Some signs that you may be burning out, and what to do if you are.

Share story

Chances are, the answer is yes, you are working too hard.

Americans take less vacation time and work longer days than people in most other countries, and we tend to retire later, too. What’s more, it seems we’re constantly on call, responding to work-related emails and texts on evenings and weekends, as well as during our (too-brief) vacations.

Ask yourself: Are you always missing family events, or turning down invitations to socialize? Do you eat poorly and have trouble sleeping? Are you frequently late? Is your temper shorter than it used to be?

You may indeed be working harder than is optimum for your mental and physical health. You could also, paradoxically, be doing real damage to your career.

The fact is, humans need rest and if we’re constantly working ridiculous hours, we soon start to make mistakes. It takes us longer to accomplish things. Our bosses may even start to suspect we don’t know how to prioritize, or how to cooperate with others. Which just adds to the problem.

The obvious advice here is to “work less” or to “work smarter, not harder.” But how?

Well, it takes effort, and time you may not feel you have, but it can be done.

Identify unproductive tasks and stop doing them. (Or do them less often.) Much of what we think we need to do is actually unnecessary. Instantly responding to every email is the classic example. Same goes for texts and voicemail. Most of these are not matters of life or death and can be dealt with in blocks.

Schedule, and take, breaks. The reason is simple. An alert, rested person performs better, so pausing work means more work ultimately gets done. (If you don’t believe it, try it!)

Harness technology for good. Too much technology just seems to create more work, but it’s worth looking into tools that can help to streamline or even automate your daily routine. Search for “time management apps.”

Finally, delegate. If you have any control over how your duties are carried out, consider offloading some of them to others. Seriously. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

Remember, baby steps! No single approach is going to remedy your too-much-to-do problem. But a combination of fixes, applied over time, can.