Working to live or Living to Work ?
I am writing this article because every week I am counselling people who have a parent, a partner, a friend who has workaholic tendencies. I also regularly meet compulsive workers whose lives are becoming unmanageable and who are suffering from varying degrees of burnout. The following 20 questions from workaholics anonymous are good place to start if you are wondering if you are workaholic.
20 Questions from Workaholics Anonymous 12 step program.
- Are you more drawn to your work or activity than close relationships, rest, etc.?
- Are there times when you are motivated and push through tasks when you don’t even want to and other times when you procrastinate and avoid them when you would prefer to get things done?
- Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
- Are you more comfortable talking about your work than other topics?
- Do you pull all-nighters?
- Do you resent your work or the people at your workplace for imposing so many pressures on you?
- Do you avoid intimacy with others and/or yourself?
- Do you resist rest when tired and use stimulants to stay awake longer?
- Do you take on extra work or volunteer commitments because you are concerned that things won't otherwise get done?
- Do you regularly underestimate how long something will take and then rush to complete it?
- Do you immerse yourself in activities to change how you feel or avoid grief, anxiety, and shame?
- Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?
- Are you afraid that if you don't work hard all the time, you will lose your job or be a failure?
- Do you fear success, failure, criticism, burnout, financial insecurity, or not having enough time?
- Do you try to multitask to get more done?
- Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing what you're doing in order to do something else?
- Have your long hours caused injury to your health or relationships?
- Do you think about work or other tasks while driving, conversing, falling asleep, or sleeping?
- Do you feel agitated when you are idle and/or hopeless that you'll ever find balance?
- Do you feel like a slave to your email, texts, or other technology?
Entering a "Deprivation state"
A deprivation state is the state we can reach when approaching exhaustion and can be easily remembered with this acronym H.A.L.T.
Hungry....for a substance fix (fast food, alcohol, drugs) after all you tell yourself, you deserve it.
Angry... About your sacrifices, the unfairness, the frustration, lack of recognition.
Lonely.... Your friends and family are increasingly making plans without you as you are either still working or cancel due to tiredness.
Tired....Increasingly exhausted but too wired to get good sleep.
A deprivation state can be a trigger for may other addictive and compulsive behaviours.
Reasons for Work
What are you working for ? Are you working toward your goal ? or for the expectations of others ? How much is enough ?
What is your fear of working less ? Your career will collapse ? Your business will fail ? A fear that your whole life could collapse ? You just feel so damned anxious doing nothing ?
What problems or issues are you avoiding by working insane hours ? Addressing Unhappy relationships with partner / kids? Addressing fitness, finding new activities, breaking out of your shell socially ?
Some workplace cultures, especially in law or financial services, tend to be particularly toxic in that the company norm can to work 55 to 80 hour weeks when salaried hours are 40. The person who goes home first is seen as a "slacker" while the last to leave (at 945pm) is the "hero". Partners in the company are enriched by all these extra billing hours while the loyal worker increasingly has no life outside of work, failed relationships and his kids are strangers. These dog eat dog workplaces are often, intensely competitive, addictive. Staff pretend to cope while enabling a sick system, drug use is rife and as in all addictive systems reality is denied and manipulated. The workaholic enables the dysfunctional system.
A way out
Try cutting back with some tight boundaries around start time, finish time and breaks.
Practice saying "no". If you are given 6 tasks and have time for 4 only ask your manager to prioritise the tasks.
Delegate. If you are in a position to delegate just do it!
Address what you are avoiding outside of work. See a counsellor.
Experiment with new activities outside of work.
Maybe find a new employer who values work / life balance.
Expect to stay anxious for a time as your new habits bed in.