We work and work and work every day, but for what?  To work some more?  To say we’ve lived a life full of 8 to 5’s? And what’s the point? Many would simply say to earn money. I mean, you need money to put food on the table and pay your bills. But does that mean they only enjoy payday and are miserable the rest of the month? Others would say to be successful. People want to be able to say they’ve accomplished great things in their professional careers and made some sort of impact to the world.

But, how do we know when we are working too hard? And yes, there is such a thing as working too hard, believe it or not.

Well, we need to recognize that the answer for a given individual may differ based on his or her circumstances. Depending on the output that our input yields, our work may either provide for a better life or fill your days with stress, and sometimes both.

Should would be sleeping three hours a night, skipping the holidays, and taking time away from our family and friends to put in some extra hours or should we take a step back and learn to relax a little bit? As many of you have probably heard by now, it’s all about that magical balancing act.

We have all heard the sayings: the early bird gets the worm, hard work pays off, be the first to arrive in the office and the last to leave, and the list goes on. But, at what point do your hardworking habits stop being productive and start taking a negative toll on your life?

I’m sorry to break it to you but that question would take an entire novel to properly answer. However, what we can address is how to capitalize on those few precious hours you have between the time you leave work and the time you go to sleep.

Being in parts.

After managing to escape from work, 25 minutes later than everyone else, and driving through butt-to-butt traffic, you finally arrive home – it’s 6:30.  You’ve already lost over an hour and now you’re left with, at best, a good four hours to visit with your family, cook dinner, shower, relax, watch your favorite television show, and do whatever else you have to do before heading to bed.

You plow through the next four hours, checking off your list in the process. But that’s all it is to you – a checklist routine. During this time, you aren’t really there. I mean, you’re physically there but the rest of you is not. You’re replaying the day’s events in your head, checking your email, thinking about the stack of paperwork you left on your desk, and wondering what other assignments need to be finished tomorrow.

This is a problem. You’re what some may call a workaholic, and that not only affects you – it affects everyone around you. If you’re only every partly home, then you’re never giving yourself the opportunity to be complete. Instead, you do things and think things in parts. When your family speaks, you only hear bits and pieces because your mind is torn between a million different thoughts. When you cook dinner, you never appreciate the activity for what it is because you’re too focused on completing the task and moving on to the next.

Understand how everything interacts.

The trick to capitalizing your time spent at home and outside of work is to be where you are; to focus on what you’re doing and to understand how it enriches your life (which has the power to grow you professionally, as well).

Don’t just cook dinner. Cook dinner.  Think about how every ingredient compliments the final output. Feel how a meal affects the mood of your home.  See how your creation brings everyone together. Appreciate what you’re doing and what it does to your life.

Don’t just listen to your child. Listen to your child. Think about every word they say. Hear their voice fluctuate and see their body language change. Relive their day as they recap it for you and grab hold of their thoughts as they send them your way.

Don’t just ask your spouse how their day was. Understand how their day was. If they say they had a good day at work, ask why. Converse and listen. Make plans with them for your days off. Talk about your goals beyond that next big promotion or salary increase.

While it’s understandable and even admirable that you want to give your all to your career, that doesn’t mean you should allow it to consume your entire life.

How to overcome it.

Overcoming your need to overwork really comes down to paying more attention to how you’re feeling and how people are reacting to you.

Ask yourself, what are my values? What are my needs and wants? Is work truly the most important thing in my life? Because in reality, what good is money if you have no time to spend and enjoy it? And what good is having a life full of accomplishments if you have no one to share them with?

Remember, you’re allowed to go have a few drinks with friends, you’re allowed to take your family out for some ice-cream, and you’re allowed to stop thinking about work once you clock out. You just have to decide that you’re worth it.