Are you addicted to work?
Addiction is generally a bad word. Most commonly used in relation to illegal substances, alcohol and gambling. It involves a compulsive need to something of substance. A gambler cannot walk away from a gambling table, until he is either being asked to leave or lost all his money. A drug addict must rely on the use of illegal substance to sustain his addiction. An alcoholic must have alcohol in their hands. They may hide it in a flask, but they cannot hide their addiction. Cigarette smokers are addicted to smoking. Addicts show physical signs of misery when they are not satisfied with an illegal substance and they often turn to other forms of addiction. For instance most smokers are also alcoholics.
But there are other forms of addiction also. Some people are addicted to adrenaline. They will do anything to get that ‘adrenaline rush’, such as cliff diving, bungie jumping, or walking across 2 buildings on a tight rope. We call them ‘Adrenaline Junkies’.
But there is also another growing form of addiction. Which, I believe, probably has the highest population of junkies, and is actually a ‘socially acceptable’ form of addiction. Some people are proud to be this type of junkie. They believe that their bosses would appreciate them for being this type of addict.
I’m talking about ‘Work’. Addiction to work.
When did people start having work addictions?
I believe work addiction started with the baby boomers. Before their generation, there was no Wi-Fi, no Internet, no social media and no remote access. People went to work at a certain time, and ended their work at a certain time. They enjoyed their weekends and holidays.
The standard of living went up.
Women entered the work force, causing a huge surge in competition in the workforce.
People were forced to work harder and to demonstrate their loyalty to their workplace.
As we evolve through decades of technological advancement and an increase in the level of competition at work, the outcome is more work addicts. People that are addicted to ‘Work’.
I used to be one of them. And here’s my confession as a work addict.
I am a long-time Silicon Valley worker-bee, and I, too, used to work long hours, late nights, and weekends. I took conference calls at 6am in the morning and also at 11pm at night. Not only was I used to the crazy hours and a humongous workload. I actually enjoyed it and I was proud of it.
I liked to be ‘busy’ all the time. It felt like a good excuse to not go to the gym, to cook healthy at home, to do housework, to have a healthy relationship at home, or to have a social life.
My life was all about work.
Once, I went for 3 straight days without sleep and without going home, just to ensure that an implementation was completed on time.
But it felt like it was all worth it. Sacrificing my life for the sake of work.
As I grew addicted to work, work no longer satisfied me.
So I started changing the nature of my work. I tried both full time and contract positions. I went through a variety of industries: telecom, green energy, networks, cloud storage and databases. I’ve been with both private and public companies, worked with local and international companies.
What I’ve realized was that I was not alone. Most people that I met at work were just like me. Workaholics. They took pride in working long hours. They talked about ignoring their wife and children but they actually sounded proud of it. They all noticed that their gut got bigger but refused to do anything about it. Blaming it on the free food that the companies supply to keep them working. They freaked out when their Wi-Fi stopped working at home, as if it was the end of the world.
At some point, I decided that it was time to change.
My husband complained about not seeing me anymore. My health was quickly going downhill. My complexion was awful. Even my cats treated me like a stranger.
I finally realized that work was not worth the sacrifice. There’s more to my life than just work.
I sat down and thought about what I wanted, and what I needed to do.
What I wanted was more quality time with my husband and my cats. I wanted a healthier body, a happier life, a life with meaning, and a life where I can be satisfied and happy with what I have. A life not obsessed over what other people have.
I decided to quit being a workaholic.
Once I decided, I knew what I needed to do.
I needed to learn about being more productive: to get things done efficiently and accurately.
I needed to learn about developing a healthy lifestyle.
I needed to pay more attention to the people I love.
So I set off to learn about all these things. It took some time to develop the habit of being productive, happy and healthy. But I did it.
Workaholism is wide spread and a disease that is slowing killing people’s health and relationships.
The first few days were not easy. I felt like I was in the ‘withdrawal’ phase of my work addiction, but now I’ve learned to love my life, love my work and my business, and most importantly, love who loves me most.
Are you a work junkie? Here’s 10 signs that you are a work addict:
1. You have work email installed on your phone
2. You regularly carry 2 phones: 1 for work and 1 for personal. You tend to give out your work phone # to your friends.
3. The first thing you do in the morning is to look at the work email
4. The last thing you do at night is to look at the work email
5. You regularly join work meetings at home, after work hours
6. The first thing you do when you get home is to login to your work laptop
7. You bring your work laptop with you while you are on vacation and check email regularly
8. You accept work meetings while you are on vacation
9. Your discussion amongst friends and family revolves primarily around work
10. You think about your work while you’re in the shower
If you have 5 or more of the above habits, consider yourself a work addict, commonly known as a
Do you like being a workaholic? Some people are proud to be one.
In reality, people just “WANT TO BE WANTED”
They demonstrate strong dedication to their company.
They sacrifice their family time and personal time for the benefit of the company.
However, here are 4 questions that you should ask yourself:
1. Are your long hours at work justified? Or are you simply not being productive?
2. Is your company, and your boss, requesting that you work like a horse?
3. How is your “workaholism” affecting the people that you love?
4. How is your “workaholism” affecting you?
In other words, are your workaholic tendencies justified? Are you feeling happy and satisfied from work? Do you feel like you are obligated to work so hard or do you truly enjoy the work?
Are your long hours at work justified? Or are you simply not productive?
People loves saying that they are ‘busy’. However, when asked specifically what they are busy at, their answers were usually vague and inconclusive. Common answers are
‘Well, you know, stuff’
‘There’s so much work to do’
‘Here and there’
As a Productivity Consultant, one of the key exercises that I insist all my clients do is to track their time for 1 week. The tracker is divided into 5-minute intervals, so whether you spend 5 minutes in the bathroom, or 20 minutes at the water cooler, track it. If they spent 15 minutes reading through an email chain that is entirely useless to them, track it.
The point? People are not as productive as they think they are.
Fortune magazine did a study a few years ago with the Fortune 500 CEO’s. They measured how much time each CEO spent, each day, on genuinely productive work, work that could move their company forward. Work that only they can do.
The 500 CEO’s logged, on average, 28 minutes a day doing productive work that made a difference for the company. The rest of the time was spent on useless meetings and calls.
The point is, longer hours do not equal higher productivity. In fact, studies show that the longer hours you work, the lower your productivity. There is an inverse relationship between long hours and productive output.
When you work long hours, not only does your productivity decreases, the quality of your work also goes down.
In other words, stop working late. Go home and get unplugged.
Much as you love the attention and the thought that people are depending on you to finish the work, you are not indispensable at work.
No one is. Even CEO’s can step down with a few hours’ notice.
Your ego is telling you that you are the best at what you do, and that you are the only person that can get the job done.
As an entrepreneur, I am fully aware of the solopreneurship phenomenon. We think that we, the person that owns the business, is the best person to handle the marketing, accounting, payroll, human resources, IT, sales, legal and facilities of the business. It is difficult for an entrepreneur to hire and trust another person with their business, because their ego told them that no one can do the job as well as they can.
Which, of course, is totally “BS”.
The ability to delegate is the single most important skill set of an entrepreneur. Without delegation, your business will not grow. You will wear out and become tired of the business that you have created.
Is your company, and your boss, requesting that you work like a horse?
This is a crucial point. If you are repeatedly being asked to work longer hours because the company lacks the resources to hire more people, it is time to think hard about your future at the company. This isn’t a loyalty debate. If a company does not have the ability to get more resources even though there is much work to do, there is something wrong.
Companies have options. Some companies turn things around by re-engineering their processes. Others may decide to outsource some of their operations overseas where labor rates are significantly lower. But remember that when company evaluate their options, you are not part of their concern. Your job could potentially be ‘outsourced’ or ‘eliminated’. Remember, loyalty goes both ways. Companies are not required to be loyal to you. Neither should you to your work.
How is your workaholism affecting the people that you love?
There is a lot of talk nowadays as the millennials are entering the workforce. Older generations complain that the millennials are lazy, not dedicated to work, and that they’d rather play than work.
In their defense, here’s how most millennials are raised:
Growing up, both their parents worked. They worked long hours, fought traffic every day, worked nights and weekends because they believed that they were providing for their family.
As the children grew up, their parents didn’t have time to play with them. Instead, they were handed an iPad (or something similar). Their parents were often too busy to play with them, to teach them about life and values, and to spend time with them.
As a result, millennials felt ‘neglected’ and that their parents loved their jobs more than their children.
They tend to see large companies as ‘evil’, something that sucks the life out of their employees. A time waster.
In response to their resentment, their philosophy in life becomes dramatically different. Millennials tend to despise large corporations, they sneer at top executives and they generally lack the ambition to achieve a ‘high position’ at a company.
In essence, they inspire to be the opposite of their parents.
You, as a parent, must consciously pay attention to the effect you have on your children. Remember, children model what you do, NOT what you say.
How is your workaholism affecting you and what can you do?
We coach people on achieving whole life success. Whole life includes your health, your work, your finances, your relationships, and how you spend your free time.
It is not a myth that people that consistently overwork has a higher chance of getting heart attacks at work. Not to mention other health hazards of overworking: the tendency to overeat, the lack of sleep, the effect of daily stress all wreak havoc to our bodies. The last thing you’d want is to go on long-term leave due to sickness.
What can you do?
1. Schedule exercise time on your calendar, including your work calendar. Block it off so that no one would schedule a meeting at that time. Decide on something that you like to do and that you can do regularly.
2. Schedule regular sleep time. I used to be a night owl. I won’t sleep until at least 2am. So adjusting to my new schedule of going to bed at 9pm and getting up at 5am was not an easy task. But it is worth it. I now get regular, restful sleep. When I get up I am energetic and ready to face the world.
3. Eat well. It is difficult. I know. But there are simple kitchen hacks that can ease up the process.
Good companies nowadays do want you to live well, and be healthy. Your overworking tendencies could have a negative impact on your co-workers and could be a threat to others in your company. Maintaining a good relationship is key to your sustainability at work.
What can you do?
Spend some time to have a good, solid discussion with your boss and with your co-workers. Decide on a reasonable workload and adhere to it.
When you over-focus on work, you tend to block out all outside opportunities that may be more exciting for you and also enhances your financial position. Also, when you spend too much time on work, you tend to overlook your own finances. Get a grip and take control of your investments.
What can you do?
Taking control of your own finances means planning for your future, saving up for vacations and emergency needs, tax planning, managing your investments, and a whole bowl of other stuff. But before you start looking for professional help, I strongly suggest that you read the book “Unshakeable” by Anthony Robbins. This book had shed tremendous insight to my own finances and is on my recommended list of readings for all my clients.
Your children are influenced by your actions, not your words. Focus on their future and how they can have a happy, healthy family life. Spend quality, alone time with your spouse. The last thing you need is a spouse that falls out of love with you because you didn’t pay attention to them. And, oh yeah, you may also lose your friends too!
What can you do?
Treat your spouse or partner, kids, family and friends as your shareholders. They are part of your life and they should have an interest in how you spend your time with them. Learn to listen rather than talk. Take them to your heart.
We encourage kids to have extracurricular activities, yet we often forget about our own. We all have hobbies and social needs. We are all charitable at heart and want to contribute to the community. Unless we allocate proper time for these activities, workaholics may never get around to pursuing their hobbies. To save yourself huge regrets later on in your life, start planning your ‘extracurricular’ activities for yourself.
What can you do?
Think about something that you’d like to do. Whether it is a sports activity, music, reading, community work, or anything else. The nature of the activity is irrelevant. What’s important is how you feel when you are doing it. Allocate weekly time to do these activities. Put them on your calendar and follow through.
Remember that your life isn’t just about work. Achieving whole life success means having a healthy body, enjoyable work, financial freedom, loving, trusting relationship and a fulfilling life.
When a group of old aged people were surveyed, the single most common regret in their lives is that they never got to do what they truly love to do. That they spent too much time working and not enough time living.
It’s time for you to live.
Until next time, Love what you live, live what you love.
***The Foolish Couple are serial entrepreneurs, writers, speakers, productivity consultants, nutrition coaches and lifestyle mentors ***
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[The Foolish Couple, (Andrew and Minna), are Canfield certified success coaches and the founders of the Foolish Academy, dedicated to helping the world develop Healthy lifestyles and Couple’s wellbeing. They are serial entrepreneurs, writers, speakers, productivity consultants, nutrition coaches and lifestyle mentors]
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