Overworked and Tired? Try These Strategies From Top Leaders to Reclaim Balance

Self Improvement

Overworked and Tired? Try These Strategies From Top Leaders to Reclaim Balance

Have you ever stared at the clock at 9 pm, realizing you’re still tackling your to-do list while dinner grows cold and your family waits patiently (or not so patiently)? Do your weekends blur into a frantic catch-up session, leaving you more drained than ever come Monday morning? You’re not alone. The lines between work and personal life have recently blurred, leaving many people overworked and burned out.

This relentless cycle can significantly affect your well-being and productivity, both personally and professionally. Studies show chronic overwork increases stress, decreases cognitive function, and weakens immune systems. Additionally, businesses face the financial burden of employee turnover, absenteeism, and reduced engagement, all stemming from a workforce struggling to achieve work-life balance.

But there’s good news! Leading figures across diverse industries have successfully overcome the challenge of overwork and achieved a sustainable and fulfilling work-life balance. In this blog post, I will share with you proven strategies from these leaders, equipping you with the knowledge to reclaim balance and thrive inside and outside the office.

Key Takeaways

  • Recognize the symptoms of being overworked by not ignoring the subtle and not-so-subtle signs of fatigue. Pay close attention to your life’s physical, emotional, and behavioral changes.
  • Explore various time management techniques and find systems that work for you. Remember, prioritization is key to focusing on the tasks that truly matter.
  • Learning to say “no” to additional work when you’re already at capacity is crucial. Remember, “self-preservation is not a weakness.
  • Don’t be a one-person show; embrace delegation and empower your colleagues and team members by delegating tasks effectively. 
  • Establish clear boundaries and disconnect from work after hours, allowing you to recharge and return to work feeling refreshed and focused.
  • Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your life. From nourishing your body with healthy food and exercise to engaging in activities that bring you joy, investing in your well-being is an investment in your overall success.

Overworked: Beyond Just a Long To-Do List

Let’s face it: we’ve all experienced those days (or weeks) when our to-do list seems to have a life of its own, constantly growing and never shrinking. But there’s a crucial difference between having a demanding business and being overworked.

Overwork goes beyond simply putting in long hours. It is that chronic state where your work demands exceed your capacity to cope, which might lead to a cascade of negative consequences. It’s like constantly pushing a car in high gear without allowing it to shift down and cool off. Over time, the engine starts to sputter, and eventually, it might break down altogether.

Being overworked is beyond physical exhaustion. It can also affect your mental and emotional well-being, leading you to feel constantly stressed, anxious, and maybe depressed. At that point, your cognitive function takes a hit, making it difficult to concentrate, be creative, and make sound decisions. Your physical health also takes a hit, with your immune system weakening, making you more susceptible to illnesses and even contributing to chronic health problems.

WATCH: Overwork Hurts Everyone!

Recognizing the Warning Signs: Is Overwork Knocking at Your Door?

We all have those days when we feel drained or out of sorts. But how do you know if you’re having a bad week or teetering on the edge of overwork? Here’s the thing: Overwork doesn’t arrive with a flashing red light and a blaring alarm. It often creeps in gradually, manifesting through subtle signs that are easy to dismiss.  So, let’s take a step back and review the symptoms of being overworked.

When you are overworked, it shows in your physical health, your emotional & mental health, and your behavior.

Physical Signs of Being Overworked

  1. Constant fatigue: You’re dragging yourself through the day, hitting the snooze button repeatedly, and even the most basic tasks seem like a marathon. 
  2. Aches and pains: Your body starts talking (or, instead, yelling) in the form of headaches, muscle tension, and unexplained aches that won’t go away.
  3. Sleep disturbances: Falling asleep feels like an impossible feat, and even when you catch some sleep, you wake up feeling unrested and unrefreshed.
  4. Changes in appetite: You might skip meals due to a lack of time or resort to unhealthy comfort foods to cope with stress.

Emotional & Mental Signs of Being Overworked

  • Irritability and short temper: Your fuse seems shorter than ever, and even minor inconveniences trigger frustration and anger.
  • Anxiety and feeling overwhelmed: A constant sense of unease and the feeling like you’re constantly behind, even when your to-do list is empty, can be a red flag.
  • Loss of motivation and concentration: You struggle to focus on tasks, and even the things you used to enjoy feel like a chore.
  • Feeling detached and isolated: You withdraw from social interactions, neglect hobbies and interests, and experience a sense of disconnection from loved ones and activities you used to enjoy.

Behavioral Signs of Being Overworked

  • Working long hours, even when not required: You constantly check work emails, stay late at the office, and even take work tasks on vacation.
  • Procrastination and difficulty completing tasks: You start putting things off, even important deadlines, due to feeling overwhelmed and lacking the energy to tackle them.
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities: Your health, relationships, and even basic needs like eating and sleeping fall by the wayside as work takes over.


Top Leaders’ Playbook: Strategies to Achieving Work-Life Balance

Now that we’ve identified the enemy of work-life balance—being overworked—let’s look at strategies to reclaim balance. Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Successful leaders across various industries have proven strategies that can help you reclaim balance and thrive.

#1. Become Efficient in Time Management

One of the reasons people often get overworked is that they don’t manage their time properly, and one of the best strategies to avoid being overworked is to have good time management. There are different time management strategies you can use, such as:


The first strategy, time boxing, is used by leaders like Marissa Mayer (the former CEO of Yahoo). Timeboxing is a time management strategy that involves setting a specific, pre-determined amount of time to work on a task and then evaluating your progress once the time is up.

You can implement this strategy by dividing your workday into focused blocks dedicated to specific tasks, allowing for increased focus and productivity by preventing distractions and task swapping.

Download PDF on Time Management


Not all tasks are created equal. Leaders like Indra Nooyi (former CEO of PepsiCo) swear by the power of prioritization. Prioritization is organizing tasks based on their importance and the urgency of their completion. Implementing this approach ensures that your most critical tasks are tackled first, allowing you to increase your productivity and efficiency.

Also, prioritization helps you reduce stress and anxiety by breaking down a large list of tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, making it easier for you to focus on one task at a time without feeling overwhelmed or overworked.

Download Prioritized Task List Template – Word

Using To-Do Lists

To-do lists can be your best friend or worst enemy. Leaders like Arianna Huffington (founder of Thrive Global) recommend creating realistic and achievable lists, breaking down large tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, and scheduling specific times to complete them.

Download Printable To-Do List Template: PDF

Download PDF on Time Management

#2. Delegation

One thing I have learned from my years of experience is that you can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all. Leaders like Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Meta), who frequently perceive delegation as a sign of weakness, use it as a powerful tool. Identify tasks that can be effectively delegated to colleagues or team members based on their skills and experience. This frees up your time to focus on higher-level strategic tasks and empowers others to grow and develop.

Download PDF on Delegation


#3. Disconnecting to Reconnect

It is easier now than ever for work to bleed into personal time. Leaders like Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) emphasize the importance of setting clear boundaries and disconnecting after work hours. This could mean setting specific “no work” times, utilizing email autoresponders, and communicating your boundaries effectively to colleagues and clients.

#4. Take Scheduled Breaks

Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter and Square, emphasizes the importance of taking breaks, stating, “It’s important to take breaks throughout the day to clear your head and come back refreshed.” Taking short breaks helps you stay focused and productive throughout the workday.

Self-Care as a Tool for Avoiding Being Overworked

Building and achieving work-life balance requires a strong foundation of self-care. It’s not about indulging in spa days every week (although that wouldn’t hurt!) but rather about incorporating practices that nourish your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Here are some actionable self-care strategies to integrate into your daily routine:

  • Start your day with a nutritious breakfast and prioritize eating whole, unprocessed foods. 
  • Find an activity you enjoy: a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a dance class. Regular exercise can work wonders for your physical and mental health.
  • Aim for quality sleep each night. This allows your body and mind to recharge and function optimally.
  • Engage in mindfulness practices like meditation or deep breathing to help you reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance emotional regulation.
  • Connect with loved ones; nurture your relationships with family and friends. Spending time with those you care about can provide a sense of belonging and support.
  • Don’t let your hobbies and interests fall by the wayside. Dedicate time to activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.


Knowing you are overworked is not enough; you must take action to relieve your stress and workload. Go over the proven strategies, determine which one is best suited for you, and adopt it. In that way, you can reclaim your work-life balance and improve your productivity.


What are the symptoms of overworking?

Overworking symptoms include fatigue, physical exhaustion, increased stress, decreased productivity, neglect of personal life, and health issues. These symptoms can manifest as tiredness, difficulty sleeping, lack of motivation, anxiety, depression, and missed deadlines.

What should you do if you’re overworked?

To manage overwork, define your goals, make changes at work, learn to say no, take time off when needed, pursue hobbies different from work, set boundaries, create a schedule to separate work and personal life, use tools to limit work invasion, and document and push back on unreasonable expectations.


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