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Seven ways to overcome workaholism


Workaholism isn’t only connected to the actions that we take, but also the way that we think about, and attach meaning to, our work and careers.

Most of us grow up with our career goals being the carrot on the stick that we're always chasing.

We are encouraged to get the best grades, so we can go to the best schools, get the best degrees, get the best careers… but why?

Because we are persuaded into thinking that our value comes from the job title or the amount on our pay slip.

We believe that if we work really hard, we will have an amazing life. If we contribute to society, we are ‘good’ people. If we perform well, others will respect and like us.

These beliefs can drive us to exhaustion, constantly sacrificing the joy and love of today for the promise of ‘more’ in the future. But I’m pleased to say there is a new working paradigm rising and challenging that detrimental and ageing belief: working smarter, not harder.

Here’s how you can shift your thinking and behaviour so you can start to break down the workaholic mindset and create the space and time to let yourself thrive and flourish in every area of your life.

tips to help you put your workaholism mind at ease

Define what is valuable to you

In case you didn’t know it… you are incredibly precious and valuable just for being YOU. Every single one of us gets to decide how we wish to create and define value in our life. Yes, in today’s world, work and money are necessary to have our needs met. However, even though most of us do it unconsciously, attaching our value to our work is a choice.

That’s why I want you to consider what you find valuable outside of your work. Write this down and come back to it anytime you feel like your job is taking over. Always look for ways you can nurture these values into your regular lifestyle to give you that “bigger picture” so you don’t fall into the hole of the “career-only” mindset.

Accept that you'll be going against the tide

Here’s the thing: we live in a workaholic world. This means that temptations and pressure to work, work, work will always surround us to some degree. There will always be some task or additional thing you could squeeze in with your workload. Accepting that you cannot, should not, and do not have to do it all will help you on this path.

You are just one human, with human limitations, and that is MORE than OK. There will always be another email to read or send. There will always be more projects you could do; more books on the shelf to read; more people to support; more training to attend; and more actions than you could ever physically or emotionally create space for. This is a fact of life.

Decide when you will (and won't) engage

For many of us, our email inboxes are overflowing with messages, and an empty inbox at the end of the day is simply not feasible. No big deal – the quality of your work or the ability to do your job is definitely not measured by the quantity of emails you are able to reply to. Remember, just because someone gets in touch, you are not always obliged to reply or engage. A great way to reduce any guilt or stress around this is to set up a colour-coding system of your contacts that indicates to you the speed in which to reply to certain emails.

When you’ve had a long day, you can close your laptop feeling totally satisfied if you’ve responded to your priority 1 contacts and leave priority 2-3 contacts for another time. Also, be clear on what isn’t in your remit. For example, if you’re a senior leader, promotional emails are likely better passed to your PA or administrative support team.

Bring your values into your goals

Create annual, monthly, weekly and daily goals that allow you to achieve what you need to at work without sacrificing your relationships, personal life, and well-being. This means selecting and prioritising tasks that create clear, significant value to the success of your team or business.

Allow yourself to remember this balance with a daily intention. Try working with a ‘To-Deliver’ list instead of a ‘To-Do’ list. This will encourage you to shift your thinking to focus on results instead of processes. You can then discover the quickest, most impactful way to deliver these outcomes. Go through your weekly calendar and invitations with this ‘delivery’ mindset. Cancel or decline any task where your presence or attention wouldn’t significantly influence the outcome.

Remain focused by flexible

Seeing work as a jungle to navigate or a smooth river to row down, instead of a static staircase to climb, can reduce the build-up of stress or resistance and allow you to flow with what the day brings.

The aim here is to set your daily intentions, but understand that more pressing situations may stop you from achieving them. If things start to pile up, take a look at your workload and see where you could stop or delegate the least important tasks.

Schedule in your private life

When you’re stuck in a work-based mentality, what you don’t schedule in likely won’t happen. Put your gym classes in your calendar and treat them as if they were work commitments. Book a table for dinner with your friends or your loved one. Register for that paragliding course. Join a painting class.

Sign up for that evening salsa event. Set a regular session with your running buddy. Schedule in some ‘me time’ to simply keep a part of your day free of tasks. Whatever it is that you dream of doing, stop waiting for a space to appear and make the time to do it. Time isn’t something that we have: it’s something that we make.

Learn how to delegate and flex your trust muslces!

Your fingerprints don’t need to be on everything to make it a success. Oftentimes, a workaholic mindset can feed and nurture a controlling one, resulting in you stretching yourself too thin and consequently diluting your impact.

I know your standards are high, but learning how to delegate or inspire others to take the lead will, in the long run, reduce your stress and support a healthier work-life balance.

Whenever you feel resistant to creating more balance or maintaining the boundaries you’ve decided to set, remember: this is your life. Don’t let someone else’s workaholic mindset dictate your own values. Saying ‘No’ allows you to say ‘Yes’ to other opportunities that excite you.