Used with permission
Source: Used with permission
Used with permission
Source: Used with permission

Results from a global sample indicated that a mere 13% are happy with their jobs, whereas a disappointing 87% (i.e., actively disengaged or disengaged) are unhappy (Gallup, 2014). Implications of this research from the career and well-being perspective would be to increase that 13% so more people feel happy at work (Ergoden, Bauer, Truxillo, & Mansfield, 2012).

Why You Should Avoid Piling Your Work Plate So High

Loving your professional life makes it easy to get sucked in by taking on more projects, joining more committees, and becoming involved with more, more, and more. Look at the towering sandwich, can you see past it? Even though you love the taste of every bite, you will eventually have to finish it. Once you finish the sandwich, can you eat anything else? We all have a maximum capacity!

The curse of career happiness is the struggle to stop working when it might not be appropriate to work, such as during family time, social gatherings, as well as time devoted to hobbies and personal well-being only because you simply love what you do. It is a natural instinct to acquire more work and feels extremely painful to say “no” to an opportunity because the plate is piled too high. For instance, when planning a dissertation study it is easy to get overly ambitious when you are passionate about the topic so the purpose of the study could be lofty and unmeasurable. The intrinsic motivation might drive the candidate to create a large, long, and complex study, also known as Save the World Dissertation Studies; while forgetting that the purpose of the study is to graduate and realize those Save the World Studies can be done later when not paying for university credits.

The key to not letting your work plate get piled so high is to set and maintain concrete boundaries between your professional and personal worlds. It’s hard to stop “working” because you love what you do without letting work spill into your personal life. However, here is why you need to set those boundaries to stop working and take time for the people, topics, and activities you cherish, as well as for yourself:

1. A mental and physical break by doing something else, like a hobby, will only improve your work performance. Sometimes, we have to stand still or slow down in order to speed up and improve. Even computers have limits and need to recharge.

2. Work could monopolize your family and relationship time. You will never get that time back.

3. Check in with yourself to evaluate your system for managing time and priorities. How would you rate yourself in each of these areas? Time away provides the opportunity to meditate on how to be more productive and balanced.

If you are one of those 13%, who love what they do, you are in good company! I hope you become a pro at creating and maintaining boundaries between your professional and personal worlds, since it will help your career in the long run. You need to nurture your soul in other ways or you too will crash, like if you added more to that sandwich. Do not crash and burn yourself out. You are too good for that ☺.

Ergoden, B., Bauer, T., Truxillo, D., & Mansfield, L., (2012). Whistle While You Work: A Review    

     the Life Satisfaction Literature. Journal of Management, 38(4), 1038-1083.

Gallup (2014). Retrieved from website:

To learn more about how to prevent creating those Save the World Dissertation Studies, check out my book Finish Your Dissertation, Don’t Let it Finish You!

Research Notes

Bridging the gap between research and practice
Joanne Broder Sumerson Ph.D.

Dr. Joanne Broder Sumerson is a consultant and professor in research process and organization development.

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