Putting your whole being into work, a.k.a. workaholism, has long-term consequences. You could wake up one morning and ask, “Where’s my life?” Whether you work too much for someone else or for yourself, it is possible to conquer the problem. Heed the suggestions of a former workaholic Andrea, who speaks from experience:
Make a replenish list: Sit in a quiet place and ask yourself, “How do I gain energy?” Then list all the things in life that recharge you, like taking walks, being in nature, getting a massage, playing piano or reading a good book. This is the easy part.
Create your life: You are responsible for generating the life you love. Be aware of the things that light you up and make you happy, and then build them into your schedule. Treat these “me” commitments with as much importance as you would a business meeting.
Compartmentalize: Work is work and home is home. When you’re self-employed it requires a different set of skills, but when you’re working for somebody else, you can draw your boundaries. Negotiate with your boss: you’ve hired me for these hours, for this performance. I’ll give you my 110% on that during the workday, but I have a life—please respect that.
Learn to say NO: Saying yes too often is the enemy of having a balanced life. There are variations to saying no: counteroffer, postpone, reduce, or delegate the task to someone who is able to give the time. Say: That sounds great — I’d like to bring someone else on the project.
Home office boundaries: For those who work at home, it’s critical to create office rules. Treat your working hours at home like it’s a 9-5 job. Say: I will not open the door to my office this weekend! I have my Blackberry if somebody really needs to reach me.
Manage technology: The positive side of technology is that you can be anywhere and work. The negative side of technology is that you can be anywhere and work. The number one tip is not to let your Blackberry make noise when emails come in. Having the phone on silent let’s you decide when you want to check your email.
Think ahead: Picture yourself late in life. What are your regrets? It would not be: I should’ve attended that meeting, or I should’ve taken on that project. More likely it would be: Was my family appreciative of how I was there for them? Did I have a quality life? Use this technique when you find yourself too absorbed in work.
Be honest: Instead of saying “I don’t have time for something,” admit to yourself that it isn’t a priority. After all, when you make something a priority, you make time for it. So if you say: It’s not a priority to attend my kid’s soccer game—this might be the thing to wake you up and change.
Seek therapy: There are people who say: I’ve tried and tried and I just can’t change. And those people need someone—a psychologist or psychiatrist—that can help sort out what they are avoiding by overworking. When work becomes an exit for not doing something else that is important, it is time to seek help.
What are you avoiding?
Workaholicism is an addiction that seems to follow this cycle. Discomforts in life and work cause us to seek relief. The primary form of relief that we have access to, and believe in the most, is feeling good by accomplishing something as part of our jobs at work. So we put more time into work, and our personal life begins to suffer from lack of attention.
As our personal life suffers, it causes more discomfort for us, so we work even harder—and the vicious cycle, or compulsive work syndrome, goes on.
Workaholicism is often a way of exiting from challenges in your life. For example:
- A job you’ve outgrown
- A partner who is uncommunicative
- Confronting your own intimate feelings
- Things that you desire but are procrastinating in getting
- Dealing with everyday responsibilities and passing them to someone else
If this seems to fit you, the best route is to seek some help in addressing the root causes.