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overwork

Hello everybody, welcome to episode 179 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on how not to overwork oneself.

I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com

How’s everyone today? Very well, I hope, excited to get your weekend on. Well before that, we’ve got a question on tap from a woman who might just find herself working all weekend! She’s feeling little too attached to her work; spending more time on it than most. However, she’s not doing it because she has to, but rather, because she loves it so much. She’s wondering if she might love it too much, though, and doesn’t want it to consume too much of her identity. Let’s see if we can help her out so she can maybe get some R&R this weekend. Here’s what’s on her mind…

QUESTION: “I’ve always enjoyed work and take pride in all of the “wins” that I am part of and I always try to go “above and beyond” to make sure things go smoothly. But, the cliched saying of “My biggest weakness is that I care too much” rings a little close to home. At the beginning of the year, I was laid off from a job I loved and it hit me incredibly hard; I genuinely went through a mourning period.

I got another job and am still relatively new in this current role, but I already find myself sinking back into old patterns: checking emails in the evenings “just in case,” going above and beyond the job description to make sure tasks don't fall through the cracks, and the biggest burden is carrying a “bad day” with me long after I’ve logged off for the day.

I don't want to lose my enthusiasm for my job, but I do want to get your thoughts on how I can continue to care and do good work without it becoming my entire identity.”

Listen to Greg's tips on how to not overwork yourself in Episode 179 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.

A Unique Problem to Have

Nice question! Sort of a unique problem to have! Usually work concerns are about people hating work and having no sense of purpose. You’re sort of going the other way on that one. And those that do overwork themselves rarely do it out of love and instead do it out of necessity.

So a unique spot to be in, and while one could argue that it’s a good problem to have, I appreciate you reaching out for help now that you find yourself losing a grip on it.

It’s interesting to me that you haven’t mentioned any specific parts of life that this work addiction affects. I guess I would’ve expected some commentary on how you have less time for family, friends, hobbies, etc.

There’s nothing wrong with how you’ve phrased it, everyone phrases their questions differently.

Listen to Jayne's thoughts on work life balance in Episode 494 of the podcast Optimal Relationships Daily.

But it does leave me wondering at what expense this over-exertion at work is coming. Are there other things that you want to be doing that you’re clearly missing out on, or are you maybe just someone who really enjoys their work and wonders if other parts of your life should have more of presence just because work-life balance is talked about a lot?

See, this is when the question of whether you need work or want work comes in. I think you should look at what’s really driving you to submit this question.

Is work getting to be legitimately overwhelming, or do you just feel like an outsider because you like work more than most others?

Overwork vs. Finding Work Life Balance

There’s no bigger advocate for work-life balance than me, but if you really enjoy your work and don’t have much desire to bring other specific activities into your routine, I wouldn’t panic quite so much.

After all, your passion has to be directed somewhere. And if you see your job as a means of contributing and helping others rather than just as a paycheck, then there could definitely be worse motivators for you to be working a bit extra.

Either way, though, balance is still important – hobbies, family time, acts of self-care and all that. So I’m not sure it’ll hurt to add more into your life whether you want or need all of the work you’re putting on yourself. And frankly, after all this time, you might be feeling a little lost as to whether all this work is something you want or need.

Listen to Greg's tips on how to make time for hobbies in Episode 11 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.

Should this be the case, adding more parts to your life will only help you find clarity in that answer, as you start to get an idea of how it feels to dedicate time to other things and what meaning those other things might bring to you in comparison to the meaning that work brings.

Directing Your Passion

If this strategy is going to be successful, however, you have to be precise about those other things you want in your life.

I can’t really speculate on what they would be because you didn’t mention any. The only guess I can make, however, is that based on how much pride you seem to derive from work and how upsetting it was for you to lose your last job, you might want to try spending time on other things that you’re proud of.

This would be a means of having several sources of significance and not putting all that pressure on work alone to feel a sense of self-worth, a trap I wonder if you’re falling into and something I highly encourage you to reflect on. But that’s just my recommendation.

What do you suppose the other things you’d spend time on would be? What do you suppose you’re missing out on by working as much as you are?

Listen to Anthony's tips on how to pursue your passions in Episode 1733 of the podcast Optimal Living Daily.

Like I said, your passion has to go somewhere, so if you aren’t detailed in what else you want to do, why you want to do it, and when you want to do it, then it’ll be very easy for your work to keep consuming your time and your mind.

The more deliberate you are in this, the more concrete and justifiable your case will be to convince yourself to be ok working less.

So, again, I think the first step for you is to really think about what else you want to spend your time; why and when you want to do it. Then take action on it and see what happens.

How to Not Overwork Yourself: Conclusion

Now your last concern in your question was about losing your enthusiasm for your job as a result of your efforts to work less. It seems your enthusiasm for your job comes very naturally to you, so I wouldn’t worry about losing it so long as you’re in a fulfilling role at work.

Rather, balancing your life with a lot of new things that matter, even if you’re still working more than most, will help you be more awake, alert and creative at work.

This will happen because, even if none of these new parts of your life prove to be completely life changing, you at least won’t be bogged down by thoughts like you are now – thoughts about what you’re missing out on.

You may want to recalibrate a bit and just try different activities on for size if your first draft doesn’t pan out, but each time you do so, you’ll be making progress and actively combatting the concerns you have now – concerns that are clearly affecting you and, presumably over time, affecting your work performance.

All right, asker, sounds like you’ve got some homework to do. Thanks for sending this question in, and I hope that my answer was able to help you a bit.

You’re at an interesting crossroads right now. Do I just like work a lot and it’s healthy? Do I just like work and it’s healthy now but could be costly down the road if I don’t harvest other parts of my life? Or is work indeed unhealthy and it’s important for me to realign myself as soon as possible?

Dig deep to answer these questions fully, and for everyone else, I encourage you to do the same, because this type of crossroads can exist in many areas of life. There’s a fine line between us being consumed by things and it being unhealthy and us just happening to like things more than others, and favoring them more is just celebrating who we are. If, after some soul searching, you find it to be the latter, don’t be afraid to go against the grain a little. All done for now, my friends.

Thanks for being here and staying through the end. Have a great weekend and I’ll be back with you on Monday. Take care.

Listen to Greg's tips on how to not overwork yourself in Episode 179 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.

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Greg Audino

Greg Audino is a Rhode Island-born certified life coach, actor, and graduate of Goucher College. He is the host of the mental health podcast Optimal Living Advice and narrates dating, marriage, and parenting content over at Optimal Relationships Daily.
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