Maybe your social life feels non-existent. Maybe you’re regularly in a bad mood and you can never entirely switch out of work mode. Or maybe you’re just exhausted.  

If you have any of these symptoms, chances are you’re overworking. Here are a few ideas to help you make things better.  

Overworking: What you need to know first 

None of the suggestions for overcoming overworking will succeed if you don’t do the following:  

Stop glamorizing workaholism 

Even if you’ve never heard terms like “hustle culture”, “performative workaholism”, or “presenteeism,” it’s no secret that “working hard” is a culturally embedded American value. The romanticization of hard work can go too far. When overworking jeopardizes your health, family life, or productivity, nobody wins. 

Stop assuming overworking is beneficial to your career 

Despite everything we’ve been told, research indicates that sustained overworking doesn’t get you ahead: 

Examine why you’re working too much 

Knowing what’s fueling your workaholic tendencies can help you decide how to stop them. Ask yourself: 

  • How does your work environment contribute to unhealthy work habits? Is your department understaffed? Is your manager a taskmaster? Does working at home/remotely add to your stress? Are you in over your head? Do you feel like overworking is necessary to keep your job or get promoted? Is it just the company culture? 

What drives you, personally, to work so much? Does working make you feel necessary? Is it important for you to impress others? Is work a critical part of your identity? Are you worried about financial security? Do you like to do things perfectly every time? Were your parents, mentors, or people you looked up to workaholics, too?

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15 ways to stop overworking 

The key to overcoming overworking is defining your priorities and creating a structure that helps you break habits and achieve your goals.   

Just trying a few of these tips can make a big difference. Remember—this is not a checklist; you don’t have to do all of these. In fact, resist the mindset that this will create more work. Change can come if you can commit to making progress on just a few things at a time.  

Define your overall life priorities 

Spend some time thinking about how you want to spend your life. 

  1. Identify what’s most important to you: Set your work goals around your life priorities—not the other way around. If friends, family, health, or other interests are more important than work, plan accordingly. 
  2. Adjust expectations: Maybe you’ll never win a Nobel Prize, but that’s ok. Try to leave your perfectionism behind—not every email or report has to be a masterpiece. 
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others: Just focus on your own goals. Other people are likely suffering from overworking, too.  
  4. Tell your friends: Keep yourself accountable by telling your family, friends, and colleagues about your goals and priorities. Ask them to point out when you’re going down the overworking rabbit hole.  

Make changes at work 

To proactively advocate for your wellbeing at work, you can: 

  1. Talk to your manager: Propose ideas that help you scale back your hours without sacrificing productivity. 
  2. Ask for help: Whether you need to redistribute your workload or brush up on some skills, your coworkers might be the answer. 
  3. Prioritize your projects: Get clear on what’s most important to achieve each day and focus your efforts there. 
  4. Say “no” or negotiate: If you know you won’t be able to complete a task without working overtime, negotiate a smaller scope of work, propose a more reasonable timeline, or don’t take it on at all. 
  5. Define your hours of availability: Let your coworkers know when you’re working, when you’ll take calls, and when you’re off-limits. 
  6. Overestimate (on purpose) how long tasks take: Add a little buffer time when estimating how long a project will take—so instead of doing overtime hours, you come in right on time. 
  7. Take your talents elsewhere: If the culture at your organization is all about working round-the-clock—and it’s not going to change—consider looking for a new role someplace else.  

Use your calendar as a work-life integration tool 

  1. Scheduling time on your calendar for non-work activities makes them more official—especially if that calendar is shared with coworkers or family members who can support you. Create calendar entries (designated as “busy”) for: 
    • Family time 
    • Vacation days  
    • Lunch breaks 
    • Distraction-free worktime 

Cultivate good reasons to stop working 

Look for things you like to do so much that you’ll actually stop work to do them. For example: 

  1. Plan social meetups at the end of the workday, forcing you to leave work on time (yes, things like your kid’s soccer game or a friend’s birthday dinner count). 
  2. Dig into a hobby (extra points if it’s a social activity where people will know if you’re gone). 
  3. Schedule events that start at specific times—plan virtual conversations with your friends, make reservations to pick up food at your favorite restaurant, or commit to live online exercise classes—so you have no choice but to quit working at a certain time.  

Breaking the cycle of workaholism isn’t easy. But creating a healthier and more productive lifestyle is worth the effort.  

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