Overworking is ingrained in our culture. We have normalized it into a symbol of status and success, and we connect over being busy and spread too thin. But you can have the identity of someone who is successful and makes a lot of money without the identity of someone who overworks.
Join me this week as I show you how to recognize why you might be overworking and help you intentionally shift your belief around it. If you identify as a high achiever, this will seem like an impossible feat, but I’m sharing some tools to help you stop overworking without compromising your success.
Welcome to the Design Your Dream Life Podcast where it’s all about designing your life on your terms and now your host, Natalie Bacon.
Hello my friend. What is happening? Today we are going to talk about overworking and how to stop overworking. I’ve touched on this a little bit in the last six months or so in the podcast, but I have to say there is nothing that I have coached more on in the last year in Grow You than overworking. It has just become this theme. So I want to do a podcast on it. I think that I teach it in a really different way that I hope will bring a lot of value and perspective.
It doesn’t just apply if you have a traditional corporate job. I think it applies to all women, particularly because I think we have a tendency to want to prove our worth and prove it through accomplishments and achievements. Of course that’s a generalization, but that is definitely something I am seeing. That’s something that I’ve overcome, and honestly continue to work on myself.
I coach on this so much. I’ve grown so much in it, and I’m going to talk about that with you. I think that through what I’m going to teach you today you can start to change how you view overworking. When to know when you need to kind of address it and how to stop overworking.
So the problem isn’t really in your circumstances. So typically when I am coaching someone, the excuse is sort of like, “Well, based on what’s going in my life right now, I am in this season of overwork. Then when I dig a little deeper, I often find out that before this season there was the exact same problem.”
So maybe this season was, “I have a baby and I’m overworking. But before having a baby, I also was overworking.” So it seems in the moment like it’s circumstantial. But once we actually examine how we’ve been living regardless of the circumstances, it typically comes back to it’s not related at all to the circumstances.
This makes sense because we’ve sort of become a society, particularly in the U.S. where we value achievement so much. We’ve sort of normalized overworking as this status symbol. So if we say things like, “Oh I’m so busy,” we must have really full lives. It’s sort of just become this way to connect over being busy and being spread too thin and overworking.
It’s really interesting because the more successful we are, the more money we make. It’s not like we actually as a society work less. We’re working more. So it’s the opposite of what you would think. Research actually from the mid-1900s predicted that we would be working so much less now than we are. It’s fascinating because I think this touches on how overwork is so ingrained in our culture that it’s really not about the money or the circumstances. It’s truly about how we identify internally as ourselves.
So when I am talking about overworking, I like to start with thinking about how you over with anything. So take a broader perspective here and think about how you can do anything too much. By overing too much, I mean that there is a net negative consequence. So the most common examples that I teach and coach on are alcohol, right. If you drink too much alcohol or sugar. If you drink too much sugar. Or it could be spending money if you spend too much money.
So if you take the example of alcohol let’s say, there is always a net negative consequence. There is the short-term net negative consequence of feeling kind of like crap in the morning. Then there’s the long-term damage that it does to your brain, your liver, your body over time. Now to the extent that you over drink will be to the extent that you have that net negative consequence. So the same would be true for sugar or spending money.
It’s also true for positive things as well. So if you take the example of exercise. Exercise we always talk about as a positive. It helps our bodies. But you can over exercise. So if you go to the gym and you exercise for eight to ten hours a day and your body doesn’t have time to rest, it will have the opposite of being beneficial to you. It will harm your body. Your body will start to break down.
I actually belonged to a gym years ago. There was someone who did over exercise. She would go to the gym first thing in the morning and stay there all day. The gym actually asked her to limit her hours or to stop coming. Basically it’s too much of that good thing.
So typically when we’re thinking of overing, we’re thinking of the obvious ones that are harmful. We think of eating too much sugar or drinking too much booze or overspending money. When it comes to overworking, because work is generally something that’s positive and achievement is something that’s positive, we don’t talk a lot about overworking in terms of the net negative consequence and what to do to solve it.
Yes, work life balance is sort of this hot topic, I would say. I don’t know that it really gets at why we overwork and actually how to change it. So what I teach you how to do is to recognize why we do it, why it’s a problem, and exactly how to change it.
So when I talk about overworking, what I mean by that is you’re internally off balance so there’s a net negative consequence. I specifically use the word internally there because we don’t actually need to be externally in balance in everything that we do.
So you don’t need to use the same amount of time to eat as you do to work as you do to exercise as you do with your family and as you do it to sleep, right. We don’t spend three hours working, three hours eating, three hours exercising, three hours sleeping. Like that’s now what people mean by balance, but it’s important for you to see that that would be actual time balance.
That’s not what we need or want. What we actually need and want is the internal balance. So internally you want to be balanced with how you feel physically in your body and how you feel emotionally and mentally. So if I’m going to law school, I am going to get really externally off balance. That doesn’t mean that I have to get internally off balance. That doesn’t mean that I need to label that season of overworking.
So often I think there are goals or seasons where we want to say, “Okay externally I am going to get off balance, but internally I don’t want to.” I always use professional school as the really obvious example because I think socially, we don’t identify or claim someone is overworking if they are in medical school. We’re like, “Oh, they’re in medical school. This is what you do.”
So what I want you to think about is, “Okay. It’s okay and it’s actually expected that externally things should be off balance. I’m not supposed to eat, exercise, sleep, and work for the exact same amount of hours. But I want to be internally balanced. Part of that means I’m probably going to change how I act and the hours that I do things.”
So, for example, if you want to maintain your internal balance, it’s very likely that you are going to intentionally plan how many hours you want to sleep, how many hours you want to work out, how many hours you want to spend with your family on nights and weekends, how many hours you want to be working. Those hours won’t all be the same, but they will create the balance that you’re looking for internally.
If you are completely unaware that you are overworking, eventually you will have net negative consequences that catch up to you. It’s the same with overing with anything. So it might be fine that you are over drinking when you’re in your 20s in college. But if you keep that up and maintain that eventually you are going to see all of those net negative consequences in your relationships, in your work life, in your body physically.
The same is true with overworking. If you overwork and you are internally off balance, it might take a little while but eventually you will see that net negative consequences. It will show up physically. You will start to have physical ailments that you didn’t have before. You might go to the doctor or physical therapist and find out that it’s from working too much and not balancing that with exercise.
So you’ll start to have these little moments in your life where you want to pay attention to them. I find that when we don’t have the awareness of overworking, we tend to ignore our bodies. I talked about this in body neglect where I used to not go to the bathroom because I was working. So I would drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and then just hold it and not go to the bathroom even though my body was clearly signaling me to get up and go to the bathroom.
So it’s noticing, “Okay what internally is my body telling me that I really need right now.” And listening to that. This takes so much more connection between the mind and the body. If you are a high achiever and you love goals and you love to overwork, this will be particularly hard for you. For someone who doesn’t overwork, this is not hard at all.
So I’m speaking to you particularly if you identify or can imagine sort of giving yourself this label of overworking. You will probably find it harder and more challenging to have that mind/body connection and stay in your body and listen to it. It’s like listening to the aches or the pains and putting in those constraints in your life where you get up and you go on a walk or you have 10 minutes of silence. Or you exercise and you prioritize that self-care.
I think that one of the biggest shifts and the most important shift that’s required to stop overworking and get that internal balance back is to totally shift your identity. So as I mentioned earlier, we identify as being busy. We sort of glorify that. We make it mean that we are somehow really successful if we’re busy and if we are working.
I think that a lot of this is cleared up simply by becoming someone who doesn’t overwork. So if you identify as someone who just doesn’t overwork, you will put up constraints in your life that you don’t allow the overwork to flow in. So I know when I’m in overwork. Shifting to this place of, “Oh I’m just not someone who overworks,” gets me out of any scarcity you know to complete a project or any worry about money. It’s kind of recentering with who I am being.
So I find that this is really helpful for a lot of my clients and Grow You members as well. It’s kind of justifying all of the overwork because most of the people who are overworking actually really like their work. That’s been my experience and that’s been most of the Grow You members. It’s, “Hey, I really like my full-time job. I enjoy it. I enjoy the work that I’m doing, and I also enjoy all of these other things. So help me, Natalie, get out of overwork. I want to do all of it.”
I can give you so many different actions to take. I can tell you how to calendar and how to do time management and how to prioritize self-care. All of that is helpful. But it isn’t going to get you the results if you still have the identity of, “I’m someone who overworks.”
So I remember when I first considered being someone who didn’t overwork and I had fear about it. So if this is you, pay attention to that. What fear do you have about transitioning from someone who overworks to someone who doesn’t?
I think that there are two parts to this fear of transitioning out of this identity. Part one is that we think overworking means that we are successful and that we achieve our goals. Part two is that overworking creates more money and that there’s this link between time and money.
So as long as you think that more working equals more success, you will hold on to I’m someone who overworks. As long as you think that the more time that you work, the more money you make, you will want to be someone who overworks. What I want to offer to you is that you can have the identity of someone who is successful and someone who creates a lot of money. You don’t have to have the identity of someone who overworks.
Now, culturally, we don’t really talk about this. So your brain is going to hold on to that limiting belief, but I want you to start practicing it. So I want to give you an example from my life that may be helpful for you to hold on to as an example of how it’s possible.
I used to work so much more than I do now. I used to get up really early and work all day. I can think back to different seasons of life when I was a lawyer, when I was a financial planner, when I was building my business. At each of those stages, I worked different amounts of hours. Through all of those stages, I worked way more than I’m working now. I make more money now than I’ve ever made. So the less I work right now, the more money I make.
Now, it doesn’t mean work less to make more money. What it means is that there’s not a direct correlation between time and money. So I just don’t believe that the more time I spend working, the more money I make. I truly believe that the more value in the marketplace that I give, the more money I make.
So this doesn’t just apply to me because I own a business. This applies to everyone who is contributing and working. It applies to you if you are a nurse. It applies to you if you are in corporate America. It applies to you if you’re a freelancer. It applies anytime we’re talking about creating money in the world.
The way that you create money is through providing more economic value in the marketplace. So start to ask yourself what does my company value? How can I create more value? How can I add revenue to the company? Right? So the more economically valuable you become to the company, the more money you make. The money has nothing to do with time.
I love to go to examples of people working like three different jobs all hours of the day. Whatever that income is, it might be 1/10th of someone else who’s working five hours a day. I just go to those examples so that my brain doesn’t get wrapped up in this idea that we have to trade time for money. It’s just not true. As long as you believe it’s true, the more you’re going to get into overwork.
So just sort of play around with that and play around with the idea of providing more economic value in less time. That will help you kind of relieve any fear you have about working less thinking that that means that you’re going to make less money. Because that’s just not true.
The same is true with respect to having this fear that working less means you’ll be less successful. And somehow quantifying your achievements and the more you achieve, the more worth you are. That is also not true.
For this fear, I like to go to the end of my life and sort of imagine looking back and asking myself how do I want to have spent my life? How do I want to have spent my time? Is it working and accumulating the most achievements possible? Or is it feeling internally balanced where I’m working, where I’m giving, where I’m exercising, where I’m contributing to the community? Where I’m doing all sorts of things and showing up with love and enjoying my life in a way that is so full and rich and actually has nothing to do with the amount of goals I achieve.
In no way do I think that I’m going to get to my life and think, “I am so glad I achieved 542 goals.” Like it’s just not what we do when we reflect back. But what we do now is we think that the more I achieve, the more successful I am. You can just decide success to me means living fully. Success to me does not mean overworking. So you want to have that yin and that yang where you’re not basing your worth on how much you achieve.
When you do that, when you let go of thinking that you have to achieve more in order to be worthy. When you let go of the idea that you have to trade your time to create more money, you start to see, “Oh yeah. I can actually feel very valuable and worthy and enjoy my life. I can create a lot of money if that’s what I want to do. Overwork is not required.”
So if this is the first time that you’re hearing this and you want more of it, what I would do is I would start to look for examples of people who live in the way that you’re trying to break through that limiting belief. So I gave you the example of how the more money I make, the less I’m working. Right? So I’m one person who’s an example. Who else?
It doesn’t even have to be in your life. It can be people who are in the media or famous or well known or anything. Start to look for evidence of the beliefs that you want to have. So if you want to have the belief that you can achieve and have balance and create a lot of money and not overwork, look for people who are already doing that in their lives.
I have to say that probably, I don’t know, five years ago. Maybe a little less than that. The thought of not overworking was very terrifying to me. My body was such in the habit of hustle mode and overworking. It took very much intentionally shifting my belief of I’m someone who overworks to I’m just someone who doesn’t overwork. That was growth. It actually did take a lot.
So part of that was seeing evidence of other people not overworking. And knowing that I could still achieve my goals and have this full, amazing, successful life and create the money I want to create and not overwork. So there’s ands. There’s not ors. You have to be willing to go there because naturally our brain lives in that or. It’s like, “Okay, well I can stop overworking but then that means that I can’t create the money. It’s like you don’t give yourself permission to have both.”
So start to think about what being internally balanced in your life means to you. I like to think of it like work constraints that you make that are non-negotiables. So you plan your time in advance. I’ve taught this before. It’s something I very much believe in because it allows you to live very deliberately. I do this one to three weeks in advance, but you can also just do it as little as up to 24 hours in advance.
It’s not that you are, again, making everything that you do in equal amounts of time. But you’re identifying what your priorities are and then just giving them enough time. So, for me, some of my priorities are health, exercise, self-coaching, self-care, taking coaching programs, family vacations, going on walks with Penny, evenings, and weekends together with my family, right. Always eating together.
If you make a list of your priorities outside of work, you can start to schedule them. Once you add them to your schedule, you honor them, and you follow through. Now, again, this works if you’re someone who actually is actively identifying as someone who doesn’t overwork.
If you still are having that hat on where you’re thinking, “I’m someone who overworks.” You’re going to find reasons to skip dinner. You’re going to find reasons to not do your self-care. If you’re genuinely feeling like you’re someone who prioritizes work life balance who doesn’t overwork, then you’re going to want to honor these priorities that you’ve scheduled ahead of time.
I like to use the analogy of a food plan. So it’s like you can plan to eat the cookie if you plan it 24 hours in advance let’s say. Let’s say you’re healthy eating, you’re trying to lose weight. So you have this food plan. As long as you’re doing this prefrontal cortex, you can do it 24 hours in advance of the plan. That means in the moment you’re not sort of letting your toddler brain win. So let’s say you decide, “All right this week I’m going to eat two cookies Friday and Saturday.” And you planned this on Wednesday. That’s amazing. You planned it from your prefrontal cortex, okay.
The same is true with overworking. It’s Wednesday and you’re looking ahead. You’re thinking, “You know what? Next week I go out of town. So I want to work this weekend to make sure I get my work done. So it’s Wednesday. I’m going to plan that Saturday and Sunday I’m going to work for a couple hours. Or it’s Monday and I’m going to plan that Thursday night I’m actually going to work a little bit later.”
You’re planning it ahead of time so you’re being really deliberate versus in the moment just saying, “Well, I’m going to order the French fries and the cookie and go off plan in the moment.” Or it’s five p.m. and you have scheduled to stop and go exercise, but you decide, “Well, I’m just going to overwork.”
The most important thing that you can do for yourself is to make those decisions ahead of time from your prefrontal cortex because that means you’re going to make decisions from your highest self. So it’s like what does my future self do and making those decisions now. That’s how you draw it in.
One of the other tools that I think can be really helpful for you to do is to think about your future self and think about your ideal work life balance. Also think about your ideal workday. A lot of times we joke about what our ideal day would be like. We often think about like pleasures. I’m on the beach. Maybe I have a cocktail or a glass of wine. Something like that.
What I want you to do is not sort of do it sarcastically but actually think about, “What is my ideal workday like? Is it I stop working at three? Is it I stop working at five? Is it I only work from 10 to 5? Is it I don’t work Sundays or weekends at all?” Just think about it. If anything were possible, how much money would I make? How many hours would I work? What are my priorities outside of work?
Then you start to make decisions now wearing the hat of, “I’m not someone who overworks. I’m someone who values my internal balance.” From there that’s when you’re going to adopt that new mindset where you take actions, and you just don’t even let that overwork energy come into you. So you’re not tempted to say, “Oh, I’m just going to work late tonight.” Because you have your hat on of intentionally living from the place of, “I’m someone who values work life balance. I’m someone who’s practicing being my future self of not overworking.”
This has helped me so much. I know it can help you. So just start thinking about that future version of you who isn’t someone who identifies as overworking. Your brain is going to come up with the ideas for how you can live that out in your life. All right my friends. That’s what I have for you today. I will talk with you next week.
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