Self-Defenses for Workaholism

6 Min Read

A major problem with workaholism is that today many businesspeople wear it almost as a badge of honor. In their minds, being overworked is tantamount to success.

Reality: Truly successful people know how to keep their lives in balance. They know the importance of work but also of family and physical and emotional health. In the end, managers with balance in their lives are more creative, more productive and more likable. By contrast, a person who pursues work to the exclusion of all other activities is headed for trouble.

Example: Late in life, you begin to think back on your accomplishments and the first thing that comes to mind is a set of Italian luggage or a condo on Maui. Then you start wishing that you’d been closer to your children.

How much is too much

The question, of course, is how to tell when commitment to work changes from a healthy drive to succeed into a prescription for despair. There’s no clear answer that applies to everyone, but there are some very reliable warning signs…

  • It’s dark when you leave for work and dark when you return from the office, even in summer.
  • No matter how hard you work, it never seems to be enough.
  • You have no fun in your life, but you do have fantasies of escaping.
  • You don’t really know what’s going on in the lives of your loved ones.
  • You’re plagued by aches and pains and are too tired for sex.

Less obvious signals of workaholism

• Forgetting things that you’ve known for years

Forgetting things that you’ve known for years such as your ATM password or a close relative’s birthday. That kind of forgetfulness is a sign that professional concerns are monopolizing your mind.

• Inability to get into the car without turning on the radio

Inability to get into the car without turning on the radio or getting on the phone. The habit is often a sign that you feel obliged to juggle facets of your life instead of focusing on the real task in this case, driving.

• Buying exercise equipment

Buying exercise equipment or a health club membership but never using it. Successful people are purposeful. They understand the importance of following through, whether it’s finishing a marketing report or losing five more pounds. Burnout candidates have good intentions, but can’t get off the track toward exhaustion.

Regaining balance

It’s rarely easy to change your behavior. How to facilitate change…

  • Take active steps to remain focused on the goal of leading a life that’s balanced among work, family and your emotional well-being.

One of the most effective ways is to isolate yourself for an hour or two. A setting close to nature is especially helpful.

Ideal: By the ocean. In this environment, list the 10 people and things that are most important in your life. Almost always, family appears ahead of work

•Enlist the help of a friend

Choose a person who has known you for a long time, both professionally and personally. Be honest with this confidant about your desire to be successful and to enjoy life more fully. Listen to his/her feedback, and ask him to recommend specific actions you can take.

If you’re married, bring your spouse into the change process. Nearly always, you’ll discover that your spouse has been hoping that you’d achieve more balance

• Avoid major shifts in lifestyle.

Instead, make small, incremental changes, such as delegating someone to attend an unimportant meeting.

Monumental changes are nearly always impossible, but small ones are self-reinforcing. If your productivity rises once you start delegating, for instance, it’s unlikely that you’ll go back to the days of slavish attendance at every meeting.

Ask your confidant to encourage you to take a chance on small lifestyle changes. Surprisingly, many small changes will become part of your permanent regimen.

• Learn something new that you’ve always wanted to know

New knowledge isn’t just satisfying for its own sake. It makes you a more interesting and creative person. And it serves the purpose of adding variety to your life, refreshing your spirit and thereby reducing the chances of filling all of your time with work.

But again, take it in small steps. Start lessons on a musical instrument you like, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.

• Improve your health

Eat more healthfully, get more sleep, exercise more frequently and spend more time outdoors. Also helpful: Yoga and meditation. Almost always, better health brings a higher level of confidence, and that too is self-reinforcing.

Highly confident people don’t have to prove themselves by working 14 hours a day.

Most top achievers, consciously or otherwise, follow these steps. They know what their priorities are in life and never stop learning. They take care of their health. And with the help of a confidant, they work toward incremental improvements in the overall balance of life.

Share this Article