Career

How To Tell If Your Job Is Taking Over Your Life

In our bright, happy uni days, it was inconceivable to think that we’d ever land a job that wasn’t in our field of study (lol) or that the endless packets of mi goreng would never bloat our face or clog our arteries (double lol). We were so sweet and unknowing. And now, feeling overworked and underpaid, it’s hard not to feel like work is taking over your life.

We also thought that we’d never become so boring that we’d have nothing else to talk about but work. But alas, it happens. Work has a way of slowly but surely creeping into most conversations and becoming much more of a priority than a ripper Sunday session. But unlike the changing nature of work or the health index of noodles, the hold that work has over your life is manageable. It doesn’t have to consume you as soon as you score a full-time gig – you don’t need to feel overworked, even if you do your job well.

But maybe you do feel overworked. How do you know if work is actually is taking over your life? Here are some red flags:

#1 You have nothing else to talk about

You’re at a barbecue with some friends and they ask, “What’s been happening with you?” Do you go blank and realise the most exciting thing that happened in the last week was a presentation that you did really well on? This is a red alert.

Firstly, it’s not an interesting story so don’t tell it. Secondly, this is the part where you need to start doing more stuff with your free time. If you have no excitement in your life bar the odd presentation, budget or performance review, seek out more stuff.

#2 It’s part of your identity

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What we do for a living undeniably makes up a slice in the big pie we consider “ourselves”. But it shouldn’t be reliant on it. Your sense of self shouldn’t be hinged on your job because what happens if, god forbid, it doesn’t work out?

Work on all areas of your self, not just your career self.

#3 You take pride in staying after hours

A strong work ethic is a really important thing to have. And if there’s a big project coming up that requires more of your time, you may have to just suck it up and put in the extra hours. I think we can all agree on this.

But if you find yourself coming in super early and leaving super late, just for the heck of it, maybe reconsider your intentions. On the other hand, if your workload is so ginormous that it can’t fit into the designated nine hours, chat to your boss about it. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice so much of your time for your company, or feel overworked. Remember that jobs are an exchange of time for money and if you’re putting in time you’re not getting paid for, what are you getting in return?

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#4 You spend your weekends preparing for the week ahead

Friday night comes so you have a celebratory drink with a work mate or two and then head home for a big weekend of… nothing. A few errands maybe, a Netflix binge. Meal prep. Sunday night arrives and you breathe deeply, ready to tackle the week ahead.

But hang on. That’s not a weekend. It’s not taking time off from the week that was and diving back into your life. That’s putting yourself in a suspended state until the next week rolls around. And it’s just as good as working through the weekend, in my opinion.

It’s a sign of maturity to admit that your career is important to you and maybe, hell, you’re just a lot more boring than you used to be. I know I am. That’s totally fine. But it’s a lot different to making work the sole reason you live and breathe.

Life is fun when you spend it with friends and pick up hobbies and do spontaneous things. When you build an actual life, rather than filling up time between work. It’s the stuff that you’ll remember when you’re old and decrepit.


Josephine is a writer from western Sydney who likes to blatantly lie on her bios. She played the youngest sister in 80s sitcom Family Ties and looks fantastic running with a backpack on.