You would think that working really, really hard is the best guarantee of advancement in your career. If you put in tons of effort, in the end you will get noticed, right?

The reality is quite different though. There’s a reason why employees are expected to work around 40 hours a week, and why they get paid vacations (although the number of weeks vary per country).

Here are six reasons why working too hard could hurt your career:

1. Working too hard will damage your health

If you work too hard and spend too many hours at your job, you will have no time and energy left to take proper care of yourself. You won’t find the time to exercise, eat foods that fuel your body, or get enough sleep. Skipping on these three elements of a healthy lifestyle is a recipe for illness. Moreover, spending too much time at work will leave you feeling worn out and stressed. Again, high levels of stress are a recipe for illness. In the long run, nobody can keep up a crazy work schedule. Whether it happens sooner or later, you will get ill—and working yourself until you collapse is not something that will impress anybody at work.

2. Working too hard will damage your creativity

You need time off from work to reframe and refocus. If your work schedule is so hectic that you have no time left at all for any of your hobbies, your imagination will simply dry up. In The Art of Thought, Graham Wallace analyzed the creative process of famous scientists. He found out that an important step in the process is “incubation,” a time period during which thoughts are in the back of someone’s mind, and sitting aside in a sort of stew. If you keep on working on your projects without leaving time and space for incubation, you will not come up with any novel ideas.

3. Working too hard indicates you are not working smart

Working hard is so 1980s. The key to success is to make smart choices in your career and tasks, so that you can elevate your profile. Slaving away all of your waking hours at your job shows that you are not working smart. Working smarter is about knowing what tasks you are good at, and delegating the rest. Working smarter is about fueling yourself with creativity and motivation, instead of letting yourself get drained by repetitive tasks. Above all, working smart is about self-reflection and optimizing your workflow processes so that you can benefit from optimal productivity. By working smarter, you show leadership.

4. Working too hard indicates that you can’t delegate

If you are working in a team or your have support staff, and you are the one putting in 80+ hours while your staff members are twisting their thumbs and going home early, then you have a trust issue with your staff. You then need to learn to delegate your work. If everybody on your team is working 60+ hours a week and running around stressed out, then you need to convince your bosses that it is time to hire an extra staff member. We all have a limit of what we can take.

5. Working too hard indicates that you can’t prioritize

Don’t fret away your time by doing the puny tasks that don’t advance your career. Don’t spend too much time replying to emails for example. Try to reply to your emails once a day, during an allocated time period in which you determine whether you can immediately reply to the request or should prepare time in your schedule to deal with the question. Continuously changing tasks and replying to emails in between slows you down, and makes you spend more hours at the job to get the same amount of work done.

6. Working too hard indicates you are overwhelmed by your job

If you need 80+ hours a week to finish your tasks, this might send off the wrong signal to your bosses. They might interpret this as a sign that you are overwhelmed by the work, that you are not able to deal with your tasks in a limited amount of time, and that, by all means, you are not ready to take on more responsibility. Think about how much of a different signal this is from what you might see as being a very devoted employee.

Featured photo credit: Work by Flickr user Devar via

Featured photo credit: Travis Isaacs via photopin cc

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