I love having a challenging job, but lately it feels like I am barely keeping my head above water. I’m having a lot of late nights and I find work creeping into my weekends, too. I’m starting to feel burnt out, so I know that I can’t keep doing this. What should I do when it seems like no matter how much I work, it’s not enough?
When Kim Kardashian's advice to working women was to “get your f**king ass up and work,” in a March Variety article, the general public response was akin to a record scratching. Did Kardashian really have the audacity to say that women need to work harder? Short answer? Yes. While she has since apologized for her comment, which she says was taken out of context and not intended to be a blanket statement to all women, it likely struck an uncomfortable chord to the great many who are working hard, overworking, and burnt out.
Regardless of one's personal situation, though, the idea of working harder being a solution to anything or everything is an important conversation to have. Namely, because overworking is rarely if ever a sustainable solution.
When I was personally overcome by burnout, which I discuss in a May 2021 podcast episode of Balanced Black Girl, I knew that I was dealing with an unfamiliar issue to me because my go-to strategy of working through problems by working harder was not, well, working. I was spending more time in front of my laptop, but instead of finishing a single given task, I was shifting between files and reorganizing incomplete thoughts.
Burnout has a negative impact on productivity, creating a vicious cycle wherein the more you work, the less you produce—and most importantly, the more harm you may pose to your health.
What I came to learn is that burnout has a negative impact on productivity, creating a vicious cycle wherein the more you work, the less you produce—and most importantly, the more harm you may pose to your health. In this sense, working harder can be counterproductive if you're already working hard to the point of burnout.
But, seeing this reality when you're immersed in the cycle can be challenging. So, check out the following questions to ask yourself to determine if you'd benefit from doing things differently.
1. Are you working harder or just working more?
It can be easy to assume that long hours translate to increased productivity and job security; however, research has shown this is false and longer work hours can negatively impact performance.
2. Do you ask for help?
It can be hard to admit that you don’t have everything under control, but the reality is that most things become easier when you simply ask for help. Sometimes the best way to get back on track is to take something off of your plate. That doesn’t mean that the work doesn’t need to be done, but consider using your team to help you do it.
3. Do you have a healthy relationship with rest?
Rest is a necessity for productivity. Hustle culture has conditioned many of us to falsely believe that resting implies laziness. But, in reality, rest is how we acquire the energy to do the work we're paid to do. Evaluate your to-do list and recognize if you are missing rest. Without it, you're not setting yourself up to thrive and are likely to spend your time unproductively spinning your wheels.
4. Are you focused on the things that matter most?
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) is a phenomenon that states that roughly 80 percent of outcomes come from 20 percent of your actions. Essentially, that means you’re likely doing too much. Everything is not equally important, so be sure to prioritize the things that will help you get closer to your goals. It can be hard to figure this out when you are close to the work, so find a co-worker, mentor, or friend you trust to help you sort through things, and identify the best path forward.
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