In our “hustle and grind” culture, there’s a thin line between being dedicated to your career and being overworked. I’m all for diligence and excellence—but not at the cost of reaching burnout. And of course, there are seasons when you have to put in extra hours to get a big project across the finish line. But life’s too short to tread water every single day. Sooner or later, you’ll start to feel like you’re drowning.
The truth is, you can make good money and do something you love without working 60–80 hours a week! Here’s how to tell if you’re being overworked so you can make a plan to change it.
7 Signs You’re Overworked
Being overworked can show up differently for everyone. After all, we each have a different tolerance for stress and the demands of our job. But in general, here are seven common signs of being overworked.
1. You have trouble disconnecting.
In our fast-paced and wired world, we have 24/7 access to our work—it’s sitting in our pockets! Technology is completely interwoven throughout our lives, making it difficult to disconnect from the job. We’re always “on,” and—even worse—our leaders sometimes expect us to be available at all hours of the day. This constant stimulation and pressure of being on the clock makes it difficult to truly unplug and rest.
My friend and fellow Ramsey Personality Dr. John Delony explains, “You can actually become addicted to stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, that your brain releases when caught up in constant stimulation.” Insane, right? We can actually become addicted to overworking because of the stress hormones it produces! But we’ve all been there. We wake up and reach for the phone, check our email obsessively, and run around with our heads spinning because we’re caught on a technological hamster wheel.
2. You feel like you’re always behind.
The ironic thing about overworking is that it makes you less productive—at work and at home. When you spread yourself too thin, you can’t focus on anything that lights you up and fills your tank. And when your job requires extra time and attention, you can fall behind in other important areas of your life: physically, relationally, spiritually. You may no longer have the energy to hit the gym or be able to enjoy a deep conversation over dinner. And maybe even going to church on Sunday can feel like a drag. If you no longer enjoy activities that keep you feeling balanced and well, this vicious cycle of overworking can make keeping up with even basic, everyday tasks impossible.
3. Your health is declining.
Your body will send signals that you’re overworking, whether your mind pays attention or not. Are you experiencing these common physical symptoms of overwork?
- Exhaustion, brain fog and difficulty concentrating
- Stress—feeling tense and on edge
- Anxiety or depression
- Weight gain or loss and poor eating habits
- Insomnia or oversleeping in your free time
- Body aches and mysterious pains
Listen to your gut. Let your body speak for itself—it’s trying to warn you! If you’re feeling one or many of these symptoms, it’s time to pay attention. At first, you might not think this is a big deal. But over time, you could develop some serious issues, like heart disease.1 And increased stress can lead to harmful addictions like alcoholism.2
4. You can literally count the hours.
There’s an objective measuring stick to figure out if you’re overworked: how many hours you put in each week. Sadly, 50-, 60- and even 80-hour workweeks are the norm in many work cultures.
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There are always exceptions—I get it. You might be a teacher who puts in more than 40 hours every week for long stretches of time. Or maybe you’re a medical resident with a grueling schedule for the next couple of years. The point is, a healthy balance between work, recreation, relationships and rest is essential for long-term happiness and productivity. An 80-hour workweek just isn’t compatible with a well-rounded life.
5. You feel distant from friends and family.
It’s simple, folks: The more time you spend at the office, the less time you’ll spend with family. As you miss one event after another, you’ll start to slowly drift further and further away from the people you care about, and you’ll start feeling disconnected, frazzled and lonely. When work becomes more important than the people around you, everyone—your spouse, your kids, your friends—will feel the impact.
6. You’ve lost your passion and enthusiasm.
You simply can’t sustain the joy and excitement of pursuing your calling when you’re grinding all day, every day. The spark that ignites your passion is snuffed out by demanding hours. Creativity and vision need breathing room. If you’ve lost your drive and your passion for work, it’s probably a sign you’re spending too much time at the office.
7. You think the grass is greener somewhere else.
Do you suddenly have a wandering eye when it comes to employment? You might love your job and your team right now, but overworking can make the grass look a heck of a lot greener somewhere else. If you catch yourself daydreaming about quitting your job and picking up and moving to Costa Rica without telling a soul, that could be a sign that you’re overworked and simply need to take a couple days off or dial back on the project load.
Now, I’m not suggesting you tough it out in a toxic workplace or choose to stay stuck in a job you hate. Your health and contribution to the world are more important! But if you normally enjoy your job and like working with your team, and if a conversation with your boss could clear up a large portion of your stress, then it’s worth sticking around and finding a solution.
What Causes Overwork
People don’t fall into the trap of overworking for no reason. In my experience coaching thousands of callers on The Ken Coleman Show, I’ve identified a few major players causing overwork.
Sometimes you overwork because you can’t say no. If your workday ends at 5:00 p.m. and everyone goes home, what’s keeping you at the office until 7:00 p.m., really? Unless you’re up against a hard deadline, your work will still be waiting for you tomorrow. Go home!
Seasons of Life
Maybe you’re an accountant coming up on tax season or you’ve picked up a few side hustles to get your debt paid off. Whatever the case may be, there are certain times in life when working a little more is a necessity—but it should be temporary. If it’s not temporary, that means overwork has become your life.
We live in a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” culture. We commonly believe we have to work harder, push more, and do it all on our own to be successful. But this cultural expectation can easily tempt you to overwork, even if that puts your health and relationships at risk!
People usually don’t leave jobs—they leave bad bosses. It’s possible you’re working for a leader who doesn’t know how to share responsibilities equally across a team or expects you to be online all the livelong day. If that’s the case, try having a conversation with your boss and share some solutions for any frustrations you feel.
I believe in being excellent at work, but sometimes “good enough” is enough to get the job done and save you time and stress. If you have regular check-ins with your leader to talk about your performance and you’re doing well, then you can ease up on the perfectionism and get hours back in your schedule each week.
Consequences of Overworking
Overworking is not a harmless or even honorable habit. It has destructive consequences with a far-reaching impact on you and others around you. If overworking is your lifestyle, pretty soon you’ll start to see these consequences:
At the very least, overworking will lead to burnout at your job. As we mentioned before, health issues are a big sign that you’re being overworked. If you stay in that chronic state of stress, you could develop potentially life-threatening conditions. Plus, you become a slave to other people’s unrealistic expectations, which is not sustainable.
Your Family and Friends Suffer
Your kids, spouse and community all feel the effects of your absence. You’re going to miss recitals, birthday parties, happy hours and date nights. And when you do show up to these events, you’re so drained by your long day at the office that you can’t be present. An even scarier outcome is the possibility that you won’t even have true community and friends or make time to start your own family because you’re dedicating so much of your time to your job.
Your Workplace Suffers
When your team is overworked and exhausted, the quality of work goes down and the number of mistakes goes up. People begin to miss work or quit altogether, and the workplace culture starts to fall apart.
What to Do When You’re Overworked
The first thing I want you to hear is this: You have the power to change your situation. It will take some dedicated effort to change your situation or find a new one, but you have what it takes. You can make good money and do something you love without working 60+ hours a week.
Here are three action steps you can take if you’re feeling overworked:
1. Assess your situation.
Before knowing what steps to take, you need to understand what has led you to this point. Are you overworked because you put the pressure on yourself, or because it’s what’s expected in your company culture?
- If overworking is self-imposed, then you need to get to the bottom of your motivations for overworking. Maybe you prefer your job over your home life. Maybe you’re seeking fulfilment from work that needs to be met somewhere else. Maybe you need to learn to set healthy boundaries. There’s no shame in this—but you have to honestly look yourself in the mirror and decide who you want to be and what life you want to live.
- If overworking is part of the company culture, you’ve got a different set of problems. Your situation might be fixed with a simple, direct conversation with your leader. But if you’re in a work culture that’s resistant to change or that glorifies workaholism, then it’s time to get the heck out of dodge. Don’t let fear or shame or false loyalty keep you tied to a toxic environment.
2. Imagine your dream work-life scenario.
Feeling overworked is actually a fantastic opportunity to step back and examine the bigger picture. Are you in the right role? Are you pursuing the right calling? Does the thought of starting your workweek give you the Sunday Scaries?
I get it. These are huge questions that most of us wrestle with throughout our lives. My team and I have put together a free resource that will help you simplify the process. Download the Career Clarity Guide and start dreaming big about the future you want to create for yourself and your family.
Imagine your future, then ask yourself: What about my life needs to change in order for me to make this dream a reality?
3. Make your plan.
After you get clear on your current situation and the reality you want to create, it’s time to plan your next step—whether you’re staying or going.
- If you plan to stay at your current job: Be clear with yourself on what needs to change. Get some accountability—loop your spouse, mentor or friends into the conversation. Set specific boundaries with statements like, “I’ll be home by 6 p.m. every day for family dinner.”
Then, schedule time to talk to your leader. Be respectful and direct about your stress and concerns. Share your boundaries with your leader and ask, “Can we work together to make this a reality?” Ask for what you need, whether that’s cutting back on your responsibilities or scaling back your hours.
- If you plan to look for a new opportunity: If you’re absolutely miserable and in a financial position where you can quit, do it. You might even need to spend some time recovering because you’re emotionally and physically exhausted.
But unless you know you’ll be okay financially, don’t make this move until you find the next gig. You don’t have to bail immediately. You can be intentional about finding your next job.
Your Work Matters, So You Should Enjoy It
Being overworked is simply not worth it. Your life is so much more than what happens at work. And I believe with every fiber of my being that you were created for something that only you can do. The world needs you to do it! So, do whatever it takes to thrive and grow—to be your best self—because this is so much bigger than you. And if that means finding a new career, I’ve got just the tool to help you make the jump. It’s called the Get Clear Career Assessment, and it’s helped hundreds of people discover their strengths and find their next professional opportunity. Press on!