When “Hard Work” Doesn’t Work

by lizclark on October 2, 2014

workingtoomuchI lay awake in bed trying to calm down. Staring at the flitting shadows cast by the ceiling fan.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

A beautiful Saturday afternoon shone brightly behind the room-darkening shades pulled low over my bedroom windows.  I was up early that morning to do laundry and clean the science-experiment-gone-wrong that was supposed to be my kitchen.

Knowing I had to leave for work in an hour, I told myself that taking a “power nap” would help.  But lying there, I only felt a sense of dread: soon I would have to push back the covers and face the world.

“Pull it together,” I said out loud, trying to ignore the elephant-sized weight that felt as if it was sitting on my chest.

You see, this version of me – this person hiding in bed with the shades drawn – wasn’t a familiar person.  As far back as I can remember, when I would make up my mind to do something, I committed my plans to God and just got busy getting it done.  Period.  No matter how hard it was.  I had dreams, a willingness to learn and a stubborn refusal to give up.  That was the only “me” I knew.

I knew about overcoming adversity.  I put myself through college juggling 3 jobs to pay the bills. I spent the first 6 years of my marriage having 400 kids (ok, 4 kids, but I swear there was enough sleeplessness for at least 400 kids). I survived my husband’s Army career, including a deployment overseas, while working my fingers to the bone to get out of debt, get off welfare and build a successful business.

What was stopping me now?

This question came to haunt me…as I worked 7 days a week, 70-90 hours each week.

My husband was working a high-stress job out of state.

I felt like a zombie mom to our kids (the kind with dead eyes who gives the same lecture about chores and schoolwork over and over again, not the kind of zombie mom who tries to eat people).

I blamed myself. The storybooks and leadership gurus said we could have what we want with hard work and determination. I was working hard! I even improved my diet, exercised, took vitamins…but I was still exhausted. And, things were getting worse.

Clearly, I wasn’t as committed/strong/smart/<fill in the blank> as all the other women who seemed to have it together. I must need to read another book/blog, get another pep talk, have more faith, etc.

Eventually, I came to realize something very important:

The anxiety and exhaustion were symptoms.  The real problem was me.

My health issues were a result of my choice to over-work.  I didn’t need to “better manage” stress.  I needed to stop putting myself in impossible situations that were destroying my health.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I did start making better choices.  I slowed down.  Started saying “no” – even to the “good” – to make room for the very best. Slowly, I’ve regained my health, and along with it, the stamina to pursue my life calling.

The temptation to over-work is always lingering in the shadows.  I still mess things up, but I’ve learned some powerful truths that enable me to start again.

When I feel like that anxiety is creeping in and I start to go back to old habits of working too much, there are a few questions I ask myself to JOLT myself back to my now-healthy reality…and FAST.

I’ve put these 7 Questions together in a simple workbook you can download here:

7 Questions to Ask When Work is Taking Over Your Life

I’d love your feedback on this post and this workbook!  Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re keeping your workload in check!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom October 3, 2014 at 12:42 AM

Loved it! Brilliant writing. I like the questionnaire too, but I got stumped with the timer concept. Probably cuz I don’t know how to set goals that well. Love you! Good job helping people get life done ;)

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lizclark October 3, 2014 at 5:48 PM

Thank you! The timer concept is about setting limits on your work time. Decide ahead of time how long you think a task should take, then set a timer and keep yourself focused to try to complete the task in that time frame. Just being aware of time passing as you work can often boost productivity!

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Scott October 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM

This is awesome!

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lizclark October 3, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Thank you!

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