woke up today thinking “I feel like my job is taking over my life”
think about the project at hand for 13 hours a day
sleep thinking of work and wake up thinking of work
and in the remaining few hours, you also think of work
Then this is for you.
You ask me, “Is this normal?” Certainly not.
“What should I do to manage work and draw boundaries with life?” I’m here to answer.
1. Before thinking about any solution, you need to establish what “working reasonably hard” looks like.
It’s true that the previous symptoms are applicable to your case, but if you’re new to the industry, this might be because you’re vainly overworking yourself. Don’t get offended, I’m not belittling your work. I’ll further explain.
As a beginner, I’m pretty sure you’re exhausting yourself to the brink. You don’t leave your desk till you finish the task at hand and you keep thinking about the perfect solution for a problem at work even on your days off. Now that is not normal, and doesn’t count as hardworking, it’s called self-burning. You need to work smarter.
If you’re thinking, “How am I supposed to know what reasonably hard is? When is it okay to call it a day?” Here’s my answer:
Your body will tell you. If you feel like you stopped being yourself, small tasks are taking forever, you are not motivated… It is your time to NOT shine. Rest.
But we’re in real life, and you chose the consulting life. Projects have deadlines, and plans can be extended by months. There’s a very thin line between hard work and burning out. So, if you’re working more than 12 hours a day, and most of your tasks seem impossibly hard and time consuming,
⤷ you need to stop here; cause you’re probably doing things wrong. The more you spend doing, the less you’re getting done. Take a break, and don’t overheat your mind and body. Tasks will get done after coffee.
⤷ you can work 12 or even 13 hours – if you’re actually giving off great work – but you should also treat yourself as someone you care for. Breaks are as important as being productive because they allow you to recharge for better productivity when you’re back.
2. Set limits and boundaries.
Learn how to track and allocate time better and commit to your set timeframes.
Setting time limits for certain tasks will end up forcing you to develop new work strategies to be able to finish on time.
You come first, not the job. Make sure you are well, to do your job well.
The key here is to strictly stick to the boundaries and time limits you set no matter what (yeah, even if you didn’t finish the set tasks for the day) and with time you will find yourself doing your best not to break them no matter what. We are basically big kids.
3. Sometimes good is as good as great.
You should also realize that things don’t end up failing as often as you think they would. Things always fall into place at the end. Be optimistic.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. As an overachiever you probably hate yourself for not being great. Think of it as a marathon not a sprint. You did only good at this checkpoint so you can have a great race.
And remember, you’re always doing your best.
4. Understand that it isn’t always your fault.
Your manager has a great impact on your work life. And your personal life too. If you’re burnt at work, you won’t even smile at your date, does that make sense?
Much of your stress and overwork are actually the product of poor scope or schedule management among leaders rather than time or boundary management on your end.
That doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do.
Tell them. Strategically and at the right time. Don’t tell them in front of their boss. Highlighting shortcomings makes them trust you and rely more on you. But don’t nag, be rational and responsible.
Help them. They are at the end human beings with the same concerns as yours, just a few years ahead of you. If your manager does better, your job becomes easier and you grow professionally quicker.
5. Stop being terrified of being fired.
If you do your best, work ethically, and have set limits that help you not burnout:
Best case is you keep your job and have hours of your life back every day.
Worst case is you get fired and have all your life back every day.
6. Say and do what you need to be successful at your job.
Ask for offline time after 6 pm on a Thursday evening for example. This may help you recharge to give your best on Friday before the weekends!
Use airplane mode on your phone to focus, get your job done without distractions and quickly.
Set a family time that you don’t break no matter what.
Lastly, step back, breathe, and check out these tips that will help you through your whole working life:
Beware of burnouts! Disconnect and take care of yourself.
Learn to say no, strategically. Explain why you think it is not feasible and fair and work towards finding a solution. Don’t only nag, offer alternatives.
Best case scenario you get a promotion this year. Worst case you get fired and go through a new life chapter that might lead you to better places. Not that bad.
Allocate responsibility! If you think your manager isn’t doing a great job managing the situations properly, let them know. And better? Help them!
Everyone makes mistakes, all you need to do is not make them twice.
Make sure you are taking care of the other aspects of your life. These are also important.