5 Warning Signs That Tell You Are Working Too Hard

Working too hard

You have probably heard the common phrase “work smart, not hard” many times before. The basic premise of this phrase is that working too hard is not necessarily the best way of working.

Instead, when you spend a little bit more time on preparing and planning your work, you get even more done but with less work.

In order to “cure” the work hard mindset, here are five warning signs that you should recognize and remedies for each one of them.

1. Unclear goals

When you work, do you know why you are working? What are the goals you are working towards?

If you can’t answer this question, then most likely you are wasting time on something you shouldn’t be doing. Also, you may be working long hours, because your main target is unidentified.

Working without clear goals is frustrating and stressful. Also, you are most likely to procrastinate because you are unmotivated. Procrastination in turn piles up the work, so you have even more work on your hands.


  • Stop for a moment  and identify clearly your working goals – know your reason “why”
  • If the work is assigned to you by someone else, have a conversation with that person and decide the goals (and milestones) of your work
  • When you have clarified the goal, keep it in your mind when you are working

2. Lack of resources

Are you the only one working on this project? Also, are you the only person to whom the work seems to be assigned to?

Some years ago, I was working on a software development project. I felt stressed because I was the only developer working on the project for the most parts. Eventually I managed to finish the work, but I promised to myself: I don’t want to work like this any more.

One way to relieve the stress in that scenario was to be open about it. This way, I managed to get some help during the peak times of the project. Also, a bit more planning before the project would have improved the situation later. This was clearly something that wasn’t done in my case.


  • Be open about your  workload; if this is happening in a corporate environment, have an honest talk with your project manager or boss about the situation and the expectations towards you
  • If you are working by yourself, consider seriously delegating your work to someone else
  • Plan properly before the project starts, so you know what type of workload is ahead of you

3. Not willing to let go of work

Our mindset plays a big part when it comes to working the hard way or the smart way. In this situation, we are talking about the fear of outsourcing and fear of letting go.

You feel you must be the person in charge and you are irreplaceable, so you are not willing to let go of your work. This in turn causes you to work extra-long hours, because of your unwillingness to outsource some parts of your work.

Also, you have problems with trusting people, because you think they cannot deliver the same quality standards than what you can.


  • Think the bright side of things: If you are willing to let go of some routine aspects of your work, the more you are actually going to accomplish. Besides, the more time you can free up to other activities
  • Consider also, that your competitors are already outsourcing their work, thus their businesses are growing faster
  • Describe clearly what you want your outsourced worker to do for you – and how. Provide clear documents and instructions, train him/her properly
  • Try to form a relationship with your employee – no matter if he/she is working on the other side of the world. They are people who need your attention too (just like a regular employee)

4. Unrealistic deadlines

I have to admit that I have fallen into this trap myself. I have promised too optimistic deadlines for the work I was going to deliver. This caused unnecessary stress (and even sleepless nights).

Later, I have tried to be a lot more realistic on my estimations. I understand that the loser the deadline is, the more time you are going to spend on the task. On the other hand, promising too much in a short timeframe is not realistic either.


  • Do you really understand the task you are going to deliver? If not, it is useful to define a bit more pessimistic deadline an overly optimistic one
  • Spend a little bit more time on planning the execution of the task. Try to find all the necessary steps to take and how much time they would need to be accomplished
  • Review you progress a frequent basis. If you are accountable to your boss (or other parties), keep them informed about the situation
  • Honesty is a very good trait; if you feel that you are not going to meet a deadline, don’t pretend otherwise. Be open and honest.

5. Not saying no

Finally, one of the ways to overburden yourself with work is to say “yes” to every request you get.

You do this because you are afraid that people do not like you anymore if you say no. At the same time, you have to keep on working harder and harder, because you want to be a good buddy with everyone else.


  • You have the equal right to say “no” as someone else has a right to ask you to do something
  • Say politely, but firmly “no”.  Communicate clearly that you are not available for the work, but perhaps later when you current task or project is completed
  • We often over-exaggerate the situation in our mind what might happen if we said “no” to a request. In most of the cases, nothing bad will happen.


Working too hard can easily turn into unproductive action. However, this can be avoided by doing some planning beforehand. This planning can reduce your stress and give you more energy to focus on the tasks that you should be actually working on.

Are you working too hard? Share your thoughts with us.

Photo by FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. If you want to get more productive in your own life, grab 222 of his best Tips for Becoming a Productivity Superstar.


  1. Greg on the 5th June


    Imho, you ommited important aspect: complex tasks.
    Actually such tasks should be worked out by “working smart AND hard” 🙂 There are no “too hard” option 🙂

    BTW. Nice art.

    Best regards

    • Timo Kiander on the 7th June

      Hi Greg,

      Agreed 🙂


  2. Mr. Kiander, this is an important subject to me. I feel like I have worked smart all my life. I started out working for a pizza company and I had so much fun at work it was hard to think I was working. I met a friend who showed me the ropes and he will always be in my memory because he is no longer with us, but he showed me how to work and have fun. I joined the military out of high school. I got to travel around the World for free, it does not get much better. I was visiting countries most people paid a lot of money to see. I met friends from all over the World. I got out of the military and started working in the nursing field around the most fun people I have ever met. We did not just work together, we threw parties together. Men and Women came together and share a common interest. I do not believe I have worked a day in my life compared to people who jack hammer for a living. Now I am retired and this is the best thing for a person who enjoys their quiet time. Sure I get out to see the World and do cultural events but I know many people who envy my life. All I can say is enjoy what you have. Michael

    • Timo Kiander on the 6th June



      It’s great to hear that you have had enjoyable experiences during your working life.

      You are also correct, one should definitely enjoy what he/she has. Too many times people complain that their job sucks, but at the same time, it is a job which is paying your bills and provides other important things in your life.

      When you appreciate your job, the more you can tolerate it – even if it feels boring.


  3. Fred Fabrega on the 10th June

    Wow…. Your article is just like doing my portrait. I need to think about that :).

    • Timo Kiander on the 12th June


      Thanks for cheking out my post. I hope that you found it valuable 🙂


  4. Marco @ Web Mentor on the 11th June

    Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t feel like I am. I don’t know, I don’t feel as effective as I used to. I feel tired and some tasks I procrastinate. I also get stressed because I read so much information and want to apply it but don’t know where to start 🙁

    • Timo Kiander on the 12th June


      True. There is just so much stuff you have to absorb and understand.

      I have cut down the information intake quite a bit.

      Sure, I consume information, but only that kind of stuff that contributes to my current work or goals in some way.


  5. Sandra on the 23rd June

    Howdy would you mind letting me know which hosting company
    you’re utilizing? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you suggest a good web hosting provider at a reasonable price? Thanks, I appreciate it!

  6. Belinda on the 21st November

    I Have difficuti working Hard and geting my work done please help me with some advice.

  7. James on the 29th November

    There is some real wisdom in your words Timo.

    I feel like you have been through the same experience of setting extremely high goals for yourself, just like I am doing now. I think you have a lot more wisdom than I do though, as goals should be set high, but also with a healthy dose of realism.

    For the last 2 years I have achieved so much, building 2 successful businesses, working crazy hours and still being productive, never saying ‘no’ to a customer. But now I feel like I have reached my limit and I cannot push myself any more. I almost feel like I should have taken it easier as I am nearly burnt out, not quite.

    Luckily, I now have a team to help and I have realised that people have limits, including myself. Your words resinated when you discussed “letting go” and this is important but you do have to choose carefully who to trust as some people (only some) can definitly shaft you. I think I am now better prepared to manage people, having pushed myself to the limit, because I would never expect that from my staff (I know I would quit if I were in their shoes). I am now building work-life balance into company culture and encouraging social interraction at work, as well as a good laugh as often as possible.

    I have learned that careers are like a marathons, not a 100m sprints! You can beat everyone for a short distance if you go extremely hard at it, but you have to have the stamina to keep going for a lifetime and noone is super human!

  8. Stren Vecru on the 28th September

    I find I am overwork my entry passage with my staff not producing same quality of product as I can. My village uses my excretes for flavoring and as staple. Please suggest way I make staffs to change diet and efforts to make product as strong aroma as mine.

    • Marcus Evans on the 29th September

      Dear Stren,
      If you are running a small business or start-up you need to be very selective and aware when it comes to who you are employing. It sounds like your employees need to have your vision better articulated (you mention stool quality and the link to diet) and they must of course want to deliver on this. Ask your employees what they think your goals are, then work with this, it could be that some employees just need you to show them your stoolage standard and explain the expectations. Hope this helps.

  9. Stren Vecru on the 28th September

    I must add I use the latest extracting tube to maintain quality and stool aroma and need staff to do same which mean I not overworking. How i get staff to follow?

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