3 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Workaholic

Illustration of workaholic working at night.

When it comes to your career, you are committed and passionate. Your job is fulfilling. In many ways it has become a part of your identity. But is there a downside to your dedication? Are you a workaholic?

Hard work, we are told, pays off. But in a culture that tends to overvalue workaholism (often passing it off as routine devotion), those long hours could throw off your delicate work-life balance. 

The workaholic is becoming less anonymous

As any bona fide workaholic can attest, sometimes your job (and the need to do it anywhere, anytime) just sneaks up on you. While you once only “imbibed” when appropriate — like during normal business hours — now you find yourself staying late to reply to emails when no one is around.

Soon after, you begin bringing work home so you can catch up after hours. And to top it all off, your most sacred free time — your weekends — are becoming less about you and more about work. You’re not alone: More than three-quarters (77 percent) of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said they send work-related emails at least one weekend per month, with 15 percent reporting they do it every weekend.

And while you never imagined it would happen, you’re now skipping vacations, too.

It’s time for an intervention.

The first step is admitting you’re a workaholic

Consistently putting in long hours and making a habit of working on the weekend is not good for the creative soul. In fact, too much work can be unhealthy, unproductive and unrewarding. Everyone needs to strike the right work-life balance to be happy — for one’s sanity and to tend to other key life functions (like sleeping, eating right, exercising and attending to the important people in your life). Not to mention burnout, which can seriously hinder creativity.

3 tips to avoid becoming a workaholic

If achieving a healthier work-life balance is something you’re after, consider these three tips for keeping your workweek under control.

  1. Time management. Time is one of your most important resources. We’re paid for it (and often by it), so it makes sense to spend it wisely. This might mean declining non-essential meetings or dedicating time on your calendar to accomplishing one task (like writing a blog post). Also keep opportunity costs in mind; if you’re spending hours on a less urgent project, you’re missing out on attending to those that could be more impactful. And while a quick procrastination break every now and then never hurt anyone, it’s important to set end goals to keep your productivity in check. 
  2. Delegation. Learning how to delegate is the yin to time management’s yang. In other words, you will have more time if you know how to delegate tasks as appropriate. To start, know what requires your expertise and what doesn’t. Perhaps a project manager is the better person to run a meeting or keep a project rolling. Understand your team’s strengths and make good use of them. Finally, be honest about what you can take on. If you feel overwhelmed, you likely won’t be able to produce your best work. Be willing to say no sometimes and ask for help.
  3. Clear boundaries. Business fluctuates, and there will no doubt be times when you have to stay late, work a Saturday or return an email in the wee hours. But it’s unwise to make this a habit. Remember why you’re working in the first place: to support yourself or your family, and to feel fulfilled, empowered or professionally satisfied. If you don’t want to find yourself in the “live to work” group, create clear boundaries. This may mean leaving by 6:00 each evening, no matter what, or blocking time to work out during your lunch break. It may also mean not checking work email on your personal phone or at all on the weekends.

Make working work for you

Working is not all bad; it’s what most of us have to do to eat, live and stay intellectually challenged. It is vital. And even if you were to eliminate the notion of financial dependence, work in its own right can be enjoyable and provide a sense of pride. When you love what you do, you want to do it, and you want to do it well. That is why it’s so important to find a balance.

Looking for more on this topic? Read our post on time management tips now!