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Workaholics are addicted to activity; super achievers are committed to results, Charles Garfield

What is a workaholic? It is a person who is addicted to work. More specifically, work has become the centre of their life and they are ready to sacrifice everything for their jobs. They work extremely long hours and have a near devotion to work. It impacts their family relationship and health.

Work to live, don't live to work.

Work to live, don't live to work.

The classic profile of a workaholic is of a man, in his thirties or forties, belonging to the upper middle class, who is highly competitive, very ambitious, individualistic, and perfectionist.

How can we notice it?

Here are some ideas:

Constant concern or even obsession for academic achievement or job performance, over-commitment, and involvement. They work hard and long hours, more than 45 hours a week. They are always the last ones to leave the office and they go the extra mile to get things done.

They are in constant communication and always available with their bosses or clients via-email and smartphones. They allow work to take top priority over everything else, including their wifes and children. They never stop thinking about their jobs, clients, and deadlines, about how performance could be measured and improved, about getting more clients and new disruptive products and services, etc.

For workaholics, all the eggs of self-esteem are in the basket of work, Judith M Bardwick

For workaholics, all the eggs of self-esteem are in the basket of work, Judith M Bardwick

They often sacrifice sleep and holidays for their jobs. They struggle to rest and relax, and regularly take their work home with them. Funny enough, they become tired, exhausted, and their performance declines over time. They also suffer serious health problems, such as burnouts, anxiety, stress, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, disabling headaches and back pain, hypertension, sleep deprivation, and cancer.

They are willing to take on any extra tasks but struggle to delegate projects and tasks. They are always on a tight schedule with an insane workload. They are highly competitive because success and self-realization are measured by a single criteria: their professional career. They neglect their family, friends, and health, so many get divorced and laid off early on, and find themselves alone, empty, sad, cut off from everyone they care about, and in economic difficulties.

Note that, in most cases, the first ones to recognize the problem are his/her relatives. They realize that workaholics are unable to reconcile work and family life.

Are you a workaholic? What can you do about it?

  1. Recognize that you have a serious problem.
  2. Identify and solve underlying problems, for example, are you looking to fill your time because you feel empty without meaning or purpose to your life? Do you suffer from anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem? Do you have unsatisfactory romantic relationships?
  3. Understand that life is much more than a job. You are a multidimensional being. It is essential for a happy and fulfilling life to create meaningful friendships and relationships, enjoy life with leisure, exercise, and outdoor activities, good food, and the company of your loved ones and friends, search for a a spiritual and fulfilling life, practice some hobbies, help others and try to make a difference, do some charitable work, etc.
  4. Learn to balance your work and personal life, set limits on the number of hours and attention you devote to your job. Disconnect and unplug for a more mindful living and immerse yourself in something that brings you joy, rest, and relaxation.
  5. Learn to prioritise tasks, not every single task is urgent and important.
  6. Learn to rest, relax, and recover.
  7. Listen to your family and friends, and ask for help. In some cases you may need to request the services of professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, etc.
  8. Cut down your to-do list. Clear your agenda. Eliminate or delegate unimportant tasks and replace them with value-added ones. Set a working pace that is suitable for your body and mind. Don’t work under so much pressure. It is normal to experience some stress, specially with milestones, delivery dates, or unexpected meetings. However, if you want to work efficiently and successfully on the long run, avoid putting yourself under too much pressure, at least, not all the time.
  9. Set time apart for your family and friends. Disconnect and unplug when you are with them, forget about your job and enjoy their company. Avoid calling, taking calls, messaging or emailing after work.
  10. Change your lifestyle: eat a rich and balanced diet, sleep more, avoid alcohol, caffeine and drugs, take some holidays, practice exercise and outdoor activities, get out of yourself, learn relaxation techniques…
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