Here are three reasons and ways to stop overworking.
Overworking makes mistakes more likely. If you tend to work through lunch, stay late most evenings and/or work from home during ‘off’ hours, the tendency to make mistakes soars. The results of being overworked are exhaustion and stress. When a person is tired and stressed, the brain has to work much harder to process and respond to information. This means that being overworked can make interpersonal communication, judgement calls and regulating one’s own emotional reactions far more difficult according to Harvard Business Review1. Moreover, working without breaks causes most people to lose focus according to a 2011 study by the University of Illinois.
To minimize mistakes, maximize breaks. Carve out and commit to taking mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks. Dale Carnegie’s 5th principle forBreaking the Worry Habit Before It Breaks You is, ‘Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.’ Should you feel anxiety about stopping for a break, remind yourself that if you skip it, you will most likely make more mistakes. By keeping your commitment, you will return to your task with a recharged and refreshed focus.
Working too much inhibits good habits. Overworking also takes its toll outside of the workplace. Anxiety and stress levels inevitably spill into other areas of employees’ lives. Stressed people usually struggle to sleep (sleep debt) which causes them to make poor choices out of sheer exhaustion, such as consuming a ton of caffeine with hopes of propelling productivity levels.
Exhausted employees tend to make unhealthy food choices as well, like fast food on a regular basis which also drains energy over time. Dale Carnegie’s first Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry principle is, ‘Get all the facts.’ Now that you know overworking will ultimately make you more tired, stressed and likely to opt for poor beverage and meal options, honor yourself by unplugging for a good night’s rest—every night, and eating well daily.
Prevent an intervention. It’s admirable to work late or over a weekend when there is an urgent and important issue, however when this behavior becomes the norm versus the exception, it can become an addiction. In fact, 27% of workers claim to be workaholics, and an estimated 10% might be clinically considered work addicts2.
If you are often the last one to leave your office; unable to take breaks and/or are constantly plugged in at home, you may have an addiction. If so, your family and friends have probably mentioned their concerns about your overworking. Fret not—Dale Carnegie said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” Choose a tactic to begin with, such as taking a regular mid-morning break, to develop success from failure. Next, enlist your colleagues, friends and family to help keep you accountable.