Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

How To Leave Work Early When Chronically Overworked

Build Your Community Part 6

In his book Happy, Ian K. Smith argues that happy people have more close relationships, the kind of friendships that take time to build and maintain. According to Smith, (who is quoting the research of Martin Seligman and others) “a strong social network is also associated with lower levels of stress and a longer life span.”[i]

For many in the corporate world, (including myself at one time) corporate idolatry makes close friendships outside of work hard to find.  This is the position Sue found herself in, when she worked herself until she was sick. (See this post in Chapter 6)

Smith advises that someone without a network of friends should “put themselves in a position to meet new people.”  Interestingly, this is exactly how Sue told me she started to get healthy again.

Sue told me her decision to make a change came on a business trip.   Free from the daily meetings that started at 7 AM and often went until 6, she realized that her life did not have time for anything else, and she needed “to go out and get a breath of fresh air.”  Sue developed a deliberate strategy to connect with other people.

She said, “I’m not a runner or biker and I needed something to do that I really enjoyed.  I like to learn, but I didn’t want to go back to school. I wanted to find something that would challenge me in a way that wasn’t drowning like work.  I started photography, I like food, and I love gardening.  I started getting involved in my community which is important to me, e.g. a committee to get a new park in town, which connected me to some other committees and projects.”

But it was Urban Farming  that really caught her passion.  “I change out of my skirt and Santana-Row shoes on Friday afternoon and go.  There is one woman who I hang out with.  We have become really close friends and I would never have met her in the tech industry.”
One advantage to leaving work early for a fun activity – the other people there also have made connecting with other people a higher priority than their company.  Those are just the people to hang out with.
You might also like: Discover How I Avoided Burnout

[i] Happy: Simple Steps To Get the Most Out Of Life by Ian K. Smith.  St Martin’s press.  (2010) p 190


  1. Greg Marcus says

    When researching this post, I came across 5 Reliable Findings from Happiness Research by John Grohol. I didn’t reference it in the post, but the results are helpful and very consistent.

  2. Khaled Dajani says

    The problem is that we lose focus on ourselves: is work a goal or a means towards other goals in life? The answer to this question coupled with other circumstances (such as whether or not one has acheived the other goals) will help determine how soon one can feel free to leave work.

    • Greg Marcus says

      Khaled – perhaps it matters what kind of goal one talking about. Tangible goals – making X launch date, or Y revenue target are easy to measure. But many goals are intangible, like having a successful career or a successful marriage. “Am I successful” will be asked every day, and the answer depends.

      So I suggest a different formulation – which is more important? Work will always demand time, and relationships will always require time. For me, when I became clear that the family and personal relationships were more important, the question on whether to leave early for a given event became easy to answer.

  3. Leaving the corporate grind requires insight to a time/value perception that is difference for each of us. As a consultant, I came to the conclusion that I could provide more time/value to my clients, community, family, and faith if I were an independent consultant. By dropping the time required for various meetings, records management, and other “adminastrivia”, I could exchange that corporate required time for what was of more value to clients, community, family, and me. I am as active with my time commitments as ever, yet all who and that I value receive more than ever before.

    • Greg Marcus says

      Thank you Tom for sharing your story. It’s a wonderful example, and I am glad to hear it is working out for you.

      I too found consulting to be much more time efficient. Suddenly when I was paid by the hour, the many meetings that were so important for me to attend just disappeared from my calendar. And because I was no longer a political stakeholder, I was perceived as impartial, instead of being part of “marketing.”

  4. Work life balance is very important. As our time, and resources are finite, how we balance both are important. A good equilibrium I believed will means a happier person, and this is positive also for workplace , as should bring better efficiency , and productivity.

    • Thanks Ron. I agree completely. There are only so many hours in the week, and if we spend too much time on one thing, it takes away from others.

  5. I have often seen people use “family events” as a reason to leave for part of a day or not be able to work late for a project etc., while they, or management, maintain an unspoken expectation that younger, unattached workers not be given this allowance. The extra time spent doing these extra duties rarely yields benefits in the long run, compared to other social skill sets within the work atmosphere. It takes experience, confidence and self discipline to finally break out of the loop of being one of those who are persistently taken advantage of. It might even take a chasnge in workplace, since once seen as the “stay-late” type, you will always be expected to be that person!

    • Greg Marcus says

      Cuivre, I think your observation is spot on. Often the issue in situations like that is that everyone has too much work to do, and the only way to prevent even more from being put on your plate is to set limits.
      I know exactly what you mean about being the one pegged to do extra. And I agree, limited career benefit from doing so.


  1. […] the last post, I have tips on how to leave work early if chronically overworked.   I shared the post on the HRB […]