Workaholism, what it is, how to spot it and ways to overcome it if you’re struggling to break free from the shackles of your work or business life.
As the owner of a growing business and online community, I have taken a back seat from sharing my own experiences and as someone who doesn’t naturally enjoy being in the limelight it can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable to get so personal in a professional capacity. But I wanted to share some thoughts after a really inspiring talk I heard between Liana Fricker, Founder of The Inspiration Space and Jacky Power a MSc in addiction psychology counselling and also a poet.
The topic was ‘Workaholism’.
- Are you a workaholic?
- Does your work impact your mood?
- Are you running on adrenaline?
- Do you find yourself putting off social commitments to work instead?
- When you get up, is the first thing you do check your emails?
Is your work adding to the meaning of your life or is it the meaning of your life?
The irony is not lost on me that I’m sat in the study writing this at 8pm on a Thursday evening while my partner winds down in the lounge. That said, this conversation really hit home and so I felt compelled to share my thoughts and learnings from it in case anyone else reading this can perhaps relate and will find it beneficial in some way.
After the last year in lockdown terms like ‘overworking’, ‘work/life balance’ and ‘burnout’ have become buzzwords we throw around to acknowledge our disapproval of the “always on” culture we find ourselves operating in today. And I agree, burnout shouldn’t be a badge of honour but for many it’s become ‘part of the job’ of being a business owner which sadly many of us have experienced and are *still* experiencing despite us knowing so much more about how and why this happens, as well as ways we can avoid it.
It’s almost as if these terms have lost their meaning in a way. What even is ‘overworking’ these days? They say we’re ‘living at work rather’ than ‘working from home’ so what does that mean for our mental health and wellbeing?
I have suffered burnout, overwhelm, anxiety and panic attacks, imposter syndrome and depression. All of which I have experienced in the last 12 months.
This is not normal and should never be normalised.
Whether it’s building a business that isn’t yet off the ground or perhaps you’re scaling a successful business which requires the majority of your time and energy, there are ways to establish healthy boundaries to avoid burnout and overworking because let’s face it, if you’re burnt out, you’re no good to anyone!
So, if you could relate to any of the questions above (at the top of this article), you *may* be a workaholic. The good news? You’ve acknowledged it, you have the awareness which is the first step to making positive change.
So, what next?
- Take an honest look at yourself. How much time are you spending on work related activities? Is it eating into your ‘downtime’? If so, by how much? Where can you start to reduce this, freeing you up more time to take part in more nourishing activities?
2. Lay some ground rules and leave your phone in another room so when you wake up you can commit to having a shower and eating breakfast before looking at your phone.
3. Journal every day and make a note of how you’re feeling, what your mood is like, what you want to do that day and then reflect on how that day went for you. Look at things like your physical and mental health, your relationships, how is your work impacting these areas of your life?
4. Can you sit down and just be for 10 minutes? If not, try and work up to that point. Mediate, practice mindfulness, take a long walk, do something for you which doesn’t require you to look at a screen. You may even find some of your best ideas come to you during this time.
5. Prioritise your work tasks. If you prioritise you can ask yourself “what matters to me most?” “Where can I get the most return rather than spreading myself so thinly?” Focus on these so you can end each day being proud of the work you have done, knowing there is always tomorrow to complete the rest.
6. Focus and your ‘why’. Ask yourself “what is my why?” rather than focusing on the bells and whistles and trying to be everywhere, focus on where you will have the most impact. Keep things simple.
7. If you find all of the above too challenging then Jacky suggests trying the 12 step recovery programme which is the spiritual foundation for personal recovery from the effects of addiction.
It’s important to recognise that our capacity is limited so factoring in time for self-care and downtime is crucial.
Are you attaching your work to your identity?
So many people’s identities become inextricably absorbed and linked to their jobs. Perilous because career paths or businesses by their very nature alter and change, and when your identity or self-worth is enmeshed with your career, your very existence can be thrown into question as your career encounters the inevitable twists and turns of the work journey.
A healthy distinction between who we are (our personal values, family, friends, hobbies, etc), and what we do (our corporate image, list of products/services) means we are more able to preserve, value and protect those things which differentiate us from the complexities of our work life. So how can we do this?
We are all in pursuit of meaningful work but with that said, our work should add meaning to our lives, not be the meaning of our lives. In order to create this distinction it’s important to take time out to decompress, recharge the batteries and clear your mind. Don’t forget some of the best ideas will come to you during a walk, your morning shower or simply while you’re daydreaming, so give yourself that time to think creatively.
Listen to a podcast, read a book, call a friend, you’ll find the more you do these things, the easier and more enjoyable they become and the better you will perform at work because you’ve given yourself the time to recharge and clear your head.
One of the biggest regrets elderly people have on their deathbeds is not spending more time with their loved ones when they were around, I believe the other is not living a more fulfilled life! So it’s up to you to define what this looks like so that you can look back and be proud of the work you did, the love you shared and the relationships you nurtured.
Does this resonate with you? Any thoughts, comments or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment below.
About your author
Lara Sheldrake is a business mentor, consultant and Founder at Found & Flourish. Lara writes and speaks on the topics of entrepreneurship, motherhood and social media for business. She also hosts the Bossing It podcast, aimed at empowering the next generation of female founders in the UK.
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