Are You Working Yourself Too Hard?

ontwerpplus on flickr.comI’m going to answer this for you with a resounding YES.

There are very few people who don’t work themselves too hard, whether it’s with traditional work, with family commitments, or other things we “have to” do.

Why am I so sure of it?

Because we all use the words “have to” every day pushing ourselves to do things that we don’t want to. I’ll even go so far as to call most people have-to masochists.

According to the dictionary, masochism is:

gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation, etc., inflicted or imposed on oneself, either as a result of one’s own actions or the actions of others. (source:

Now, think about your live. Are there tasks you don’t like? Things that cause you pain, make you feel deprived of joy or even degraded as a person? Things that you choose to do or let others inflict on you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it to pursue a dream or because you feel your commitments to others require you of it. If you use the words “I have to” you’re working yourself too hard and being a masochist.

The question is: do you want to remain one?

I don’t really enjoy pain, deprivation or degradation. You?

In every dream we pursue there will be some things that we don’t like to do, however, I believe that we can cut out many of those painful or dehumanizing tasks.

Often we accept this pain because it’s easier. In many cases it’s the devil we know, it’s familiar or “everyone” expects it.
Saying “no” takes work, creates confrontation and requires creativity. Standing up for ourselves asks that we step away from the crowd and insist on being treated like a person who deserves respect.

And who’s the worst taskmaster in this? Ourselves.

All too often we purposefully choose to do things that we, at best, find distasteful because we think it’s what we have to do to reach our goals. It’s the old story of the end justifies the means.

I challenge you to stop being a masochist and to stop doing those tasks which make you feel less of a person. There are many ways to do so without harming the chances of reaching your goals:

Stop doing it: This simple answer often creates fear in people, but the reality is that most tasks do not involve life or death situations. If you really hate doing something stop doing it. Period.

Find someone else to do it: Everyone has different likes and dislikes. What is torture for you might be nirvana for someone else. This is especially easy in larger offices where many people share multiple duties.

Pay someone else to do it: A variation of the above and the more common option for self-employed people and for things in our personal lives, like cleaning house.

Figure out another way to do it: This is where you need to apply some creativity. If the obvious answer to how to reach a goal includes things you hate doing then find a different way to go. For example, if you hate flying, you’re not going to take a vacation that requires flying. You’ll look for a holiday closer to home which involve driving, taking the train, or staying where you are.

Remember: our reactions to what the world presents us is a choice. The words “I have to” do not exist – they really mean “I choose to.”

And why on earth would you choose to cause yourself pain?

Tagged , ,

11 thoughts on “Are You Working Yourself Too Hard?

  1. Dan Miranda says:

    If you really love what you do, is it alright to be working yourself too hard? I mean, just as an example, I love my blog. I absolutely enjoy every second I work on it. Is it alright that I’m working myself too hard?

    Dan Miranda´s last blog post..The Secret To Being Confident, Not Cocky

  2. Iain Broome says:

    I think it’s as much about finding a balance by having periods of your life where you take the pressure off. Permanent, constant hard work, where you’re actually risking your health and sanity, will only stunt your progress in the end.

    Iain Broome´s last blog post..Time management and prioritising your priorities

  3. Andy Hayes says:

    @ Dan, I think Alex’s point is that even if you love what you do (and I’m like you, I’m living a dream come true) if you spend your day thinking “I have to do this, then I have to do that”, what you love can quickly turn into something quite nasty.

    Just make sure that everything you’re doing is a “I choose to”….

    Andy Hayes´s last blog post..Inspiring Travel Blog Carnival – June Edition

  4. Kelly says:


    Whoa. So many thoughts.

    I started off with, yes of course, I wear seven or eight hats, I’m obviously working myself too hard! But maybe not, if choice is the determiner. I’m well aware that my actions are my own and no one else’s. I agree, “Have to” very much implies someone else is in charge of your life, and I do not live that way.

    So… I think I need to delegate a couple of things and morph a couple of others so they’re fun again. But on the whole, since I’m making my own choices, maybe I’m not as overworked as I thought. 🙂

    Darn, what’ll I kvetch about now?



    Kelly´s last blog post..Your Startup Planning Guide—and It’s NEVER Too Late to (Re)Start

  5. Dan poses a great question — if you are loving what you’re doing, is it working too hard? I’d have to say that the answer to this is yes. Even if you are having the time of your life, it’s important to balance all of your hard work with rest and relaxation. Great post!

    Positively Present´s last blog me: to be happy you need to trust

  6. My mommy always told me that if you’re using the word “should” in the description then it isn’t really necessary. eg. “I should clean the carpets” really means that they don’t NEED to be cleaned, you just need a hobby.

  7. Dan,
    It is so much easier to overdo if you love what you are doing. It doesn’t seem like work or have to or anything bad. But, we all need time to refresh, necessary down time, play if you will.. so doing what we love has a freshness to it. Energy that is sustainable.

    Recovery it’s called. Athletes are very much aware of how necessary this is…. so they can come to their sport fresher, stronger each time. Not depleted. It’s a yin yang thing. You need both to be good at either.

    Janice Cartier´s last blog post..Bucking the Tide

  8. Srinivas Rao says:

    Great post. I think you make a really great point about loving what you do. There’s always room to do things more efficiently. I’ve been handling all techie aspects of my blog like installing plugins and stuff like that when I could probably outsource the whole thing.

    Srinivas Rao´s last blog post..The Comparative and Competitive Disadvantage

  9. This is a great post – personally, for me, in this time of my life. I recently read The Four Hour Work Week – trying to read through what I can implement – I know not all of those strategies are feasible, but definitely some good ideas. Thanks for this!

    Laura Cococcia´s last blog post..Laura Interviews Dayna Malow: Winner of the 2008 Chicago Music Award for Best Country Artist

  10. Alex Fayle says:

    As Andy said, if you love what you’re doing than no you’re not necessarily working yourself too hard. I add in the necessarily part because as Iain and others point out, if you are working to a point where the rest of your life suffers, then yes you’re working too hard.

    Even though I have a really packed schedule of things that I like to do, I let the schedule fly out the window sometimes just to break up the hard work with fun (like this morning for example where I slept in until 9am and then watched an hour of TV before starting work).

    EXACTLY – “I choose to” are the key words here.

    Yay to giving you a happy perspective on your life. As for kvetching just wait until The Kid’s a little older and starts causing you teenage rebellion grief. 😉

    @Positively Present
    You’re bang on there – I think I’ll make this the topic of a new post. Everyone’s given me such great ideas.

    Or maybe the carpet does need to get cleaned but there’s so little interest in doing so that perhaps it’s time to investigate hiring a cleaning service. 😉

    I don’t run every day for that reason – as much as I love it my legs need to recover or I could cause myself some serious damage.

    I’m guilty of that. I can spent hours formatting a document the way I like it when it would be more cost effective to hire someone to do it for me. But I love formatting so use it as a way to stay busy while the mind recuperates from some other tasking action.

    I’ve yet to read the 4HWW but from what I’ve heard it has some great ideas but not all of them are applicable in everyone’s situation.

  11. […] Syndrome: “Are You Working Yourself Too Hard?” –  warning: potentially NSFW image, but it’s worthwhile to check […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: