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Why Working Too Hard Could Be Bad For Your Career

Why Working Too Hard Could Be Bad For Your Career

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 farm1.staticflickr.com

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Eva Lantsoght

Eva is a university professor and a professional structural engineer. She writes about achieving excellence and success in life on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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