Answer by Maria Matarelli, Founder & President at Formula Ink:
Are You A Workaholic?
Sometimes we have to ask ourselves... are we working to live, or living to work?
It's no secret that in order to get ahead in business, you need to work hard. In a society full of qualified grads, entrepreneurs, and industry moguls, the competition is fierce and the professional demands are constantly increasing. Romance, families, and travel aspirations are often bumped further down our timelines in favor of chasing a successful career, logging overtime hours, and trying to edge our way to the front of the pack.
But when does it become too much? How do we know if we've crossed the line from career-hungry and willing to work, to being a workaholic?
I'm speaking from experience when I say this: you know you're a workaholic when working starts to take over your life. When the hours spent in the office start bleeding far beyond the standard 9 to 5 day and 40-hour weeks. When deliverables start taking precedent over things like friends, family, your social life or your health--not just the short term, but the long term.
It might sound funny, but being a workaholic is a serious thing. Think about it. With the technology we have today, we're always connected. We are always plugged-in and within reach of our co-workers, managers, and clients with the resounding ping of a new email or text on our phone, laptop, watch, or tablet. We have a Wi-Fi connection everywhere. We have an endless rotation of apps at our fingertips that make it easier to work at any time, from anywhere in the world.
We have to acknowledge that there is a cost to this kind of convenience. This ability to work anywhere blurs the line between work and home, or work and leisure.
Are vacations really vacations anymore? Or are you expected to continuously check your smartphone while away 'just in case' something urgent comes up. Or are you expected to work while you're away because you can bring your laptop with you? Are you constantly working overtime, nights, or weekends? Are you working when you don't necessarily need to, but you feel compelled to?
The capacity to become a workaholic is more real than ever.
If you think you might have this tendency, ask yourself: why am I working so much? Is it a requirement of my job? Am I expected to work this much? Is this a byproduct of unreasonable deadlines and a high-stress environment? Or, am I simply taking on more work than I need to, or not managing time effectively?
If the answers to these questions point externally towards the job environment and the demands it brings into your life, ask yourself whether this type of work environment or job is what you truly want. Will this career path be conducive to a full, balanced life?
Luckily, there are ways to live a balanced life while still getting things done. This topic rings so true to me that I wrote an entire book about it, called Workaholic?. I firmly believe that you can still have a successful career without allowing it to take over your life.
1. Set Boundaries
Several years ago, I was volunteering and consulting while acting as the president of my Agile Group and the VP of Operations for the Project Management Institute. Then, I had a friend ask me to join the leadership team for another not-for-profit organization--another free volunteer role above and beyond my day job.
This was the point when I had to take a step back and realize, "Wait a minute, no. I can't do that. I have bills to pay and obligations to meet. I can't just work for free for everybody."
One of my favorite quotes is, "What you allow, is what will continue." If you allow work to take over more of your life, it will. And when people see that you're willing to go above and beyond (professionally or otherwise), they may try to take advantage of that.
I needed to start setting boundaries.
To establish and maintain a healthy work-life balance, you need to be the one to draw the line and learn how to say no without feeling guilty about it. Remember, saying "no" to things doesn't mean you can't still get involved in other ways. There are always opportunities to connect with people without doing free work, or going above and beyond in a professional sense.
Find that divide and respect it.
2. Value Balance
Remember to separate your identity from your work.
You are more than what you accomplish professionally. It's important to find value in more than just your desire to work. Find people, hobbies, and activities that align with your passions. Then (and this is the hardest thing), schedule these activities and make them a regular part of your calendar each week.
It's okay to take some time for yourself and the things that you truly enjoy.
With everything on your to-do list, you need to ask yourself how you feel about each and every item. And if something is on your priority list you don't feel strongly about, can you remove it? If so, what would you want to add back in that's not related to work?
3. Schedule Time for Yourself
It may sound ridiculous, but actively blocking off time in your daily or weekly calendar for yourself is incredibly important. You have to get in the habit of treating your own health and personal wellbeing with the same regard you would treat any other meeting in your agenda. Whether this is time spent with family or friends, meditating, going to the gym, reading, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you schedule that time for yourself, and you honor it.
You can't cancel meetings with yourself.
In the beginning, when you first start scheduling this time for yourself, you may struggle with it or feel guilty that you should be doing something more productive. Most workaholics do. They're used to putting everyone else before themselves. But I promise you, just like anything else, being a workaholic is nothing more than a habit that has gotten out of control.
You can change it.