Maybe you feel overworked and wish you had normal work hours. Or maybe someone you love works all the time. One of you just may be a workaholic.
As the saying goes, no one on his or her deathbed ever says, "I wish I had spent more time at the office."
Jack has an impeccable ethic when it comes to his job, but this has come at a cost. If someone you know has an office pattern like Jack's, that person needs to read my interview with Jack.
Can you describe your workaholic behavior?
Work was always on my mind. I thought constantly of my work (meetings to conduct, reports to prepare, deliverables to be produced, benchmarks to be met, etc) — even when I was at home, on family outings, or on vacation. Work was the last thing on my mind when I went to sleep and the first thing I thought about when I got up. "Office hours" became meaningless since I was always in early and stayed late at the office. I often worked on the weekends (either a Saturday or a Sunday) at home or in the office.
Why do you think you became a workaholic?
Primarily because I was a perfectionist and fell into the trap thinking that I was the only person who could get something done right, or at least up to the standard I thought was expected. The more praise I received, the more this unhealthy way of thinking was reinforced. Then when I reached a managerial level with greater responsibilities, instead of delegating work to my staff (which was expected of me), I kept a lot of the load to myself. This led to the false belief that I was indispensable, but which was to a certain extent true since I kept a lot of responsibilities on my own shoulders instead of passing them on to my staff. Another reason was that I was in a very competitive, demanding and driven work environment, and I felt that I had to do more in order to keep up with others or get ahead (which in hindsight was not true).
What exactly made you realize you were addicted to work?
My very perceptive spouse kept pointing out that a lot of what I was doing should have been delegated and that the amount of time I was working was just not normal. She showed me, with evidence, that my colleagues (be they superiors, peers or subordinates) were not working the hours I was. They were able to meet for breakfasts and take unscheduled days off while I never seem to be able to. I also began to realize that over the years I had been seriously neglecting my outside interests, my family and friends. I missed, for example, several of my children's birthday parties, sports events, and even graduations. I had enjoyed good health most of my life but the years of non-stop work began to take a toll — migraines and high-blood pressure.
Once you realized this, what did you do to overcome overworking?
I changed my work environment by transferring to another organization and to a position which I thought would have less responsibility and be less demanding. This turned out not to be the case, and my work hours did not diminish. Then I began to accept the fact that perhaps it wasn't the job or the people around me that were at the root of the problem but that it was of my own making. For the remaining years until I retired, I made a conscious, but sadly not very successful, effort to cut back.
How might one recognize this sooner?
I wish I had an answer to this.
Talk about the challenge of retirement for a workaholic.
After I retired, I did not stop working. Initially, I continued to work as a "consultant' on short-term contracts which allowed me to have a lot of free time and to wean myself from the work environment. After about three years, I stopped working, i.e. being gainfully employed, completely. I had read up on problems some people face going into retirement, and was prepared psychologically to adapt to this change in life-style. My basic approach to a healthy retirement is to be engaged intellectually, physically (exercise) and socially, on a regular if not daily basis. Also importantly, I had never confused my identity with my work, position or profession. So ego-wise I have never had a problem when asked "What do you do?" to replying that I was retired and no longer gainfully employed.
What can loved ones do to break the pattern of someone who works all the time?
Do as my spouse did as described above.
See my bio for links to all my relationship posts, healthy recipes, organization articles, and more as well as to my blog Confessions of a Worrywart and to my new memoir, Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others.