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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 February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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