I don’t believe in working too hard, for three reasons. When you work too hard, you are breaking down your body beyond timely recovery. You are teaching your mind that you must work hard to survive. And you are missing out on opportunities to work less and earn more.
Let’s first define what I mean by “working too hard” real quick.
You know you are working too hard (or too much) when you:
- Work more than 8 hours a day
- Sacrifice sleep for getting something done
- Wait until you stop working this hard so you could enjoy life
Or, you may simply feel that you are working too damn hard for the money you earn. It’s a feeling that can almost never be ignored or missed.
Your Body Is Getting Ready to Say ‘No’
If your body hasn’t been telling you that you’ve been overworking, it will very soon. It begins slowly, because you ignore the symptoms until you have a breakdown. But it usually starts with headache (usually the tension type), moodiness, low energy, and poor sleep.
This is only the beginning. The next stage will bring you panic or anxiety attacks. These nasty suckers feel like you’re about to pass out, die from a heart attack, or lose your mind. While these are usually almost purely psychosomatic symptoms (meaning caused by the mind), they have very real physical manifestations.
You may also drive your body to hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar and a precursor to diabetes. You may say, well, Philip, isn’t diabetes high blood sugar? Yes, it is, and it usually starts out with low blood sugar in people who are otherwise healthy. If in doubt, research how carbs affect your body and how hypoglycemia graduates into diabetes.
I don’t have the time and space here to go into any detail of the physiological processes of sugars killing people. This is for future posts. But do your homework. Here’s a good book to get you started: Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars by Dr. Richard K. Bernstein.
But briefly, overwork leads to higher levels of cortisol, insulin, and adrenaline; triggers the fight-or-flight response way too frequently during the day; sends your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride; and exhausts your adrenals. These consequences are responsible for too many lives in the western society to count. Young folks, too…
Moreover, when your body enters this cycle, it is highly unlikely to fully recover during your off hours. Stress and its symptoms begin to accumulate, leading to a physiological death spiral.
You Are Teaching Your Mind that You Are A Workhorse
The longer you overwork, the more your mind gets used to it. This is a serious problem.
By overworking, you are telling your mind (meaning, your self or your subconscious) that you are only good enough for this kind of labor. Your mind may protest for a while but will eventually accept the plight and – worst of all – set up a protection mechanism that will prevent you from growing.
So, one of the functions of your entire nervous systems (including your brain) is to protect you from change because change means a threat to survival. This is why you get butterflies in your stomach when your manager wants to talk to you in his office or announces that “we’re gonna make some changes around here.”
As a result of an extended period of overwork, your mind is now convinced that being a workhorse is what is needed to continue to be provided with food and shelter. These are your basic needs, and your mind will protect your ability to fulfill them.
Consequently, it will make it increasingly harder for you to take yourself to the next professional level where you could be working fewer hours and making more money at the same time.
Your mind will feed you more and more excuses and will find all sorts of arguments to persuade you that “now is definitely not a good time to change anything. Better stick to what I’m doing because I may lose what I have, and that could lead to devastating consequences.”
When your mind vibrates with this kind of affirmations, you will find it extremely hard to grow. In other words, the harder you work, and the longer the periods of overworking, the more you’re stuck and the harder it becomes to get out.
You Are Missing Out on Great Opportunities
This point is a corollary of the previous one. When your mind becomes protective of your status quo, your ability to think diminishes tremendously. But your ability to think is your ticket to the new levels, to any kind of growth. Stress shuts it down.
As a result, you are so engrossed in your work that you don’t even see opportunities that may be knocking on your door. It’s like driving 100 miles per hour on the highway – you don’t tend to read signs because you must focus on steering.
As a result, you are missing:
- Opportunities to do things more efficiently
- Ideas for delegating
- Asking for more money for your work
- Ways to better leverage your talents and strengths
- An opportunity to get the hell out and find a better place to work
Do Whatever You Can to Slow Down
A great way to begin changing things around is developing a window of time when you can relax and contemplate your situation. You don’t even have to do it on paper. Just sit down quietly, meditation-style, but instead of meditating, contemplate your situation. You could start with 10 minutes.
Ask yourself questions like:
“What is the biggest problem?”
“What can I do about it today?”
“What if I tried this solution?”
“What would be my first step?”
Keep sitting quietly with your eyes closed and answering these questions slowly in your mind. I also like to play some meditation music while doing this exercise. It is essentially a block of time when you can think without being disturbed. Try it. It works.
When your life feels like you don’t have a free minute to do anything else, this is your signal to incorporate this “contemplation window” into your day.