Emerge and Spread Your Wings

5 Overwork Patterns You Can Break Right Now

There is nothing like a holiday to bring things back into perspective. While I confess I wasn’t thinking about supervision while I was paddling down the Whanganui river last week (I was more concerned with steering through the rapids and eating scroggin), I did notice the difference in my stress levels at the end of the holiday. Taking a break is essential to our wellbeing, but can be really hard to justify when stuck in the trenches of a busy workload. So if you are finding that your workdays are dragging out longer and you are catching the stress bug from those around you, here are some ideas….

5 overwork patterns you can break right now

1. Burning The Candle At Both Ends.

It can be tempting to stay behind to finish that report, or bring work home when your workload pressure builds up, but if this is happening regularly it can become an unhealthy pattern.


Set clear boundaries for your work hours, and make the longer days the exception, rather than the rule. For instance you might decide to work later no more than two days per fortnight. If you aren’t fitting your workload into your designated hours take another look at how you are spending your time at work. Consider reviewing your time management strategies, aiming for more efficiency, so that you are working smarter, not harder. This blog on managing time might help, or see the bottom of this post for my e-book 12 Tried and True Time Management Tips For Busy Professionals. Chronically working longer hours can have an impact on your health and wellbeing, so this might be something to take up with your manager.

2. Being Unclear of Expectations

When everyone is busy, often we are requested to pick up extra work. It is easy, in the rush of getting on with the task, to neglect to get clear on what is needed. Others’ perceptions of urgency and importance can influence how we tackle a task, often to the detriment of getting our own work done.


Ask specific questions when given a task, such as: What detail is needed? When is it due? Who am I reporting back to? How much time should I put into it? Where possible get the contact numbers and emails of those involved at the start. Getting really clear on what is being asked can help you sort out how to prioritise the task among your other work and can save lots of time and energy.

3. Putting Your Health At The Bottom Of The List

How often do you find your doctor’s or dentist’s visit put off because you are just too busy at work? How much holiday leave have you accrued because you find it hard to fit in a break? Are you “soldiering on” with illnesses that are slow to resolve because you haven’t had adequate time off?

Instead of leaving your health and wellbeing to chance:

Plan the month ahead, and schedule in exercise, appointments, lunch breaks, holidays etc. Block out a day or half day a month to allow some breathing space for catching up, or unexpected appointments. While illness can’t be planned for, when you are proactive with your health you are less likely to get unwell, or burn-out.

4. Declining To Delegate

Do you notice yourself choosing to “just get it done myself”, even when people offer to help. Asking for help is not always easy even when we are overworked. It can be a real stumbling block for those of us in helping professions.


Consider opportunities to extend the skills of your colleagues or team members by sharing or handing over tasks that could be managed by others. When delegating a task be really specific about what you need, how, and when (see pattern 2) in order to get the best result.

5. Carrying Someone Else’s Monkey

It is easy, when working in a busy team to start taking on other’s stress and overwork habits. We can feel guilty when colleagues seem overworked, or pressured to overload ourselves. But taking on more doesn’t solve the problem.


Carefully consider your own boundaries when it comes to your work responsibilities, and what you can handle. When experiencing pressure from others, practice some polite, but firm, responses before you need them. For instance: “I would be happy to help once I’ve got my work done.” or ” Unfortunately I can’t take that on right now, but I have 10 minutes to brainstorm it with you.” Setting boundaries can be challenging, but does get easier with practice. You can always continue to offer support to your colleague, perhaps with suggestions on some time management strategies that might help. But ultimately, you don’t need to carry other people’s monkeys for them.

If you’d like more ideas on using your work time more efficiently get my e-book 12 Tried and True Time Management Tips For Busy Professionals for free by scrolling down to the sign up box on right.