Biz & Books Review: Learn to say ‘no’ to overworking


You bought a new backpack last week and you're excited. You've made a new promise to yourself to start new plans for a trip away. Yep, you're finally going to use those vacation days you've accrued since 2004, finally going to visit that new hotspot that's not really new anymore. And if this vacation falls through like all the others, well, the solution is obvious: read "Never Not Working" by Malissa Clark.

A number of years ago, a few junior bankers at a large national firm presented a survey to their colleagues, hoping to document workplace abuse. The associates cited 100-hour workweeks with just five hours sleep per night. Some were working from early morning to midnight, without eating, showering, or resting.

This, says Clark, is common stuff. So common, she says, that there exists an abundance of research on the topic already. Six years ago, she says, more than half of working Americans didn't use all their paid time off, leaving more than 760 million vacation days behind – which has a detrimental effect on workaholics' health and family life.

It's so bad, says Clark, that a number of other countries have words for "death from overwork."

To spot "workaholism" and to escape it, you first need to know what it's not. It's not just long hours. It's not something a doctor can diagnose. It's not the same as "work engagement" and it's not being "more productive."

To stop overworking, ask yourself if this life is sustainable. Is it affecting your health and your time with your family or friends? Can you play without making it feel like work? Do you regret the fun events you've missed because you were working?

If you've said "yes" to too much work, Clark says you can ease up by finding a new definition for "urgent," by reimagining your "to-do" list, and by learning to say "no."

Keep doing it, says Clark, and you'll find a whole new world for yourself. If you need a book like "Never Not Working," you know it. From the top of your overloaded brain to the bottoms of your tired toes, you know it. Problem is, there isn't much here that you don't already know.

It's undoubtedly helpful that author Malissa Clark pulls all the relevant facts together in one place, but you've likely already read them with alarm. It's also nice that she addresses the most widely spread myths about working too much but if you live that mythology, they're not a surprise. There's a little bit of useful advice here but it's just the same-old, same-old. Very little of this book, in fact, is anything you haven't heard or read before.

Surprisingly, the audience who'll be most attracted to this book are the readers who've read all the other, similar self-help tomes and still find it hard to disconnect.

The reader who most needs it might benefit from one last reminder of the need to step away. If you think you're good on that, though, "Never Not Working" is nothing new.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the reviewer behind “The Bookworm Sez.” Reach her at 


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