We all want to get ahead in our careers. Whether you’re an employee hoping for a promotion or a freelancer trying to grow your client base, you probably don’t want to stay stuck where you are forever.
What can you do to increase your chances of moving up in the world? Proactively pitching ideas to your boss or client, taking on extra assignments, and putting in extra hours to deliver work ahead of deadline will all serve to establish you as a dedicated professional with unwavering work ethic. These practices make a good impression and can open up new opportunities for you. But proceed with caution: Going full-force, 24/7 will only burn you out, leaving you exhausted and unable to live up to the expectations you’ve set for yourself and the people you work for.
It’s good to go above and beyond, but you still need to maintain healthy boundaries so your performance doesn’t ultimately suffer. If you really want to get ahead, think twice before you form these seemingly helpful work habits that could actually hurt you in the long run.
1. Saying ‘yes’ to every project.
In the workplace, volunteering to help your boss with a big project or offering to do something outside of your normal job duties makes you look great. However, raising your hand for every single additional project will only bog you down. Your boss and team members will come to rely on you to pick up any extra slack, which often means mean your regular work — the job you were actually hired to do — ends up falling by the wayside.
The same is true in the world of freelancing. You might want to accept every gig that comes your way, especially if you’re short on cash or need to pad your portfolio. But it’s not good to overload your calendar with tedious or difficult projects that don’t pay enough for the time you spend on them. Believe me, I’ve been there — and I’ve ended up having to “fire” a client or two for my own sanity.
In both situations, it’s best to be judicious with your time and only agree to work you know you can handle. It’s better to say no when you know you don’t have the time or skills, than agree to it and ultimately disappoint your boss or client with the end result.
2. Being available 24/7.
Do you frequently put in 12-hour work days? Are you notorious for responding to emails immediately, even in the middle of the night?
If you’re trying to win favor by being available all the time, you might be setting yourself up for failure. It’s good to be responsive during the business day, but spending all your waking hours working (even if it’s just on your smartphone while you’re out and about) sets the expectation that you can always be reached, and once people realize that, they’ll never let you take a break.
It’s a bit easier to maintain boundaries when you’re an employee with a set work schedule (in fact, New York City recently proposed a law that would outlaw the requirement to respond to work-related communications after-hours). As a freelancer, you need to be proactive about defining and adhering to “office hours” for yourself, but either way, don’t let work dictate every single moment of your life.
If you’re worried about missing a work emergency, let your boss, co-workers or clients know up front that you stop checking emails after a certain time, but for truly urgent matters (key word: “truly” — as in, absolutely cannot wait until the next morning), they can contact you on your phone.
3. Forgoing a personal life in the name of work.
We all know technology has blurred the lines between work and personal time. Sometimes, work will interrupt date night or family dinner. You might have to bail on a friend’s party for an important conference or networking event. However, continually skipping out on things like get-togethers, soccer games or even vacations in favor of work will take its toll on you and the people you’re close with. Even though your boss or client might be pleased with having such a committed worker, you need to decide if it’s worth potentially damaging your personal relationships because you missed these events.
Remember, getting ahead is all about balancing what’s good for business and what’s right for you. Not putting in enough effort could cost you a promotion or client deal, but sacrificing your personal life and health to get there might cost you your happiness.
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
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