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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

Lessons from a Recovering Workaholic

Who is considered a recovering workaholic? A recovering workaholic is someone that is recovering from working too much. You’re likely a recovering workaholic if you still struggle to prioritize life outside of work, but are committed to finding the balance. Trust me, I know what it’s like to be a workaholic. It can be a dangerous place to find yourself. A workaholic is someone who doesn’t have the ability to say no and so they take on project after project… after project without really considering how it affects their life or the lives of those around them. For a workaholic, work tends to give meaning to their life and although they love what they do, they might be prioritizing it too much. The problem with this is, lots of long hours focused on your business means you're sacrificing just about everything else in your life. Your marriage, relationships, and family may start to feel neglected or you may start to neglect yourself and your personal needs. “Workaholism” almost always leads to burnout. And once you’ve hit burnout, you only have one way to go from there. Recovery. I hope that you don’t run out of gas and are able to change lanes before it’s too late. I am hoping that my experiences and lessons learned can help you prioritize yourself more and create more time to do the things you love. Hi, I’m Jenn and I am a recovering workaholic I never knew I was a workaholic until about a year ago. I was trying to find an email from around the holidays and as I was searching through my inbox, I saw how many emails I sent out. From Thanksgiving, to Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, Christmas Day, and the weeks between Christmas and New Years, there was no break in activity. I noticed that not only was I sending emails, I was also working on projects, delivering reports, and even starting new analyses! It was so crazy to see this! And then it hit me. All this time could have been spent with my family! Realizing this also made me remember all the times I had spent working in the car, squeezing in emails on the way to go see my parents or in-laws, and it started to dawn on me… I like to work. I mean, I really like to work. But then I thought, “Is working this much contributing to my overall success or is it actually negatively affecting my health and life?” I started thinking about my husband and my animals. I knew my husband wanted to spend more time together, my animals always want me to play more, and I often had friends in town that wanted to do things that I wasn't available for, because I had to work. I saw so clearly how I had chosen work over everything else and it was affecting my marriage and my friendships. I knew what I had to do. I decided I had to work less and relax more. I had to choose my family and friends over hours at my desk. I had to find the balance.

Six lessons I learned from being a workaholic

Finding the balance in your life is often easier said than done. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen overnight. Big lifestyle changes take time and tend to happen gradually. Sometimes the hardest part is just deciding that you want to make a change. Once you’ve done that, the road to recovery begins. Here are five lessons I learned that may help you take a step back from work: 1. Say no more often.

I know this can sound scary to a workaholic, trust me, but saying no to tedious projects that take more time than they are actually worth just means more hours at your desk and less hours doing things you love. So next time you are offered a project, stop and really think about it. Are the hours you will spend on this project a better investment of your time than spending it on other activities? 2. Get up early!

Deciding to start my day earlier has reaped amazing rewards. When I wake up earlier, I am able to focus on myself and my needs as the first priority. By the time my husband wakes up, I’ve taken care of the things I need to take care of and can be more present and attentive with him. It gives me a head start on things that snowballs into greater productivity and I’m less likely to “fall behind” as the day goes on. 3. Finish work ahead of time.

This one is huge, especially around the holidays. Don’t be scared to bump up your client deadlines, do extra work upfront to save you time in the long run, or spend a dedicated weekend (just one, not all of them) getting ahead. If you can get your work done ahead of time, you are setting your future self up for more leisure and play time.

Pro tip: Work with your clients on deadlines. For example, instead of a due date on December 31st, make the due date sooner (like Dec 15th) so that you turn in everything early and it’s a win-win for you and your client!

Your time is valuable, so be mindful of it. Are you spending an hour doing something that someone else could easily do? Whatever you choose to spend your time on, make sure it is one of the more valuable things you could be doing with it. It is just as important to create “to-dos” around personal fulfillment as it is work tasks. Maybe getting outside to get fresh air is a better investment of your time than obsessing over perfecting a report. 5. Strategize for the new year early.

The end of the year is a great time for reflection so you know what action to take in the next year. But this doesn’t mean it all has to happen in December. If you can set aside time in October or November to strategize and prioritize what needs to happen for the year to come, you’ll have less to do when the holidays roll around. A solid plan done early can set your year ahead up to accommodate things like vacation, time off, and personal days. What do you want to accomplish next year? What are the goals? What are the milestones? What is your plan for making it all happen? And how can you set yourself and your team up for achieving great things with more efficiency and less effort?

Living in Recovery

Now that I’m a recovering workaholic, I feel a lot better. I feel a lot less stressed and a lot happier. Time is precious. And I know I need to spend more time with my family and less time writing a report, sending emails, being on calls, or planning meetings. When I looked at my life over the course of my career, I was really proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished and I knew a shift needed to be made. Some people find meaning in life through work and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for me anymore. I want to be more present. More present in things outside of work. I like to work, I really do, but I know I need to find more balance in my life. And so now as a recovering workaholic, it is part of my daily habit to wake up every day and consciously choose to spend more time with family and friends. I am more mindful of everybody else around me and how my time spent working affects them. Family is really important to me and I want to make sure that I am showing up for them and not just at my computer all the time. This year, I’ve even stopped being one of those people that always works on a plane and actually have been bringing a fun book with me! If you’d like to connect more on this topic, reach out to me and let’s talk!


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