Chronic Overwork: The Dangers of Treating Your Career Marathon Like a Sprint

Chronic overwork can lead to work-family imbalance, reduced effectiveness and burnout. Occasional overwork is a necessity; chronic overwork is detrimental. Here’s why we need to pace ourselves.

A screencap of my Oct. 11th piece at HBR
A screencap of my Oct. 11th piece at HBR

On October 11th, my second article for the Harvard Business Review blog was published. It was the most read and commented upon article on the HBR website for a whole week, and has been shared on social media over 6500 times! The article discusses the dangers of chronic overwork and why we need to pace ourselves. Here’s the beginning of the article, with a link to the full piece over at HBR.

In high school, I was on the cross-country running team. I was only a decent athlete, and midway through the season, my coach demoted me to the “B team.” I wanted to prove to him I deserved to be back on the “A team,” so I launched into my first “B race” at a far faster pace than normal.

I was leading the pack almost the entire way, and, even though my legs were burning, I thought that I could win, get a shiny medal, and more importantly, get my deserved promotion higher up the team pecking order. My coach was thrilled by my “all in” performance. Coming down the last ½ mile of the 3 mile race, however, my legs turned to jelly and I fell from the lead all the way to the back. I even threw up at the end of the race. Afterwards, my coach asked what happened.

I think he knew the answer, and most of us who work in competitive fields know it too. I hadn’t paced myself. I lost my race because I treated a three-mile run like a 100-meter dash. As a result, I had no energy in reserve for the last, most important stretch.

Continued here.

Do you struggle with chronic overwork? How do you handle it or prevent it in your life? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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