The Truth About Work-Life Balance: Stop Feeling Overworked
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I hate the feeling of dreading work, of dreading going home, and of dreading life in general.
The main cause of this dread was constantly feeling and being overworked. Most individuals don’t stop working at work, and we blur the lines between our work life and our actual life.
We all know that person at work who doesn’t want to be there. Nothing makes them happy, and they always seem to be stressed about literally everything. I was this person.
I hope by the end of this post you feel confident in your ability to be actually productive and a happy, fulfilled person.
I want you to have a new outlook on life and a burning passion to change. If you don’t feel this way after this post – that means either I’ve failed or you’re not in a position or mindset to change.
Because of my personal ties to this subject, I hope you understand that I won’t sugarcoat anything. Before we get into the thick of things, I want you to have a basic understanding of where I’m coming from.
and in the beginning… there was confusion
Honestly, my newfound knowledge of why we’re actually overworked came about three weeks ago. I was watching a YouTube video about how to enter into a deep workflow and afterward, I felt completely dumbfounded. A few weeks prior to this incident, I had been listening to a podcast about time management and busywork.
This podcast had made me realize that what I had actually been prioritizing, was the wrong things. This made me a bit embarrassed because, well, I literally spend my days writing about how we can be more productive.
After the video on deep workflow, I decided to deep-dive into this newfound knowledge to discover whether or not these key pieces of information worked. And well, here we are.
The Series of Unfortunate Events
Before all of this, I always felt frustrated, annoyed, and tired. When I finished work it felt as if I hadn’t accomplished anything. This was so frustrating!
I’m sure you probably understand this feeling as well. You feel guilty for taking time out of your day for yourself when you have so much to do. You feel as if you’re not actually getting any important work done and your job doesn’t make you happy anymore.
Sometimes this causes our productivity to come in waves. One week, or maybe just a single day, we’ll be super productive. We feel a burning passion to change how we work and to develop a more positive mindset.
Then comes the day where we head home, sit on the couch, and just feel like crap. Yep.
And then we’re burnt out for weeks. We procrastinate because when we were working, it didn’t really feel like we were even doing anything.
Then, you head on over to your friends. They tell you that you’re being lazy, or maybe they tell you they have the same problem. It feels like, under the surface, we are all being overworked, we just don’t want to be seen as a complainer or a negative nancy. Or the newer term: a Karen.
Well, I was tired of feeling like crap. I was tired of feeling as if I had worked on my days off, I was tired of trying to balance work and life, and I was sick and tired of always having work in the back of my mind.
I was especially sick of feeling guilty when I wasn’t thinking of work. How sad is it, that we feel guilty for not working when we aren’t supposed to be?
So I decided that I would dedicate the rest of my life, if I had to, to figure out how I could stop these feelings. And to finally feel relaxed when I wasn’t working.
I took a deep dive into reading productivity books like the four-hour workweek, reading nearly 100 articles about how to overcome being overworked, and spent my free time thinking and breathing about living a more productive life whilst being happier.
As I’m now at the end of my road I’ve nearly eradicated any procrastination I was dealing with. I also don’t view my work as work anymore. I’m able to stay in flow and the creative juices are flowing.
I’m able to spend time in the present moment, which has greatly improved the time I spend with family, and I even sleep better!
Overall I can say, without a doubt, that I spend my time more meaningfully and I actually appreciate the time I’ve been given.
The Actual Process
There are a few key concepts that I started to implement in my daily life. These are just things that will kickstart you into gear and will make the process of eliminating stress a million times easier.
What’s Your System?
Before I had even started this journey, I already had a to-do list. I’m assuming that you also have a system that you use to make sure you get your daily tasks done.
That’s great, but if you’re really wanting to kick your productivity into high gear, use time-blocking instead of just regular to-do lists.
This will ensure that you’re getting your high-priority items done at the beginning of the day and that you’re being realistic when it comes to tasks you need to complete.
It also has the added benefit of ensuring you make time-oriented goals, even if that wasn’t your intention.
“Why do I need to do the most important things at the beginning of the day?” You ask.
Good question, you do these first because if something happens that ruins your schedule, your friends want to hang out, your mother calls, or just something very inconvenient, you still get the most important things done.
“How do I categorize my tasks by the most important?” You ask.
Another good question!
Behold, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
I’d be lying if I said that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs didn’t change my life for the better.
Maslow’s is the backbone of effective time management. If you’re wondering what you need to be prioritizing in your life, start from the bottom up.
The quick answer: You do whatever will make you happiest and will take you the farthest in life, first.
I like em big, I like em Chunky (Madagascar, if you’re wondering)
Did you know that on average, people only spend 3 out of 8.8 hours actually working? The first time I heard this I almost fell over.
3 hours!? And I felt like I was being unproductive when I only worked 7 instead of 8 pshhh.
Knowing this information, I want you to cut your work hours into 2 or 3 chunks.
The first chunk you’ll work for 3-4 very focused hours. This chunk of time should be completed at the same time every day. (The routine helps you to focus better, set expectations for yourself, and improve your creativity.)
When I say focused, I mean:
- No distractions
- No social media
- No human contact
- No fumbling with papers
- No checking email
- No checking your calendar
- Complete immersion in your project
The ONLY time you take a break during these four hours is if your flow has been broken, and you’re not able to get back into it.
When you do take a break, do not:
- Check social media
- Check your email
- Work on other things
- Watch a YouTube video
- Write a to-do
Essentially, don’t work or do things that will heighten your emotions or will give you ‘easy/immediate gratification‘. (This is talked about later in the post).
A break should be activities like:
- Talking to a friend
- Getting a drink (preferably water)
- Coloring (yes, I’m an adult that colors)
- Listening to music
For the second chunk, you’ll do busywork for 1 to 3 hours.
If you’re wondering what busywork is, it’s essentially low-value tasks that you need to do. If you’re unsure if something is busywork or not, just contemplate whether or not you’d be able to do it while sitting downstairs with your family.
These tasks should be easssyyy. A few of these tasks may be more time-consuming or need a little bit more concentration, but overall, it’s not SUPER important.
(If you can, you can always hire a personal assistant to do this work for you!)
Usually you end up doing your busywork because it’s easier and your highly focused work gets neglected. This is bad because your highly-focused work is the thing that’s actually going to make sure that you go where you need to in life!
The last chunk will be anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours. During this time, you’ll just reflect on the state of your work and any improvements you can make. Make sure you set up your time blocks and you know 100% of what you’ll be doing during your focused work for the next day.
Don’t let Distractions Control Your Life
Are you noticing that you’re getting really distracted by your phone when trying to do focused work?
Throw it in a blender.
I’m not kidding.
But seriously, don’t allow something as stupid as wanting to check your phone distract you from work that may change your life.
If you’re not wanting to go the blender route, put your phone in a very inconvenient place until your 4 hours are up.
DO NOT RELY ON WILLPOWER. I used to always assume that after a while I would ‘toughen up’ and I’d stop wanting to get on my phone while working.
When actually, I was just getting distracted and hoping that I’d stop checking my phone at some point.
Keep Track of Your Thoughts
When you’re sitting at the dinner table with your family, do you ever think, “huh, I forgot to do this” or “I should check my email” or even “what am I going to do during work tomorrow?”.
Or maybe it’s really small things. The other day, I was thinking, “hmm this is a really good idea for a blog post!” and then… I realized.
I simply wrote the idea on a sticky note, and left it.
This is what you need to do with your work. Leave it wherever the fudge you work.
You shouldn’t even be thinking about work when you get home. Work should be the LAST thing you have on your mind.
I was taught that you should always bend your back over to get that raise, to get people to like you, or to just be a valuable person. (The last one is a little sad, but true for me.)
Some cultures do a really good job of keeping work at work, but sadly, a lot don’t.
If you’re wanting to stop feeling overworked and lazy, you have got to stop bringing work home.
If you work in an environment that doesn’t allow for this, then you need to either get out asap, quit, or accept that you’ll feel burnt out for the rest of your life.
Truthfully, this is probably the second most important thing to stop feeling burnt out.
I hope by this point you’ve decided whether or not you’re willing to make the changes necessary to finally love your job and to love your life.
My Personal Journey: Why You Should Work on More Than Just Your Finances
At the beginning of my journey, I realized that I was just going through the motions and existing. What was the point of trying to be a freelancer if I couldn’t even enjoy it?
It was that realization that I decided to just stop. Stop lying to myself. So I grabbed a piece of paper, drew Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and just started writing.
I circled where I was on it and wrote down the problems I was having. And I accepted all of this. I accepted myself for myself and decided that I was done.
And then I started to work towards changing the parts of my life that I had control of.
If you’re wondering how you should be spending your time best, this is how. You shouldn’t be working 24/7, you can’t possibly be happy by doing that.
At this point, you’re probably wondering: “so what’s the lesson?”.
The lesson is that you need to learn to enjoy things outside of work. Above, I mentioned that a lot of people get home, plop on the couch, and just exist until tomorrow.
You have to stop this cycle now, and start working to enjoy the things you’re doing. I’m not saying that you should never watch Netflix, but I am suggesting that you need to take a look at yourself.
Are you truthfully happy with where your life is?
A lot of people think, “ah as soon as I get [insert goal], then I’ll be happy.” “as soon as I get the body of my dreams – that’s when I’ll be fulfilled.”
I lost the weight that I spent months shaming myself for. Telling myself that I wasn’t good enough and that others must think I was lazy.
But actually, I looked in the mirror and just nodded. It was me – but just skinnier.
There wasn’t an ‘aha’ moment and I didn’t like myself any more than I did before. Once again, it was just me, but skinnier.
This put things into perspective. Not only did I shame myself the entire way through weight loss, but I also expected my life to be drastically different when I lost the weight.
If you’re someone who thinks that once you’re rich and your career is successful, you’ll then be happy – you’re greatly mistaken.
In order to truly be happy and fulfilled, having a good career is only one aspect out of many.
It’s crucial to enjoy your life outside of work. This is a key component to stop feeling overworked all the time.
I know it’s easy to drown your problems in work, but it’s not healthy.
At this time, I also decided to dabble in other things that I thought would improve my time outside of work.
I honestly used to think that meditation was something that ‘spiritual’ people did.
Meditation has a lot of benefits like improving your patience, self-awareness, creativity, imagination, skill-building to manage stress, and it improves your self-awareness.
Honestly, this is why people think meditation is a hoax. How could something as simple as sitting and concentrating on your thoughts do all of that?
Try it for a few months and you can thank me later.
Stop Giving yourself Easy Gratification
It’s really easy to spend 20 hours a week binging your favorite Netflix series. But doing this is actually making you stressed out.
Think about this for a moment.
Let’s say that you’re stuck in a small light brown room with only a single light hanging above you. You’re being fed only rice and beans for an entire week.
At the end of the week, you find a book in the vent of the room.
You will be 100% ecstatic to have that book in your hands. You will cherish the book and love it like it’s your own child.
You’ll read the book, dream about the things in the book, and you’ll think of ways that you’ll apply it to your life once you get out.
Now let’s take a turn.
You’ve been hanging out all day eating pizza, chips, and drinking a large diet soda. You’ve been binge-watching YouTube and have been checking your social media in hopes that people are liking what you posted.
You find some random book on your shelf and you don’t even take a second of your day to think about reading it.
Why would you? When instead of reading you can just watch movies, eat pizza, and troll people on the internet?
It makes reading a book seem like the most boring thing you could spend your time doing.
This is why easy gratification is so dangerous. It can make us hate the things that don’t make us feel amazing right now.
Once I removed most of the things that were giving me huge dopamine hits and offering easy gratification – I really started to see a change in my personal and work life.
Work is no longer boring. Work is actually fun to do. I can appreciate the little things in life and I’m happier overall.
Taking away easy gratification during, before, and after work will ensure that you stop feeling burnt out all the time. Your work actually starts to become something you look forward to and you have fun with.
Note: I’m not saying that you can no longer do these things. Just do a lot less of them. It will make you a much better person for it.
A huge way to do this is to only do things that you find intrinsically motivated to do. By finding things that make you intrinsically motivated, you’re much more likely to go into ‘flow’ when you’re working.
Life is too damn short to not enjoy your work and personal life.
Keep a Consistent Routine
Unless you’re someone who really despises routine, having a consistent routine will ensure that you’re able to keep your work and personal life separate.
A consistent routine helped me to really define what was and was not work. This helped me to enjoy the time I spent outside of work stress-free.
If you do all of these steps and you decide what you’re really wanting to do with your time – I promise you’ll stop feeling so overworked.
The Krabby Patty Secret Formula
So here’s the actual process to stop feeling so overworked. If you pair these with all of the suggested processes above, you will start to love all parts of your life.
1 Chunk your Work
The first thing you need to do is to split up your work. This was talked about above, and it’s very very important. You need to make sure that you’re working on the highest value items first.
2 Enjoy Your Work
The second thing is that you have to do what you enjoy for work. If you’re in a position where you’re working a career that you find boring, get out.
A lot of people use the excuse of not having enough money to not make a change. I guarantee 99.9% of people could have the career that they love or be their own boss if they wanted to.
If you’re really against that, then you need to find a flexible workplace that will accommodate that need.
Would you rather spend the rest of your life complaining that you always feel overworked or would you rather take a chance to change your life and possibly be the happiest you’ve ever been?
I mean – you’re not losing out on much in my opinion.
Find something you love enough to go into a ‘flow state’. If you’re unable to find anything, I suggest that you stop giving yourself instant gratification. This will fix the problem and you’ll find what you truly love doing.
3 Love What you Do Outside of Work
Also mentioned above, you have to love what you do outside of work. You’ll never get rid of the burnt-out feeling if you feel as if all you ever do is work.
To find things to do outside of work, have a look above at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This will give you a general idea of where you are in life and what you should be working on.
Making money and having a successful career is only one out of many things that you need to be a fulfilled person.
4 Review & Revise Your Work
One challenge I personally faced when starting my new routine was the fact that I felt as if I was never getting things done the way I envisioned them. A lot of people have this problem, and it’s completely normal.
The way I fixed this was by having one day out of the week where I sit down and review all of my work for the week.
I look at everything and I write down areas where I slacked, what I need to work on for next week, and how I can do better next time.
Going through this process will help to put your work into better perspective and will help you to avoid half-assing things. It helps in this way because it forces you to go back and fix everything – which discourages slacking off in the present moment.
You’ll usually find that all of these smaller improvements can be worked on throughout the week during your ‘busywork’ time.
5 The Krabby Patty Secret Formula
Now, let’s talk about the actual secret to never feeling overworked.
It’s not much of a secret – it’s actually obvious and it makes a lot of sense.
How you spend your time before, during, and after your first working session will determine whether or not you feel burnt out.
That’s literally it.
Before you do your most important work of the day, you need to make sure that you feel good. You can do this by journaling, working out, meditating, or a combination of things.
During this time you really want to avoid anything that will give you ‘easy gratification’ or that heightens your emotions in any way.
Then you want to have an ‘opening ritual’ to state to yourself that you’re now in working mode.
By doing this, it’s like it hits a switch in your brain. You’re able to easily go into a flow state and your creativity is on fire.
This is obviously important, but how you spend your time during and after is just as crucial.
Like I stated in the ‘chapter’ above, how you spend your breaks and what you do during these breaks matter.
Essentially, spend your break doing very easy, mindless, and entertaining tasks. (Not easy gratification like social media or YouTube).
When you do take a break it should be in a ratio of about 1:3-4. So if you worked for an hour, give yourself a 20-minute break.
You ONLY take breaks when you find that you keep falling out of your flow state.
If you decide to take a different route – like the Pomodoro technique – you’ll find that you will interrupt your flow state. Which completely destroys the purpose of your focused work. You’ll miss out on the many benefits of being in a flow state like increased attention, improved performance, learning and skill development, huge increase in productivity, increase in task enjoyment, increase of creativity, and so forth.
Basically, you want to stay in this flow state for as long as humanly possible. (I’d also like to point out that flow is different from hyperfocus for those of you who are interested. Take a look at the differences here.)
You should also try to do similar tasks during your focused work time. For me, I write the entire time. All of my editing and marketing is done during my busywork time.
Completing similar tasks at the same time every day will allow you to get in the flow state quicker and stay in it longer.
After your session of focused work, have a ‘closing ritual’ as well. A closing ritual can be stretching, coloring, listening to a podcast, or even meditating.
During this time you want to shift your focus from work to what you’re going to be doing the rest of the day. Imagine yourself just enjoying doing your everyday tasks and relaxing.
The main goal of this session is to get your mind off of work and what you’ll be focusing on for the rest of the day.
Resolution & Extra Info
To end this post, I just wanted to provide some more tips for you and just discuss some of the good and bad changes that you’ll see from following this.
Perfectionism will cause you to criticize every mistake you make and you will never be able to just enjoy your life. By trying to avoid making mistakes, you actually end up just halting your learning and personal growth.
Half-assing will hurt future you, make you have to redo your work, waste your time, and will ensure that you will not get where you need to go in life.
The changes the steps in this post have made in my life:
In my personal life, using this method has allowed me to really love and appreciate my work. I also never procrastinate anymore because I find my schedule to be enjoyable, fulfilling, and time-efficient.
I strongly encourage you to implement all of the things talked about in this blog post into your life and career.
You may have to modify some of these things – especially if you work a conventional 9 to 5, but the application should be very similar.
You’ll find it crazy how much ‘mental’ work you were doing instead of actual work. You’ll realize how much control over your life you actually have and you’ll stop blaming others for everything going wrong in your life.
You do have to work on getting rid of procrastination, learning to embrace routine, quit giving yourself easy gratification, and to stop working during non-work hours.
But I promise you, the benefits greatly outweigh the cost.
Happy learning, living, and working!