Are You a Workaholic and What to Do About It? [VIDEO]

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Workaholic is a compulsive disorder where people feel compelled to work.

The problem with workaholism is that the excessive work interferes with social interactions. The time for more work comes from less time spent with family and friends.

And sometimes it’s not a choice or compulsion. You have to work to make ends meet.

Working a lot and workaholic are different behaviors. Below you can read what are the signs of a workaholic?

Check out what you can do to cut down the hours you work or make the working hours more productive.


Avoid busywork

Workaholics often work on tasks that are low value activities.

The term often used is polishing the apples.

It’s the low value work that steals the time you could spend on more productive tasks. Some of these activities for office workers may be:

  • Formatting documents
  • Organizing files
  • Working with low value email
  • Surfing the web in the guise of research

For example, I may bury myself in analyzing my website traffic for a long time. I dig into various reports, getting no actionable insights out of it.

This time is wasted.

It’s easy to cut the time-wasters. Before you start, ask a simple “why” question. Why am I doing it and what’s the actionable result?

From now on I will approach my web analytics with specific questions and finish using it as soon as I find the answers.

Next step: Evaluate your work for the last week or two and find the tasks that looked like work but didn’t add much value.

workaholic quote edison

Being busy does not always mean real work. ~ Thomas A. Edison

Ineffective work habits kill productivity

Another obstacle in the workaholic’s path to results are ineffective work habits.

Some people I look up to work 30 to 50 percent fewer hours than I do. They get similar results as I do. Even if I often work longer hours, they may even outperform me.

More time but similar results hints at ineffective use of my time.

The question is not so much how many hours does a workaholic work but is it the most effective use of your time?

This blog post came about when I first discovered the fact that I may spend my time ineffectively. Look at how you spend your time and improve the performance on the important tasks. Also, improve your performance on low-value tasks like email by batching.

The best way to focus in giving yourself a specific goal for each activity and a deadline. Specific goals also help you break big projects into smaller tasks. Smaller tasks in turn help you focus and avoid procrastination.

Next step: Find one ineffective habit that you have and decide to quit doing it.

Not delegating non-essential tasks

You should only do the work that nobody else can do. Not delegating your work is the hallmark of workaholics.

Let’s say you work on a client’s project for 30 dollars per hour.

But you also have to update your website. Copying and pasting, formatting, and publishing. You are wasting your time.

If you spend your time on activities, you can delegate to others for 10 dollars per hour on Fiverr, then you lose 20 dollars every hour you are doing the low value activity.

There is some friction involved in delegating.

You have to spend time on managing and teaching the people doing the lower value work.

The psychology behind workaholism video

Calculate if delegation works for you

Let’s say that my work brings in 100 dollars per hour and I have 80 billable hours every month. Easy math shows that I can bring in 8000 dollars. Now let’s say I have 40 hours of work that is not charged to the client. Posting material on the website and updating all the social media channels.

This work pays 0 dollars per hour as we do it for our business. Now the workload is 120 hours per month, and it pays 8000/120 = 66 dollars per hour.

What would happen if I would delegate?

I still have my 80 hours that brings in 8000 dollars

Let’s say I take 15 hours to manage the delegated work.

We’ll outsource the 40 hours of work for 25 dollars per hour for 1000 dollars.

I am left with 25 hours of work for which I can get 100 per hour or 2500 dollars

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Adding it all up:

+8000 my original work

+2500 more work I can now do

-1000 the cost of outsourcing

+9500 new total

When you delegate the nonessential work, it will also get done faster. The people you delegate should be better than you at those tasks.

When I divide the 9500 with my working hours that are still 120 then the resulting number is 79 dollars per hour. Approximately 19% increase over the original number. This is 18000 dollars more per year. With these results I could take a 2 month vacation or expand the business.

Next step: Measure how you spend your time and find out what are the tasks that you could delegate.

toggle report

You can use a tool like Toggl that automatically tracks your time.

The problems with an inability to delegate tasks make you less able to be a team player.

Teamwork, you are less productive alone

Workaholics are not generally good team players.

Workaholics may take on too much work and create problems. They find it hard to trust their teammates. So, workaholics believe that others may not complete the work on the same level of quality they would.

This may even be true, but you can’t do everything yourself. You have to delegate and focus on what matters most.

Next step: Take some time and make a list about what you can delegate. After that add how you can improve teamwork with colleagues or outsourcing partners.

workaholic quote keller

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. ~ Helen Keller

Workaholism leads to procrastination

Workaholism doesn’t always mean they get the work done.

Savoring workaholics may start a few projects and keep doing them for a long period of time. Sometimes not completing the projects at all. Attention-deficit workaholics take on a ton of projects but rarely finish them.

Procrastination is a huge problem.

Not only for workaholics but for most people.

Next step: Structure your work habits to minimize the possibility of procrastination.

You can read more about how to cope with procrastination here XXXXLINK TO MY POST.

Perfectionism leads to not finishing

One of the reasons why workaholics find it hard to delegate tasks is perfectionism.

Workaholics may have an impossibly high standard for completing the work. There will always be something more to tweak and another apple to polish.

As Parkinson’s law observes, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Besides, workaholic increases the time available for the work.

The best cure for perfectionism is deadlines.

Next step: Always set deadlines. Include the client or boss in setting the deadlines as public deadlines work better.

workaholic quote brown

Perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame. Perfectionism is a form of shame. ~ Brené Brown

Fear of failure and fear of criticism

The type of workaholic who procrastinates, often does it because of the fear of failure.

As long as you are not “shipping” you can’t fail.

You are hard at work and this makes you important. They would say:

“I still have these final touches to add before it’s ready.”

Telling people that your work is not ready is also a perfect shield against criticism.

If someone evaluates your work, you can always find reasons why you still need to do something before completing the task.

It will never be perfect.

Inspect your work. Make note of the areas where you want to improve. Give yourself tight deadlines and then “ship.”

Complete the work, get feedback, improve, and move on.

As Steve Jobs put it “Real artists ship!”

Fear of failure and fear of criticism both make you work on your tasks far longer than necessary. When you complete your work, you get feedback and that will make you better.

Competition will also give you a sense of accomplishment.

Next step: Break a project into small sub-tasks and limit the time available for each task you are doing so you can barely “ship”.

workaholic quote kennedy

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. ~ Robert F. Kennedy

Low self esteem

I have struggled with low self-esteem for a bigger part of my life.

My self-esteem problem has taken the form of not appreciating the things I have done. I belittle my accomplishments.

“It’s nothing special, anyone can do it.”

Don’t sell yourself short.

Read next:  28 Ways How to Stop Wasting Time on Low-Value Activities

Sure! Anyone can do anything. However, I did it!

  • I have run marathons
  • I have built successful businesses
  • In my work I have created websites with hundreds of thousands of visitors every month
  • I have worked with the biggest brands in my country
  • I have written 500 words every day for more than 1000 days in a row
  • One time I ran 100k in less than 12 hours
  • I have taught internet marketing to thousands of entrepreneurs

And even so, sometimes I feel that I’m not good enough.

You can improve your life by giving yourself credit for the things you have done.

You are enough.

The things you do are unique, and they are a work in progress.

If you are just a beginner, then you can document your way to mastery. Documenting your journey is valuable for countless others who are in the similar position as you.

Next step: Treat yourself with respect. You are enough. Take the next step.

Anxiety and sleep problems

All the aspects of workaholics listed above make you anxious.

You can have sleep problems. The negative impact on your mental state will then lower your productivity. So, you will become even more workaholic.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is better sleep. Cut the working hours and add them to our sleeping hours. This will start a virtuous cycle:

  • More sleep.
  • Less anxiousness.
  • More productivity.
  • Better results.
Next step: Pick one area from above and start improving it. Repeat until you feel that you have overcome the problem.

The positive side of workaholics

However, is it good to be a workaholic? No. But…

Workaholism is not all bad.

Sometimes we need to put all in and push as hard as we can.

Yes, 14-hour workdays are OK. You only have to understand your limits. But to know the limits you must step over them.

Go as fast as you can. Sometimes a bit faster, then take time to recharge and give it your all again.

Next step: Always look out for the negative signs of workaholism. Take a break when you go too far over your limits and start to get negative results.

Types of workaholics

There are two main types of workaholics. One has some positive sides to it and the other is almost all negative.

First, we have a workaholic who does meaningful work, in a meaningful way. This is the person who feels that they are responsible for a lot more than they can fit in a regular working day.

From time to time most of us encounter situations where there’s a lot more on our plate than you can manage in 8 hours.

For example, when I went to college, I had a fulltime day job running a digital marketing agency. Work and study combined into days that started 6am and ended around 10pm. The only free time was occasional weekend and school breaks.

But this was temporary. I graduated and got my life back.

Now I am thinking about going back to school. The key reason for not being excited about the prospect is the memory of the last time I was in college. It was grueling.

workaholic quote jckley

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. ~ Jessica Jackley

Second type is the workaholic who does busywork. The work in this case is something that could be eliminated or delegated. Busywork is also never ending as there are an infinite number of tweaks you can apply to your project and still say, you need more time for completion.

Then there’s the endless stream of email. Barrage of requests from colleagues, clients, bosses, and others. If you don’t limit your hours, you end up working mindlessly without achieving the results you are after.

How to quit being a workaholic

If you feel a bit of a workaholic in yourself, then you must set limits. Limit how much you work.

Counter-intuitively, don’t start with limiting your working time.

Start with blocking off your down time!

  • You need 8 hours of sleep.
  • Block off the weekends.
  • Set a time in the evening after which you will not work.
  • Never squeeze more work in your calendar.

Give yourself a budget of hours you work per week and try not to exceed it.

Cover image Andrea Piacquadio

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Priit Kallas

Founder of I created FixWillpower to help you reach your goals. I have struggled my entire life to be consistent and avoid procrastination. The goal is to have a good life, do the things you love and get your results with minimum effort. FixWillpower website is about how I create motivation and productivity in my life. I write about the tools and techniques, best books, scientific research, and everything else that helps you move faster and stay on track. Minimum effort doesn’t mean slacking off. Minimum effort is about effectiveness and productivity. If there is a way to reach a goal in a shorter time or with less exertion, then you should use that. I will help you be smarter and reach goals faster. About FixWillpower