Key Point: Stop overworking and accepting that you have no choice but to feel overwhelmed. That mindset is a classic lose-lose situation. The people you care about, the organization and you, all lose when you’re in the overworked/overwhelmed position. I’m looking into research on this because it seems to be the current hot topic in many organizations; a mantra of, “How can I sustain this pace and momentum?” The fact is, overworking and the sense of drowning in work is not sustainable and actually is detrimental to achieving great results. The following is from a research-based article on the topic:
“Here’s how overworking fails our problem-solving skills and creativity: research by former Harvard Psychology professor Dan Wegner suggests that too much concentration on set goals can lead to the exact opposite of the desired goal. He coined the term ironic processes to describe the failure of positive mental processes when performed under conditions of stress. For instance, the more you obsess about having to hit a perfect golf tee shot, the more likely you are to choke; or the more you try to maintain a strict diet, the more likely you are to eventually binge. Similarly, the more pressure you put on yourself to come up with the perfect solution to a challenging problem in your work, the less likely you are to see it– especially if you are already tired, stressed, or anxious. According to a line of research by Jennifer Wiley, too much focus can actually hurt our creative problem-solving skills.”
Leaders need to intentionally promote fun and a reasonable amount of goofing off as PART of work; NOT something additive. And anyone who tells you they’re overworked or feeling overwhelmed needs support to determine how to do things differently. This includes building in breaks and intentional goof off time. I’m not talking about some projects/times that have a critical deadline or work under life-threatening situations. As an example, most tax accounts feel overworked and even overwhelmed during tax deadline season. They often party hard and take serious breaks after the tax deadline. And I know first responders can find themselves in situations where they are exhausted. They need to “come down” after an intense situation. They are aware constant fire fighting… Literally… Is not sustainable.
- Do something different than “work” during “work”: Resting, meditating, dreaming, going for a walk… Anything to “get your mind off of work” and clear space in the brain for new thoughts and insights. If you’re a leader, promote and encourage this!
- Be social and take time to hang out with others as part of work. Socializing deepens relationships and strengthens bonds in our professional network. Instead of non-stop sitting in that cube or working by yourself at home, have that coffee and lunch with others to connect.
- Take some time to serve others as part of work. Exercising empathy and compassion for others increases our well-being (and that of others!). I’ve been writing a lot about this lately. It’s important and puts perspective into our jobs.
- Most of all, enjoy your time doing “non work” stuff during “work.” The time you enjoy not working on results is obviously not wasted time if it minimizes the sense of being overworked and overwhelmed.
Goofing off in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: It seems some of the most progressive, best organizations out there all adopt this mentality. It’s why Google’s campus literally doubles as a playground. Yeah, yeah, Google might be the pipe dream, but even small companies I know about have everything from Ping-Pong tables to fully stocked kitchens… Why not yours? I know, sometimes it’s easier said than done. To put it in perspective, I work for a Bill Gates owned company, and I’m still dreaming that Santa brings my office a Keurig this year… That would be a nice start.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis