Career Advice

Could Working Too Hard Cost You A Promotion?

Working at a timber/lumber warehouse

Work hard and your dreams will come true, right? That’s a mantra that many people have used to pursue their dreams and bring great things to life.

However, it’s not always a perfect recipe for success. In fact, sometimes working hard can work against you. Here are three reasons your hard work could actually hinder your success:

Problem: You don’t take enough credit for your work  

Something awful happens when you get good at what you do: you start to think it’s easier than it is. This variant of impostor syndrome strikes when you take your skills for granted, finish assignments quickly and accurately, and accomplish a ton of work without ever feeling like you’ve done enough. Or worse – while feeling like you don’t deserve credit for getting it done.

Fix it: Stop taking your work for granted. Start a gratitude journal and make time to reflect on all you accomplished each day, even if it seems really basic. This is especially important for positions that don’t produce tangible pieces of work but rather coordinate and communicate at high levels, like account and project management. Without stopping to appreciate how intricate your work really is, you’ll continue to downplay your achievements and your hard work will feel fruitless.

Problem: You overwork yourself

Burnout is real. It stresses you out, costs you money, and damages your health. But ironically, it also dilutes the effectiveness of the hard work you’re doing – which was the cause of the burnout in the first place.

Being truly effective (and not just working hard) is the result of strategic thinking, focus, and carefully applied mental or physical muscle. If you work hard to the point of burnout, you train yourself to value work for work’s sake. You lose the benefits of strategy and focus and weaken your mental or physical muscles in a loop of aimless “hard work.”

Fix it: If you work too hard without taking the time to decompress or relax, you won’t be the most effective version of yourself and your hard work won’t get you anywhere. Make time in your schedule to relax daily, weekly, and monthly, incrementally increasing that relaxation time accordingly. Don’t think of it as time off – think of it as refueling and regenerating your ability to do hard work.

Problem: You get too much done, but it’s not important stuff

Speaking of getting closer to your goals: deep work is more important than shallow work, yet most of us feel better about inbox zero than we do about spending 30 minutes thinking about a long-term project. That’s a real shame, because it turns hard work into a slang word for working long hours on tasks that may or may not help you achieve the big picture tasks that are truly important to you or your career. In real life, however, nothing good comes from winning the “Responded to The Most Emails Within A 72-Hour Period” certificate.  

Fix it:  It’s tempting to work on small tasks because they’re right there in front of you. But if you spend all your time on small tasks, you won’t make progress on achieving long-term goals. Make intention-setting an integral part of your work life and add specific strategy time to your day for every project you’re working on to make sure that your hard work is focused on things that are important. You may get less done, but it will be more important and of higher quality – and that’s the kind of work that matters.

It sounds funny, but don’t let your hard work stand in the way of your success. Use these tips to make sure that the work you do strategically makes your work life stronger and better – not just busier.

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