Do you have difficult switching off from work? I know I do. I’m blessed in that I love my work, it is an expression of who I am, not just what I do. If I won the lottery tomorrow I’d still do what I do (after a big holiday of course!) But I struggle to switch off. Technology doesn’t help, my phone is both a mobile office and a set of worry beads.My phone is both a mobile office and a set of worry beads. Click To Tweet
In a chat with a friend recently I heard myself saying that if I’m doing nothing I’m being lazy. (Limiting belief duly noted.) I’m fortunate that I’m busier than I’ve ever been work wise, and that my challenges with work life balance are quality issues, first world problems.
When I become aware of an issue where I’m struggling I will delve into the books and the web for answers and insights. I discovered that workaholism is a recognised addiction. A workaholic is someone who is addicted to work and who defines themselves by their work.
What’s interesting is that someone battling alcoholism will receive support from society, but the cultures of many companies and industries promote behaviours that are symptomatic of workaholism.
Read through these statements and note your level of agreement.
I can say yes to at least 10 which is worrying!
An underlying cause of workaholism is a feeling of insecurity or lack of worthiness. We try to prove our worth through our work, our sense of identity is welded to our work. If we make a mistake or experience a setback, we take it very personally; we feel it reflects on us as a person. As Louise Hay says ‘all stress is fear-based.’ So what am I afraid of? Letting others down, being seen as less than professional, not reaching my potential….
Here’s the medicine I’m currently swallowing.
This is step one in dealing with any ‘aholism.’ You acknowledge that your approach to work has to change, not just for your own benefit, but for the benefit of your loved ones. I’m thinking about what my life will be like 2 years, 5 years, 10 years into the future if I don’t make changes. Workaholics focus on the short term, the current tasks, the next deadline (‘dead – line’ being an interesting term!) but what’s the bigger picture, what are the long-term consequences of my habitual behaviour?
It is very difficult to battle any ‘aholism’ in isolation. Speak with your family, share your concerns, ask for their input. At work, can you have a conversation with your manager/ director, HR, a colleague, an external professional? From my experience, if framed positively, most managers will be supportive, especially if in the long-term adjustments will help you be more productive.
We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘working smarter.’ Working smarter is always about identifying tasks you need to stop doing. Workaholics have lengthy ‘to do’ lists, it’s time now for a ‘not to do’ list. Think back over the last two weeks, with the benefit of hindsight what could you have dropped? Start with baby steps – what one task could you remove from next week’s ‘to do’ list that perhaps is just habit or no longer adds value?
You start to define boundaries by being more conscious of the choices you are making – what you are saying ‘yes’ to and what you are saying ‘no’ to. For example, if I’m saying ‘yes’ to working on a Sunday afternoon to get ahead for the week, what am I saying ‘no’ to? Another great question for redefining boundaries is – where have I compromised too much?
I need to get curious about how things can be different? What would a healthier work life balance look like to me? Unless I can imagine something different, it will be difficult to create it.
What are some of the personal life ‘results’ I want to achieve over the next 6 months? What fun activity could I plan? Personal life cannot just be what’s left when work is done!
As I stated at the outset, a workaholic is someone who is addicted to work and defines themselves by their work. A final question to reflect on is – leaving your work to one side, how would you define yourself? Now that’s a deep one and something I’m revisiting myself.
We are always more than our work. Work is something we do, but it is not who we are.
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Do check out episode 18 my podcast ‘Your Time With James Sweetman’ where I discuss this very topic. My podcast is live on iTunes, Podbean and Stitcher so do subscribe, leave a review and please tell your friends and community.
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