Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Five Signs You're Working Too Hard

Ever have one of those weeks where you're so busy you forget to eat? Okay, maybe that's a little extreme. Or maybe it's not. I've done it. Here are a few signs you're working too hard and you need a break from the computer.

You're not eating right. You know the drill: the alarm goes off. You hit it a few times, then you go get your laptop, bring it back to bed, and start typing with half-closed eyes. You want to get a head start on the day, and you figure you'll get up in an hour and go get some corn flakes. Well, you don't. You want to get five articles done before lunch and you're already behind because you spent an hour answering emails and next thing you know it's halfway to dinnertime and you haven't eaten--or moved--in hours. Be vigilant about your eating schedule. Set the alarm clock for lunch and dinnertime.

You're not exercising. Ever have one of those days where you literally sat in one place all day? I do this sometimes. Ours can be a sedentary life, and it isn't healthy. For a while I did well when I got up early to exercise--then my whole day was free to write, guilt free--but it's tough for me to maintain because I'm really not a morning person. Still, it's important to set aside time for physical activity regularly.

You're slacking on your personal projects. We've all got a novel or screenplay or chapbook of poems we're working on. Chances are, you started your freelance business in part so you would have more time to work on these things. So why haven't you touched your personal projects in a month? If you're ignoring what gives you joy, you're missing the best part of being a freelancer. Be sure to set aside some time each week to dedicate to creative work. Your clients will benefit as much as you will.

Your friends and family forget you exist. Have the social calls tapered off? Has your family given up on knocking on your study door? If your kids are going "mommy? We have a mommy?" and your husband refers to you as "the troll who lives in our spare room/office," you've been in there too long.

You go pre-verbal. Freelancers don't talk to other people much. We're naturally reclusive and hermit-like. We can go full days without talking to anyone. Sometimes we forget how to talk entirely. If you're responding in grunts and nonsensical mutterings instead of real sentences, it's a sign you've been spending too much time in the office and not enough time interacting with human beings.

What are your personal signs of workaholism?


Susan Johnston Taylor said...

Jennifer, you are singing my song! Last year, my Mom asked me to write my blurb for the annual holiday letter and I told her I'd love to contribute once I get some other projects out of the way. To me, THAT's when you know you're working too hard!

Jennifer Williamson said...

HA--that is constant for me too. I have loved ones who need constant help with resumes, essays, family newsletters, you name it. Normally I LOVE helping out with this stuff, but sometimes I'm too busy to deal.

Anonymous said...

Oh crap. What if all apply? Somehow that doesn't seem good... :)

Kimberly Ben said...

I'm not eating right or working out regularly, and it's taking its toll. I worked out rigorously for the first time in - well, I'mm too embarassed to say... I could barely get up from my office chair for the next 2 days I was so sore.

Anonymous said...

Amen. I've been noticing myself running less often, working longer, and having trouble sleeping -- all signs that I'm working too much. This isn't a first for me -- it happened about a year ago, and I actually developed a stress-induced gum disease. On the upside, I think being able to recognize when we're working too much can be a good thing. I know for me, it's a wake-up call to reshuffle my load, say no, and treat myself better.