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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

Why Going "Above and Beyond" Can Hurt Your Career (and How to Break the Habit)

Going “above and beyond” can be great for your reputation and career.

But if you are chronically over-delivering—working overtime for no extra pay, taking on work that someone else should be doing, under-billing for projects because you want to be “nice,” or constantly checking your email because you’re afraid of “missing something important” (at 2 AM)—that’s a problem.

You’re undervaluing yourself, and you’re potentially putting your health at risk. No one can operate in over-delivery-mode, forever, without burning out!

If you’ve gotten yourself into a pattern of chronically over-delivering, it can be a tough one to break—but it can be done.

So today, I’ll share three tips on how to do it.

1. Face Your Fears

When people chronically over-deliver, there’s a reason for it. That reason? Fear.

It may not be the kind of fear that you feel when you’re watching a scary movie. It may be more like insecurity or anxiety. But it’s fear, nonetheless. And when fear is driving your behavior, that is rarely a good thing.

If you find yourself thinking thoughts like, “I can’t afford to take a ‘real’ vacation. They might realize they can replace me if I’m gone for too long. I’ll bring my laptop with me to Tahiti, just in case something comes up…”

Or, “I need to knock a few hundred dollars off this invoice. Otherwise, my client might think I’m not really worth it and might hire someone else next time.”

…Those kinds of thoughts are fearful thoughts.

It’s important to face those fears, figure out if they are reasonable or unreasonable, and take action to resolve them.

When fears are left unattended, they can damage your quality of life—and ultimately, your quality of work.

2. Affirm Your Value

Many people are far more valuable than they realize or give themselves credit for.

Can’t remember how valuable you really are? Make a list of all of the big things (and small things) that you do, every day, at your job.

  • All the tasks that you complete every day, week, and month
  • All the ways that you make your colleagues’ or clients’ lives easier
  • Your highlights and big accomplishments from the past 12 months
  • The personal qualities you bring to work every day (humor, enthusiasm, generosity, compassion, good listening, understanding)

See all that? That’s you. That’s your contribution to your workplace and the world. And you will be just as valuable—even if you take things down a notch and stop constantly over-delivering.

In fact, you might wind up being more valuable than ever before, because you’ll be walking into work each day with a fresh, well-rested mind and body—instead of teetering on the edge of burnout.

3. Write Down Your New Routine

Many of the world’s most prolific, successful people share one habit in common: They plan out their days in advance—and put their intentions in writing.

Take a look at Benjamin Franklin’s daily rhythm, for example. He worked diligently—and got a lot done. But he only worked for eight hours a day! He stopped working at 6 PM so that he could spend the evening enjoying his dinner, reading, relaxing, seeing friends, and peacefully reflecting on the day. If Ben Franklin could do it, so can you.

Write down a new daily routine that feels healthy and reasonable to you, and put it somewhere where you’ll see it often—like tucked inside your journal or day planner or pinned above your computer.

If it’s helpful, set up a text message reminder or ask a friend to check in on you a few minutes before it’s time to finish up your work for the day (“Hey—just checking in. You wrapping things up? Remember: That’s your new plan!”)

If you’re still struggling to break the pattern of over-delivering, consider working with a life coach, psychologist, or another emotional health specialist.

You do a lot of good in the world—and you deserve to feel good about what you do.

Without over-doing it.

Photo of thumbs up courtesy of Shutterstock.