You probably find it's simple to fill every hour of the day with more work. After all, there's always something vying for your attention. There's a never ending list of tasks and projects to tackle.
However, it may have never occurred to you that prioritizing your job could have a less-than-positive impact. In reality, a work-first mentality can have it's downsides, particularly when it becomes self-destructive.
For work martyrs, or people who are attached to being in a constant of state of overwhelm, escaping the busy trap seems nearly impossible. That's because they fill every second with activity in order to fulfill a core need to belong, feel valued, and be important.
As a result, martyrs struggle to delegate, waste time and energy on projects with little impact, and fritter their energy away on the urgent-but-not-important.
In fact, studies show work martyrs experience more stress yet earn less, despite putting in extra time.
If you think you may be falling victim to this cycle, here are some steps to take to break it.
Steps to Break The Busy Cycle
Identify the real problem
To start, it's important to examine the ways fear way be motivating your behavior.
Are you scared take vacation days because you're concerned about falling behind or being fired? Do you avoid delegating because deep down you're afraid to relinquish control?
Get clear about the specific ways your work martyrdom has been taking form and how it's negatively impacting you, for instance:
- My employees are losing patience with me, and our turnover is increasing.
- My partner and I haven't had a date night in months and our relationship is suffering.
- I keep getting sick due to the lack of downtime and rest.
Let go of rigid beliefs about success
In school we're taught that hard work equals praise and recognition, but in the real world it doesn't exactly work that way. Instead, it's up to you to advocate, market, and evangelize your work and the results.
Complaining about your workload and sending emails late at night is good for garnering sympathy (and perhaps annoying people), but it won't get you much further.
Help others help you.
If you're going to stay afloat, you'll need to delegate. This may seem terrifying, but one way to make it easier is to be very specific about how you want things done.
For example, instead of asking a team member to get you a report ASAP, define the parameters and give more direction: "Please upload the report to the shared folder by 3pm as a PDF document."
By showing others how to work with you, they will learn to adapt, which will make everyone's lives easier in the long run.
Check-in with yourself
When work is overwhelming, it can mimic symptoms of anxiety. You get tunnel vision, feel jittery and worried, and toil away at your desk for hours. To curb work martyr tendencies, ask yourself, "Is this the best use of my time?".
Practicing mindfulness can help you spot and change unproductive behaviors for the better.
If you want to be successful, you have to quit being a martyr and trying to do it all yourself. Delegate, communicate, and create rock solid boundaries instead. You'll be healthier and happier as a result.