Deprogramming from the Cult of Overwork

Photo of Coffee Mug and sign that says "Draw The Line"

How many hours a week do you spend at work? More than 50? More than 70?

You’re not alone. A recent Harvard Business School Survey found that 94 percent of professionals will work more than 50 hours per week, with roughly half of those people working more than 65 hours. And most of those days don’t include a lunch break.
Jim Surowiecki describes the “no boundaries, no breaks” nature of work today in his article “The Cult of Overwork” in The New Yorker.

And yet, the article focuses on moves by Wall Street to discourage employees from working on weekends. It seems the banks can’t get people to leave work at the office, and there must be something about the burnout employees experience as a result that is getting their attention.

When overwork becomes overwhelm

We seem to work all the time. Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, technology now tethers us 24/7 to the “office,” and this cult has become our culture.

I see a lot of overwhelm in my coaching practice. That’s why the women entrepreneurs I work with need a change in their work and personal lives. I give them a place to call a timeout and get clear about what’s happening for them. I remind them that the challenge in our hyperconnected world is always to make our own choices about how and when we want to be available to others, and for what.

I heard The Executive Happiness Coach, Jim Smith, interviewed on this topic. Jim rightly points to each individual’s responsibility to ask and answer the question, “What is the story I am living in about needing to be ‘on’ all the time?”

This is a great question. Moving out of an overwork mindset isn’t really about better time management or more effective scheduling tools. The most direct way out is to look at your commitments, and get very clear about which you want to continue to hold and which you need to renegotiate.

We also have to find “new” ways of being with ourselves, like reading a book or listening to music, that aren’t linked to productivity. When’s the last time you “wasted” time on something you love to do but aren’t finding time to do anymore? Isn’t it about time you started deprogramming?