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Signs that you are a workaholic

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

With the 24-hour accessibility we now have to our work, what can we do to switch off and avoid developing workaholic habits that eat into our precious lives?

I’ve been doing The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron for the last few months, looking at different blocks to creativity and joy. One of the most insidious blocks that I’ve uncovered is workaholism. It’s unlike other addictions such as drugs and alcohol because it is almost seen as a badge of honour in our society.

I often hear friends say: I’m so busy, I’m too busy, I can’t... I’m working. Often what they’re too busy for is actually something that would enhance their life. I have used work to avoid doing things that I know are good for me such as going for a swim or walk during the day. There’s always an excuse for one more thing to do related to work. The thing is, there will always be one more thing to do.

Workaholism is harder to pin down than alcoholism or drug addiction because it’s an addiction to a behaviour rather than to a substance. For alcoholics, it is more black and white, either you stop overdrinking or you die. For workaholism it is less straightforward, it's not either you stop overworking or you die. Although overwork can lead to burnout and maybe your soul does slowly die but it's more "acceptable".

In Julia Cameron’s book, she has the following Workaholism Quiz. Try it to see if you identify with any of these statements:

  • I work outside office hours: seldom, often, never?

  • I cancel dates with loved ones to do more work: seldom, often, never?

  • I postpone outings until the deadline is over: seldom, often, never?

  • I take work with me on weekends: seldom, often, never?

  • I take work with me on vacations: seldom, often, never?

  • I take vacations: seldom, often, never?

  • My intimates complain I always work: seldom, often, never?

  • I try to do two things at once: seldom, often, never?

  • I allow myself free time between projects: seldom, often, never?

  • I allow myself to achieve closure on tasks: seldom, often never?

  • I procrastinate in finishing up the last loose ends: seldom, often, never?

  • I set out to do one job and start on three more at the same time: seldom, often, never?

  • I work in the evenings during family time: seldom, often, never?

  • I allow calls to interrupt- and lengthen my work day: seldom, often, never?

  • I prioritise my day to include an hour of creative work/play: seldom, often, never?

  • I place my creative dreams before my work: seldom, often, never?

  • I fall with others' plans and fill my free time with their agendas: seldom, often, never?

  • I allow myself downtime to do nothing: seldom, often, never?

  • I use the word deadline to describe and rationalize my workload: seldom, often, never?

  • Going somewhere, even to dinner, with my work phone/devices is something I do: often, seldom, never?

Cameron maintains that workaholism is a block (not a building block) to creativity and joy. She says, “Work abuse creates in our artist a Cinderella Complex. We are always dreaming of the ball and always experiencing the ball and chain”.

So what can we do to overcome this treadmill of workaholism?

Here are 10 ideas that you could do in one hour to break a workaholism habit:

  1. Walk along the river, through a park rather than take public transport

  2. Prepare a picnic lunch and eat it outside

  3. Visit a nearby gallery or a museum

  4. Go for a swim in the outdoor swimming spaces

  5. Hire a bike and explore your local area

  6. Find a quiet place to read a fiction book

  7. Meet up with friends in a new rooftop bar/cafe/restaurant

  8. Visit a local tourist attraction

  9. Take in a comedy show

  10. Get a massage

Over to you. What will you do to go to the ball?

What boundaries do you need to put in place to make this happen? Is it finishing work at 6 pm? Or taking an hour for lunch? Or turning off your phone at 7 pm?

“When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines the kind of men we are.” Cesar Chavez

Are you having trouble with work-life balance and need some support to put some boundaries around your work? Then contact me for a consultation to get more of a handle on work and play.


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