Everyone has been working too hard lately. It’s reported that 45% of employees in the workforce brag about overworking and burning out as if it’s a badge of honor. Now, being hardworking is an amazing skill, especially when working towards your goals. But it’s not so amazing when you’re constantly working 16-hour days, ignoring your friend’s calls, and spiraling. And I’ve been there.
It’s hard to define when to stop, and when it’s getting too much. But if you feel you’re getting there, maybe it’s time to take it easy. Here are four expert-approved tips to help you handle your workaholic tendencies:
Set Healthy Boundaries
For a while, I worked from the moment I woke up to the minute I decided to call it a night. I’d lie to myself and say “Oh, I took 10 minutes to play a phone game, so that was self-care.” Hustle culture affected me so much that I considered “a day on the couch” as “let me write as many articles as I can before my coffee high comes down.”
Dorlee Michaeli, MBA, LCSW, an EMDR certified psychotherapist in NYC who helps high-achievers manage anxiety and career/life transitions, gave Her Agenda a great example for setting boundaries. “Perhaps you’d love to work from 9 to 6 PM, but are currently working from 9 to 9 PM. It may be too hard to reduce your workday by 3 hours a day, but it may be totally doable to give yourself a hard stop at 8:30 PM.”
Then Michaeli added, “Try to reward yourself by doing something that feels good during that extra time you now have and gradually works your way up to working at your new desired schedule.”
Dr. Lauren Cook, PsyD, a therapist, speaker, and author, said a good rule of thumb is the 8-8-8 rule. “Start your day by 8:00 am, work a solid eight hours during the day, and have a hard stop time by 8:00 pm. Keeping these firm boundaries in place will help you start and stop your day within reason.”
Dr. Cook also added, “to leave one unscheduled day on the calendar each week.” She said, “Whichever day you pick, do not schedule meetings on this day. Better yet if you don’t make a to-do list. Giving yourself the openness to let the day unfold as it will be incredibly liberating to your brain health.”
Nowadays, as a full-time freelancer, I try to limit my work to 8-10 hours a day. I create a checklist for the day and whatever I don’t get done is on tomorrow’s list.
Get A Great Support System
Whether it be family, friends, co-workers, group therapy, or a partner, getting a support system is one of the biggest things that can help. Even if you don’t want to admit it, because at one point even I didn’t want to admit I needed people, people need people.
Lindsey Allard, CEO & Co-Founder of PlaybookUX told Her Agenda about her personal struggles, and how her co-founder helped her. “We can balance our leadership roles evenly and it allows us to take time to ourselves as we need it. If I need a day off or am going on vacation, I don’t worry about my company and am more at ease to just get away from it.”
She added, “If other workaholics can share the responsibilities with someone else, it will provide you with much-needed support and can allow you a healthy level of freedom.”
Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, career coach specializing in high tech and Silicon Valley says to take time to develop a support system. “[A support system that ]is committed to helping hold you accountable to your work/life balance goals. You want a group of people you can turn to when you are feeling the push-pull dynamic between your professional and personal goals.”
Needing friends and a support system doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. I’ve been going to therapy on and off since I was a child, so my therapists were always a source of support. But my biggest supporter has been my partner, who I’ve lived with for nearly 2 years, who would at some points force me to stop a 12-hour workday of my making. So, get those people who close your laptop for you when you’re on the brink of a workday meltdown.
Treat Your Days Off the Same As Your Work Days
So hear me out, treat your days off and social events like they’re just as important; because they are.
Dan Alder, Editor-in-Chief of Levvvel, says, “One [possible] way workaholics can take it easy is by using their calendars effectively and to their advantage. Don’t just use it for work, using it to plan your personal life can prove helpful, too. Physically inputting and blocking out time for their personal lives will create balance and help you keep track of everything in an organized manner.”
I’ve been following this rule for years, and it’s helped me greatly. I’m that person who color-codes their planners and calendars all the time. It helps remind me to take time to be social if I’m seeing too much of the designated “work” color. And it gives me something to remind myself to take a break.
Find The Root Of The Workaholism
When you do too much or too little of something, chances are that there’s a bigger problem at hand. Is it a byproduct of hustle culture? Are you avoiding something? Putting too much pressure on yourself?
“Be sure to investigate the root cause of your workaholism. While time off from work and self-care are important, they are only temporary fixes that do not get at the deeper origins of your workaholic tendencies,” says Elliot.
Emily Appelbaum, Contributing Writer for Family Destinations Guide, put it perfectly by saying, “If we focus on one aspect of our life, we start losing other important matters. No one is happy being successful alone.”