You spend way too many hours at work, frequently forfeiting your personal life to meet career obligations. You stay in touch with the office when you’re not there, constantly checking your mobile phone or laptop for e-mails. You get to work in the early hours of the morning, and leave late in the evening. Many weekends you find yourself sitting at your desk putting yet more days in to get things done. You think about work when you’re in bed or out for dinner. Maybe you are a workaholic?
‘One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.’ Bertrand Russell
I came to a point in my life that I recognised that deep inside of me there was something lacking that should be there. I felt there was a void within me, an empty deep feeling inside that needed to be filled with something, but I wasn’t quite sure what.
Others that feel this same lacking try to fill this void with drugs, with alcohol, with sexual excesses and chain smoking. In my particular case I worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. On many occasions I did not go home, but spent the night at work, cramming more hours in. Whenever I finally went home, I felt an overpowering sense of guilt about what I should be doing work wise, so much so that I would go up to my study and carry on working. I was a workaholic, I can’t deny this.
Now I’m certainly not admitting to being ashamed that I was once a workaholic. I’m proud of much of what I’ve accomplished. With the fact that I love all the jobs I do, they are just me following my passions. There is nothing essentially wrong with enjoying my work. More often than not it can be fulfilling and rewarding. I love my work and it drives me every morning to jumping out of bed, excited about the day ahead. I really enjoy doing what I do, and most days are filled with exciting challenges and opportunities. But I came to realise that there is a limit to how much I should have been doing.
Outside of work I had no life. My health was for the first time starting to show signs of deterioration. Not great considering I am a healthy lifestyle and stress management coach, gym owner and health blogger. Fortunately I always found time to do my stress management, exercise routine and eating healthily, but that left no time for anything else. I was also doing gym consultancy work that entailed much travelling. Frequently I’d be sitting in an Airport, drinking coffee after coffee just trying to stay awake, writing up reports or a blog article on my laptop. By the time I got home, I’d just crash out. I was burning the midnight oil, and no ones body and mind could keep doing this over a long period of time.
I was constantly performing a juggling act, working on one project after another. Going from one role to another. Trying to fit everything in. I explained it to myself that I was just trying to get ahead, and it wouldn’t be like this for ever. But my work had become my life. I had become too carried away with the future I was trying to build.
One day it just hit me. There had to be more to life than work. My work had taken over my life and was visibly now causing problems — with my relationships, health, happiness and non existent social life. I neglected other areas of my life, because I was so addicted by my work. I had become obsessed with it, to the detriment of other parts of my life. When you work every day, all day, with no time set aside for living life, you just get totally wrapped up in it. It was time to take a step back and figure out a better way to live.
With my professional training I should have known better. As a coach I would have been able to diagnose this problem in another person’s life, but we are always so wrapped up in our own lives we can’t see the wood from the tree in our own lives, unless we look.
So are you a workaholic?
Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
Are you afraid that if you don’t work hard, you will lose your job or be a failure?
Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep, or when others are talking?
Most importantly, have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
Do you check for e-mails on your Smartphone while at dinner.
If you think you are a workaholic, take steps now to do something about it. Before it’s too late.
The answer was so simple, just set aside time for myself each week. No matter how important my work is, there must be balance. I could be successful without giving up everything but my work. The key was to find a healthy work life balance that enabled me to provide a stable income for my family while being able to spend time with them as well. If you have a strong passion for your job, by all means, perform each job task to the best of your ability. However, you need to know where to draw the line.
I had to stop putting all my energy into my work, to start enjoying again free time, to learn to say no, to put time into a wider range of activities outside of work. After all, no one on their death bed ever says, ‘I wish I could have worked more.’ Finding a reasonable balance between my work and my personal life, so that work was no longer an all-consuming obsession that filled every waking hour of every waking day was easy, once I started to think about it, and want it.
When you first start to make the changes, it will take some time to bed in. Just be patient with yourself. Before you know it, you will stop feeling guilty for not working during every free moment you have, and you can actually enjoy your life.
I still love my job and I’m very dedicated to what I do. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, but you just have to set yourself some limits. The most important decision I made was that I controlled my business, it did not control me. I began to take more down time. Time where I escaped from my workload. What then happened was having started taking days out to rest, my mental faculties actually become sharper and I was able to do more work in less time.
If you believe you’ve become a workaholic then the first step you’ll need to do is take a step back and evaluate your situation. Find out what your work load consists of and how you can lessen it. Even though it may seem vitally important to you, chances are you don’t have to take on every single responsibility your job puts on you. See what projects you can pass on to a co-worker or assistant and see if there is a way to break up large projects into smaller, more manageable ones. And don’t forget to bring a sense of balance into your workaholic lifestyle, schedule events with your family by devoting a few nights a week or an entire weekend to them.