The Overload Myth: How to stop getting frustrated by being overwhelmed at work

Reading complaints on social networks (or, on the contrary, proud statements) about working around the clock, it is hard to believe this – but there are few people who really work more than 60 hours a week. In the U.S., they are only 6.6%, while in Russia, if the general statistics are to be believed, there should be more – but not by much. Most people who believe they work 70 hours a week simply think about work all the time in their spare time and, as a result, their brains begin to believe these numbers. This leads to even more anxiety – a vicious cycle. And this is just one example of how too much unreasonable anxiety about work disrupts inner harmony and, of course, affects productivity. HBR details five ways to make life easier for yourself and get rid of unnecessary worries, at least during non-work hours. We give you the key tips.

Take a look at how much time you actually work

If you keep repeating to yourself “I work 70 hours a week,” your brain will believe this and get tired faster. This is important because sometimes our brain draws conclusions based on emotion. As a result, when you’re in a real “slump,” your brain will think the situation is hopeless because in its mind, you’re already working too hard.

To avoid this, try to keep track of the time spent on work and on distractions (e.g. reading email or social media). You can do this with the help of special applications or on your own. You don’t need to keep a special count of how much you spend on social networks – it’s the fact that you’re tracking it that counts. Self-monitoring can correct your behavior and make you more focused.

Compare your own and others’ expectations

We often give ourselves strange and meaningless tasks like “I have to answer a colleague faster than he usually answers me” or “I have to answer all the emails during the day.” Failing to do them causes stress and anxiety. As a result, you feel the need to be available 24/7 and respond to work emails at all hours of the day.

To avoid this neurosis, try not to respond or send emails outside of work hours. This will allow you and your coworkers to respect personal boundaries and not get caught up in your work responsibilities during your free time.

But most importantly: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t second-guess your boss. If the task will take some time – instead of silently panicking, tell him about it or ask him how urgent the assignment is.

Check to see if you’re in a debilitating competition

If you work for a good company with professional employees, you’re in a highly competitive environment. To succeed in such a situation, ambitious attitudes like “I have to work harder and better than everyone else” are not enough. On the contrary, they are more likely to lead to a spoiled mood, slow work, or simply a stupor.

Instead of focusing on the dominant position in a competitive team, it is better to concentrate only on what exactly you can be useful to it, rather than trying to “embrace the immensity”.

Don’t wait for change, change the way of thinking

One common psychological trap is that people are waiting for a change in their internal state in order to change their behavior. But it works the other way around: first you need to change your behavior in order to change your way of thinking.

For example, try switching from thinking “When I’m less busy, I’ll build a more efficient work system” to “When I build the most efficient work system, I’ll have more free time.”

This approach will help you combat the unconscious self-sabotage when you find yourself, figuratively speaking, too busy chasing cows to build a pen for them.

What’s in it for me?

If you don’t think any of this applies to you, we recommend that you start with point 1 and honestly measure your actual work time – you’ll probably find that at least some of this advice applies to you.