My family and loved ones complain that I seem to always be “on.” It's hard to argue with them. I typically average four hours of sleep a day and work late into the night.
Being a workaholic isn’t necessarily a bad thing -- if you know how to balance work with pleasure. If you love your work, your “workaholism” likely brings you feelings of fulfillment. And if you hate your job, you probably feel like quitting every morning when your alarm wakes you.
Workaholism impacts mind, body and general productivity. Research has found a link between workaholism and reduced physical and mental well-being. These studies stress the need to be cautious with ourselves and further emphasize the importance of taking periodic breaks. Workaholism also has been cited as a contributor to unhappy marriages and high divorce rates.
In the case of a true workaholic, though, taking a break and making an effective break are two different things. It's knowing not only when but how to create some distance between you and your job responsibilities.
Here are a few tips from one workaholic to all those who struggle to step away every now and then. You owe it to yourself and your family to spice up your vacations. In the process, you'll increase your all-around productivity.
Pause everything that suggests work.
This can be the tallest order for workaholic. So many times, vacations mean simply switching from manual to automatic gear. You might not be physically present at the office, but you continue to supervise everything and constantly check your email inboxes.
If you're truly going to take a break, you need to take time off from everything. Set up auto reply for your email account. Keep only an emergency phone number activated and leave it with the few people who are likely to be apprised of any worst-case-scenario emergencies that might need your personal attention. Stay away from people with whom you have only a work relationship.
There are two reasons I advocate such radical measures:
- In my experience, work always will go on -- whether you're absent for a week or even a month.
Like any machine, the human body and mind wear out and become less effective with overuse and occasionally need to power down so they can run more smoothly after rebooting.
Treat your mind.
The more you stress your mind by constantly giving it heavy tasks, the less the output and quality of the work it can perform. The mind is the seat of innovation and creativity. It's what helps you make decisions and take initiative.
When I take a break, I make sure to freshen up my time with unique activities. Much has been written about how to relax the mind, but I find traveling and embarking on new experiences works wonders. A visit to a new place or getting settled in a scenic location is just the thing to help me think. Big Bear Lake and the Grand Canyon top my bucket list.
Maybe you require a more radical trip -- think bungee jumping or a gorilla-watching safari -- to de-clog your mind and get your creative juices flowing. Whatever your needs, strive to awe yourself (within your budget, of course). You'll be amazed how razor-sharp your mind becomes after this kind of kick-start.
It's absolutely necessary to use some of your time to think on the nature and purpose of your work, outside of the pressure of doing the work itself. This can be a restorative therapy to improve the way you approach your business and your career.
Treat your body.
If you regard your business as a very urgent mission, think of your body as your workhorse or your equipment. Don't ignore the subtler signs along the way that warn of imminent rundown. Pay attention to the little backaches, the strain you carry in your shoulders or the rash that flares up with stress.
Often times I find that even when I'm on break, I still get no more than my four hours of nightly rest. Poor quality of sleep, persistent aches, weight gain, high blood pressure, anxiety, poor eyesight, sleep apnea, depression and increased risk of heart attack and diabetes all are common in those who suffer from acute workaholism.
You should take care of your body all the time, but your break periods provide an ideal opportunity to thoroughly check your body systems. Chances are you aren't eating as healthy as you should, either. Small adjustments can create big benefits. For instance, some swear by drinking alkaline water to help maintain body balance, reduce oxidative stress and fight diabetes mellitus. For others, medical cannabis effectively relieves sleep apnea and improves quality of sleep.
Catch up with your life.
My attitude about work means I miss out on other things that matter in life. I'm far from alone. Research supports the idea that over time, my workaholism reasonably will increase my income at the expense of reducing the time I have to spend enjoying that financial success.
Your break is the perfect time is the time to visit with friends, spend significant time with your partner, make those calls you keep postponing or reconnect with old acquaintances.
A wise man once said, “Acquisition in isolation will always lead to frustration." You have the power to use your break from work in a way that shows people you care about them. Often, your time is all want -- and all they need to know they matter to you.