Whenever I read the word “creep”, maybe it’s just me but I hear TLC singing in the background of my mind. While I typically don’t associate this song with career; I definitely don’t associate the term creep with career either. However, a tactic that I and so many women use to increase preparedness or at least in our minds, help us stay ahead of the game is affectionately known as the “Sunday Creep”. It is our decision to kick off our work week on Sunday rather than waiting until the actual week begins on Monday. What’s interesting to note is that for some it’s the norm and for others it’s not even an option. Whichever you prefer, beware that workplace pressure can appear in many forms and one of the most subtle ways women experience the push to perform is by way of the Sunday Creep.

Research shows that not only do American employees work long hours but that we are “overworkers” who don’t take adequate vacation time. In some ways, performing well in conjunction with working more than others has become a glorified badge of honor. So much so, a quick Instagram search for the hashtag grind resulted in 21.9M posts! The cultural challenge many of us don’t consider with grind, grind harder and no sleep is that we run the risk of burnout. Did you know The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this year that burnout (a product of long hours and little time away) is now a diagnosable syndrome?

WHO has defined burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed characterized by:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job/ feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy

At this point, you could be thinking really Ericka??!?! Email leads to burnout? Well, while email may not be the sole factor contributing to burnout, I believe the decision to extend a work week certainly does. Hence the reason I elected to bring the Sunday Creep to your attention.

Before you make the decision to begin your work week on Sunday vs waiting until Monday morning, please consider the following courtesy of research InHerSight conducted:

  • 73% of women desire a career change courtesy of burnout
  • 69% of women experience a feeling of anxiety regarding the upcoming work week
  • 34% of women feel they’ll never catch up on their workload

Because women feel as though they can’t catch up, a reasonable solution is logging in on Sunday. Reasons for extending their work week include:

  • emails from their leader or colleagues (27% of women)
  • it’s explicitly expected (14%)
  • they want to show their boss or colleague they’re working (13%)
  • guilt for taking a break over the weekend (12%)

Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of a simple Sunday decision compounded over time can have long-term negative impacts both personally and professionally. According to Psychology Today, signs of burnout include: insomnia, fatigue, forgetfulness, anxiety, lack of productivity and poor performance.

Therefore, 3 questions I recommend you pose and answer the next time you feel compelled to work Sunday-Friday are:

  • Is this the exception or an expectation? There are expectations other have of us and then there are the expectations we create for ourselves. If the expectations of others becomes a weight you no longer choose to bear, make the decision to lighten your load. Actions could range from clarifying expectations and priorities to incorporating boundaries, delegating or perhaps securing another role. In the event you’re placing an unnecessary expectation on yourself, that too may require an adjustment on your part.
  • Is the nature of the email (work) a true emergency or is there a narrative I’ve incorporated that potentially needs to be rewritten? Assess whether or not you’ve convinced yourself the only way you can sustain exceptional performance is by doing more work. Do yourself a favor and let go of unreasonable standardsI had to. The phenomenal news is because I’m the one who set the standards for myself, I’m the one who had the power to change them. Accept that no one is capable of doing everything well, then alter your narrative as well as the actions you’ve taken to support your mindset.
  • Is it worth it? You may have said over the course of a weekend, “I can hit the ground running tomorrow by taking care of this today.” Yes you can – but at what cost? If you say “yes” to everything and everyone, you say “no” to yourself by default. A women’s health article from Cleveland Clinic says it best; “Underneath the woman doing it all is most likely a woman falling flat on her face.” When you’re saying yes to everything at work and at home, you’re positioning yourself to fail both emotionally and physically.

Recently I shared a few posts on social media suggesting things to leave in 2019. For some of you, the Sunday Creep could very well be one of those things. It is possible to:

  • Take off the cape and forgo the Superwoman label: Let go of perfectionism, develop assertiveness as well as a support system and by all means, relax and have fun
  • Say no: By understanding what’s causing you to say yes and overcommit, you can learn to re-evaluate your responsibilities with a goal of letting some things go
  • Change plans: When you incorporate spontaneity, you reap benefits that encompass: keeping your mind sharp, experiencing less stress, leaving your comfort zone, finding flexibility and in some instances – finding happiness

I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to trade the Sunday Creep for more spontaneity, less stress and discovering a better version of myself that I might not know otherwise.

Ericka Spradley is the Chief PowHer Officer/Founder of Confident Career Woman which is the premier consulting firm for corporations and the mid-career professional woman who wants to advance, better manage her career, and go further faster. Ericka is an advocate who partners with clients to help women ditch perfection, play bigger and make PowHer Moves by: identifying their next role, creating a career strategy, offering ongoing career guidance, and coaching clients to master interviews. For additional information, visit: ErickaSpradley.com