A workaholic is someone who works compulsively. According to Emma Watterson, civilian government employee for the Navy’s Environmental Division and a holistic health coach, “A workaholic is someone who feels the need to work all the time. They feel married to their job and feel like their ‘to-do’ list is more like a manifesto and there is always work to do.”
This can certainly be a good thing—you enjoy your work and find it fun and fulfilling.
And of course your employees and clients will reap the benefits. But, it can also be bad—if you feel pressured to overwork due to fear of failure, fear of pressure or fear of being anywhere else.
“It simply can’t sustain itself in the long run. We are human,” says Emma. “We can only go so long without sleep, food, water, relationships, etc. We can easily burnout if we constantly burn the candle at both ends.”
So how do you know if you are a workaholic? Emma suggests looking at your activities, energy levels and emotions. “When your day, sleep patterns, food, social interaction and family time all revolve around your work, you may be a workaholic.”
Reflect on these questions to help assess whether “workaholism” may be adversely affecting you:
- Are you using work as an excuse to avoid going home?
- Are you feeling overwhelmed at work and having a hard time prioritizing and making progress on your projects?
- Are others taking advantage of your good nature by heaping their work on you?
- Are you using long hours as a status symbol or a way to garner positive attention or even pity?
- Are you stressed when you are away from work or prohibited from working extra hours?
- Are you told time and again that you need to cut back on the hours you do work?
If you answered “Yes” to most of these, then it may be time to reconsider your approach to work. While it’s not easy to completely change behaviors and priorities overnight, you can start to ease back from the intensity of your work schedule and consider what you have control over. By doing so, you will find opportunities to say “No” more often and increase your level of balance.
Here are a few ways to begin:
Talk with your supervisor. Let them know about your concerns about workload and expectations and discuss possible solutions.
“Have an honest discussion with your supervisor and coworkers,” says Emma. “I know it can be difficult at first to let go and learn to delegate tasks. Try starting with small tasks first and work your way up to delegating larger tasks.”
Reconsider your priorities. “Make a list of priorities and an ideal daily schedule,” suggests Emma. “Try adding in some self-care such as a breathing and meditation practice, baths, massage and exercise.”
Manage your time. We all blame others for our workplace challenges, but more often than naught it’s us! Take a hard look at where your energy and time are going and consider making small changes that lead to positive new habits and big work/life results.
Find a relaxation buddy. Identify someone in your life who can help you take needed breaks. Find people and activities that excite you to leave work at a decent hour and enjoy a restful weekend.
“Find an accountability buddy to exercise or do something outside of work,” suggests Emma. “Support each other in releasing workaholic tendencies by talking or meeting up at least once a week to do an activity.”
Get help. In addition to coaching as a resource to help you discover and manage the source of your workaholic behaviors, there are more aggressive forms of support. Treatment centers and self-help groups like workaholics anonymous are designed to help you thoughtfully manage this compulsion. The appropriate resources can help you become more efficient at work and proactively disengage from bad habits.
Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele.