I’m a workaholic.
It started in high school when I began taking on too many activities: theater and choir rehearsals, speech team competitions, college visits, high school newspaper deadlines. I learned to manage my own calendar because my mom could no longer keep track of it all.
I did all this work not just because I am an ambitious Type A personality – I was doing it in order to avoid unpleasantness. I had difficult and conflictual relationships with my parents. Plus, I despised the second high school I attended. (I transferred in my junior year because my first school was closed. That kind of thing often doesn’t go well when you’re 16.) I was ambitious so I could get out – go to college somewhere far away and leave it all behind.
So, what teaches a 16-year-old to avoid difficult relationships and situations by overworking themselves?
Our overworking, overstressed, conflict-avoidant culture.
I’m here to say to you (and to my 16-year-old self): Your problems with overwork and time management are not your fault.
It’s the racist, patriarchal, capitalist system that constantly tells you that your only value is in what you do and what you produce. That means that we get on the hamster wheel of overworking to satisfy the system. And the system is never satisfied.
As I mention in the video below, how many times have you heard someone celebrated for taking a much-needed day off? We constantly hear people lauded for how hard they work, how much they get done, and how “successful” they are. But rarely the other way around. (At least until the trailblazing Naomi Osaka withdrew from the 2021 French Open and Simone Biles withdrew from Olympic gymnastic competition in 2021. Both cited mental health concerns.)
Unlearning this toxic crap is a lifelong journey, but let me give you a little tip for getting started: Pay attention to how you use your time by tracking it in a calendar or in an app like Hours. Try to log not only the formal things, but what you do in the “in-between” times. How do you rest (or do you)? What do you do to pass time? What do you do to play?
After a week of looking at your time log, reflect on it: What would I take away from my schedule? What would I add?
Do this reflection weekly as you’re making your humane calendar that includes self-care! For more tips on how to do this, read my previous blog, “Four Simple Steps for Managing Time.”
Struggling to say no to all the things that drain your time and energy? I’ve developed my free, five-part “Burnout Proof Life” mini course, which is full of actionable tips that help you learn HOW to really rest. P.S. You’ll be smashing the patriarchy at the same time!