The not-so-rewarding “rewards” of overworking

Overworking is a sneaky form of buffering.

It seems like a good thing with lots of rewards, until it's not.

Buffering is a concept developed by Brooke Castillo of the Life Coach School. It's all the times we avoid emotions and try to fill that space with something external.

Think about when you've eaten an entire pint of ice cream to "feel better." Do you actually feel better at the end of the pint or when you've reached the end of the bag of chips? Nope.

That's buffering. We thought something would give us lots of pleasure, but then we took it too far.

There's nothing wrong with enjoying ice cream. It's the "too much" part and avoiding our real emotions that makes it a problem.

And how many times have we had to learn that lesson again and again?

We overeat, overdrink, over-Facebook, overshop, and overwork.

We all see the pitfalls of overeating and overdrinking. Overeating contributes to obesity. Overdrinking contributes to alcoholism.

Even overshopping contributes to hoarding and debt. Too much Facebook or social media contributes to less time to do things you love or need to be getting done.

But overworking is sneaky because there are a lot more "rewards" tied to overworking.

If you put in longer hours at work, the rewards are:

  • more money

  • awards

  • praise from your boss

  • climbing up "the corporate or academic ladder"

  • a possible promotion

The list goes on. In our United States culture, overworking is something we love. We put it on a pedestal and strive for more.

We don't all walk around saying, "I'd like to overwork myself this week."

But we do say, "Time to hustle. Time to grind it out."

We also say, "Hard work is important. You have to put in the hours."

"Success only comes from hard work."

Of course, hard work can be valuable and important. But remember, we're talking about buffering. The "too much aspect" of something. Avoiding our internal feelings by using something external instead.

Too much working pulls us away from other things.

Overworking takes away time from family and friends.

It takes time away from joyful activities and hobbies.

And it often keeps us out of the present moment, putting our focus on the future and tasks to be completed tomorrow.

That's why so many of my clients come to me feeling burnt out and confused about their next steps.

They think changing their circumstances (e.g., changing employers), will solve their problem.

You may be in this boat too.

I completely understand because I've been there myself.

The first step to overcoming overworking is to identify how it shows up in your life.

For me, I noticed I would fill my future calendar with tons of events. I said yes all the time to things "in a few months."

It felt far away, it felt good to say yes, and I didn't have to pay the consequences until the month actually happened.

Then I would say, "How did my calendar get so full? Why am I this overbooked?"

Decisions I made two months ago were showing up to haunt me.

You may find that you lean towards overworking when you're going through a difficult time. Maybe you lost a loved one or don't want to grapple with the anger you have. So you turn to overworking.

For me, I was trying to outrun myself. I didn't like the voice in my head, so I thought I could drown it out by overworking. (It didn't work, obviously.)

Remember, overworking seems like it helps, but it's a false pleasure.

What if you felt the feelings in that moment, instead of turning to something external?

When you feel the need to overwork, write it down. Keep writing the urges down.

What patterns show up for you?

The simple act of writing down when you feel the need to overwork will reveal so much to you.

You might find that you say yes to overworking when you're feeling scarcity about money. It seems like earning more money, especially overtime, will fill that need.

But the scarcity mentality doesn't go away through overworking. It goes away through changing your thoughts and allowing your feelings.

You might find that overworking seems great when others ask you to do it. You are "helping others" and "serving your community." But afterwards, you still feel hollow or burnt out. You start to forget why you wanted to help people in the first place. It's through changing your thoughts that helps you tap back into your reasons why.

Overworking can feel like an endless cycle because you've always done it. It's really easy to find more work, more ice cream, and more alcohol. There is no end to "more" in today's culture. Wanting to change it and thinking new thoughts drives the difference.

When you stop overworking, you find yourself with true rewards.

The reward of being in the present moment. The reward of delayed gratification. The reward of working on something you truly love, rather than working on something "meh."

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