the computer for a couple of hours.