June 2 was National Leave the Office Early Day, but it passed without much fanfare. Why? There was no office to leave, because the pandemic has made telework a reality for millions of people. Pushing back a chair from your dining room table doesn’t feel the same as physically leaving an office. With little divide between your personal and professional lives, it can be all too easy to forgo a work and home balance.
Because of COVID-19, many high achievers and entrepreneurs have fallen into the trap of staying tethered to their companies 24/7. Unfortunately, workaholism messes with your brain and makes your job harder. Even if you love what you do, you start to experience psychological responses when you pressure yourself to perform without breaks. Your amygdala fires off “flight or fight” signals as you become increasingly stressed.
No one wants to feel like they’re constantly on edge. It’s critical to develop a healthy work-life balance and evaluate workaholism causes and effects. I recently facilitated an online executive strategic planning session. During the Zoom call, the young son of one of the executives came in to give his mom a hug. It was a touching moment that highlighted the importance of not making work the end-all, be-all.
Can You Be Addicted to Work?
Of course, admitting that you compulsively work and need help overcoming workaholism isn’t easy. We get a thrill from succeeding professionally, and we don’t want to think that it’s addictive. I talked to an executive I know who is also a veteran struggling with PTSD. His therapist said addiction generally manifested in three ways: drug addiction, alcoholism, and workaholism. Initially, it seemed strange to me to list workaholism alongside the other two devastating problems, but addiction is about altering your mood. You can use a substance, or you can use an experience like gambling, shopping, or working.
Perfectionists, escapists, and status-driven people get a kick from logging ridiculous hours. They don’t care that they’re losing sleep, flirting with depression, or losing touch with loved ones. They’re too invested in the boost they get from all-nighters. It’s easy to see why workaholic leaders are often the last ones to ask, “Am I addicted to work?”
In all honesty, part of the reason my first marriage eroded was that I became addicted to growing my business instead of nurturing an important relationship. Divorce is often a permanent outcome of being addicted to work. Now, I try to be more self-aware. Sometimes I have to put in long hours, but I know how important it is to connect with my family and separate myself from my job.
How to Cure Workaholism
Are you beginning to see a connection between your working habits and the effects of workaholism? Here are three key strategies you can use to promote a healthier work-life balance:
1. Identify the reason why you overwork.
You’ll never learn how to cure workaholism if you don’t get to the root of why you overwork. Ask yourself, “Why do I work 60-hour weeks?” If you are hiding from someone or something, then have conversations with friends, family, kids, or spouses to set expectations and establish boundaries. At one point, I overworked because I felt tremendous pressure to provide for my family, but I alienated them in the process. The way to minimize the effects of workaholism on the family is to identify your addiction’s core so you can face it head-on.
2. Play more.
Overcoming workaholismis impossible if work is the only thing that makes you happy. Find a pastime that gives you the same buzz as making a checklist item disappear. Explore anything and everything that pulls you away from work: weekly volleyball games at your local YMCA, New York Times best-sellers, or DIY home projects. And don’t forget to spend time with your significant other, family, and friends. When you have something else to look forward to, it’ll be easier to ditch work for a while.
3. Delegate effectively.
Just because something needs to be done doesn’t mean that you have to do it. Encourage more collaboration and delegate more responsibilities. For example, I used to spend a lot of time preparing solutions ahead of time for meetings, but then I realized that each meeting attendee also likely spent an hour prepping. Instead of leading meetings with answers, I began leading with questions (which took less time to prepare). By doing this, I emptied my plate of to-dos and shifted solution ownership to others, allowing my team members to shine.
Work and professional success feels great, but too much of anything can hurt you in the long term. Use these techniques to overcome workaholism and watch as your productivity and leadership abilities soar to new heights.