Hi. My name is Laurel and I’m a workaholic.
My problem began in college when I co-founded the campus’s first student art and travel magazine. In addition to all my regular engineering schoolwork, I was spending hours writing, photographing and laying out this new publication with my friend. We’d stay up until 6am some nights getting it ready to go to press. When I literally fell asleep taking notes in math class one day (and wrote some very strange things on in my notepad), I realized I had a problem. To this day, I have trouble not working. I can easily work from 8am in the morning to 9 or 10pm at night with only a few breaks in-between. Sometimes I wonder if I need to get more of a life.
When you love what you do, it can be difficult to create boundaries with your work or have anything resembling “work-life balance”. When your business is your only stream of income and your ass is on the line, you will do what it takes to make it all happen. Or when you work a job and are desperate to get your side business up-to-par so you can quit, you’re likely clocking in more hours than the average person. This is when becomes extremely easy for your life to slip into the “workaholic” category.
Recently, I interviewed an entrepreneur who had just celebrated 25 years in business. This was a huge milestone and I was asking her what lead to her incredible success. Words like “dedication” and “commitment” stood out to me. She described working past midnight most nights within the first years of her business and getting up at 5am to do it all over again while raising her son as a single parent. Even today, when you email her at any time (late night, weekends, etc), she will email you back within a few hours. In other words, after 25 years, it seems like she’s still a workaholic.
I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot lately. Being a self-diagnosed workaholic, I do have a tendency to work all day long and somewhat assumed this was the “norm” for entrepreneurs. On the other hand, after many years of thinking about (okay, “obsessing about” would be more accurate) my business ALL THE TIME (including when I’m awake and when I’m dreaming), I’m wondering if I’m just addicted to the stimulation of it all.
When I look towards my future and consider how I want my life and my business to be, that vision doesn’t involve me working 12 hours a day. If I was living my ideal life, I would not be working or thinking about work all the time (even though I absolutely love what I do). I always figured that I’d reach a point when I’d worked on my business enough that it’s running smoothly and I can move on to pay attention to the rest of my life. Then I wonder….When that time comes, will there be any semblance of my life left? And if I’m addicted to the stimulation, will I ever be able to stop?
Of course, discovering the right balance of work and life is different for everything. Undoubtedly, there is no “right” or “wrong” in this case. There’s nothing bad about being a workaholic unless you have other important obligations you’re ignoring. For me, I have no kids or major commitments, so my work can be top priority without consequences to anyone else. For you, it’s obviously going to be different.
Nowadays, I’m thinking about experimenting with not being a workaholic. Since I don’t think there are any detoxifying 12-step programs, I guess I’ll have to do it on my own. My plan is to envision my life EXACTLY as I want to be living it (check out Discovering Your Ideal Day) and instead of waiting for that day to come when everything aligns perfectly, I’m going to start trying to live like I want to live right now. Maybe I’ll have to wait on taking that tropical vacation, but in the meantime, I can at least shut off the computer before I put on my pajamas. That surely would be nice.