- Working long hours.
- Feel anxious and stressed consistently.
- Difficulty focusing on tasks and distracted easily.
- Daily tasks take longer and longer to finish.
- Unmotivated to get into work.
- Physical health is deteriorating.
- Take breaks throughout the day.
- Set hard times to start and stop working.
- Track your time.
- Focus on one to three important tasks a day.
- Get a new job.
The pandemic has led to overwork and burnout reaching previously unseen levels. For many people, work-life balance has never been worse. Companies across the globe are doing their best to combat overworking in the workplace. Recently, LinkedIn gave the entire company a paid week off in an attempt to combat burnout.
Studies show that the benefits of overworking for your productivity are few to none. While overworking does not lead to higher output, it can lead to serious negative health effects. In order to combat burnout, you need to be able to spot the signs of overwork. I’ve put together a short list of signs that indicate you may be on the path to burnout. I’ve also included a few simple techniques you can use to prevent overworking and stay fresh.
6 Signs That You’re Overworked
1. Working long hours.
This first point seems obvious but can you say exactly how many hours you worked this week? You might have a rough idea but without using a manual time log or using an automated time tracker like Rize, it’s hard to truly keep track of the number of work hours you put in each day.
Tracking your work hours is important as work creep often happens slowly over time, enveloping more and more of your personal life. Note down if you find yourself consistently putting in extra hours on late nights and weekends. Working too many long hours is the number one leading indicator of burnout.
2. Feel anxious and stressed consistently.
Overwork and burnout have devastating effects on your psyche. Your brain learns through repetition. If you’re being overworked consistently, your brain will begin to default to an anxious or stressed state. This will bleed outside of your work life and into your personal life. If you find you can’t relax, especially in your personal life and when things are calm, you may be suffering a side effect of burnout.
3. Difficulty focusing on tasks and distracted easily.
When you are overworked, your ability to focus suffers. Asking your brain to focus is similar to asking your legs to sprint. If your legs are overworked and exhausted, you won’t be able to sprint quickly. Push them too long and you won’t even be able to walk or stand. When overworked, your brain is similarly exhausted. If you find yourself struggling to focus and are easily distracted, it could mean you’re burnt out. You can’t ask your body to run a marathon everyday just like you can’t ask your mind to put in 12 hour days of hard work everyday.
4. Daily tasks take longer and longer to finish.
Studies show that there’s an optimal level of busyness, a sweet spot, that maximizes your productivity. Another study showed that a certain amount of busyness increased motivation and task completion time. However, if you surpass the optimal level of busyness your motivation and productivity begin to fall.
Overwork reduces motivation as well your ability to put in hard work. The more you overwork, the more your work performance and quality of work will decline. If you feel your productivity slipping, you may be starting to feel the effects of burnout.
5. Unmotivated to get into work.
As mentioned, overworking reduces motivation. Overworked employees are likely to dread coming into work and struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Even if you don’t realize you’re being overworked consciously, having an awareness of your emotional state towards work can be a leading indicator.
6. Physical health is deteriorating.
In Japan there is a word for “death from overworking” - Karoshi. Studies show that increased stress levels caused by overworking often lead to numerous short-term and long-term health problems. Overwork increases your chance of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Overworking also leads you to drink more alcohol which in turn can cause health issues.
In the short-term, overwork can lead to weight gain and general deterioration of physical health. Not only does overworking prevent you from exercising, the stress of overworking can lead to headaches, heartburn, muscle aches, ulcers, and reduce immune system function.
5 Ways to Prevent Overworking and Burnout
These following techniques will help you create a daily workflow that prevents overworking and burnout.
1. Take breaks throughout the day.
Taking breaks is a simple and easy way to improve productivity and reduce burnout. You can try out a technique like Pomodoro and work for a set period of time followed by a break. You can take a break by going for a walk or chatting with a coworker.
2. Set hard times to start and stop working.
Creating a work schedule is an easy way to combat overworking, especially when working remotely. Just pick a time to start and stop your workday each day. Once you hit your stop time, turn off notifications and stop checking Gmail or Slack. This technique comes recommended by Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work. Without setting hard limits, work can spill into our personal time. You can use Rize to set a specific time to notify you to start and stop working each day.
3. Track your time.
Tracking your time has numerous benefits including preventing you from overworking. As mentioned, overworking often creeps up over time. With a time tracker like Rize, you can track your hours for each workweek and make sure you’re not overworking. You’ll be able to spot the days and weeks you are working overtime and balance them with time off.
Furthermore, we often forget how much work we actually put in each day. With a time tracker like Rize, you can feel confident you spent enough time working without pushing the limit into overworking.
4. Focus on one to three important tasks a day.
Each day, prioritize your top one to three tasks that you need to get done. Then focus on executing those tasks. If you finish early, take the rest of the day off. This will reduce context switching and multitasking which will boost your productivity. It will also ensure that you stay productive without overworking and reward yourself for being efficient. Continuing to take on tasks even if you finish some early can incentivize you to not work efficiently and spend more time at work.
5. Get a new job.
Your company work culture and your team members are a major determining factor for overwork. You can make endless personal changes but if you are part of a team that is not committed to your mental health, you will be fighting a losing battle. As a last resort, you should consider changing your job to truly prevent burnout. While this is no easy feat, the mental and physical benefits of a healthy work-life balance far exceed those that any job can offer.
In today’s work climate, you need to be proactive to ensure you don’t fall into bad work habits. With our current work products, the default expectation is to be connected and online for work. Without being deliberate about your time and focus, you can easily slip into overworking and burnout. In order to stay sharp, you need to stay cognizant of how much time you’re putting in at work and the state of your mental health. Your well-being will benefit in the long run.
Photo by Jackson Simmer
Macgill Davis is the cofounder of Rize - a simple, intelligent time tracker that improves focus and helps build better work habits.