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In fairness, if you are an entrepreneur, there may be nurture or nature reasons – in addition to your love for your business – that you may be a workaholic.

In fairness, if you are an entrepreneur, there may be nurture or nature reasons – in addition to your love for your business – that you may be a workaholic.

In fairness, I am “semi-retired” and you will still find me at my desk at silly hours.  I live and breathe work.  Always have done, always will do.

Is it healthy?  I know my health would have benefited from more self-care.  On the other hand, not doing what you love to do is pretty crazy too.   It is all about that cliched word “balance”.

There are many reasons we might be “over-working”. 

The good workaholic reasons:

You may be working all times of day and night because you are devoting the rest of your time to your kids.   Single parents especially have to do this to get businesses off the ground – at least in the short term.

And talking about getting businesses off the ground, again in the short-term, you may be juggling your business around another job.  Again, perfectly reasonable in the short term.

You love working on your business more than you enjoy anything else.  Borderline unhealthy.  You need to work at finding some other things to love in life.  All eggs in same basket and all that.

Personality type reasons

There is now plenty of research that establishes entrepreneurs have a higher propensity to mental health challenges. If you are interested in reading a bit more on this, I explain in more detail here. It can help hugely to understand what makes you prone to being a workaholic.

One reason for this is that a high proportion have suffered some sort of childhood trauma:  perhaps parental divorce or loss, or parental financial crisis.  During these traumas, the child has adjusted by determining to be strong and power through.  And they do.  Which makes them ambitious and hugely capable entrepreneurs.  

It also means they don’t accept any weakness on their own part, mental or physical.  That they stick to their programme regardless.  And we also know that keeping going way past what is sensible is asking for physical or mental disaster.

The bad reasons for being a workaholic

The worst reason is, of course, that you feel your business needs it. 

There don’t feel there are enough hours in the day.   You are constantly firefighting.  Perhaps you employ people but they are performing poorly, off sick, always leaving and you are picking up the slack.

Or there is just you and too much to do.

You may well be worried and stressed about how the business is going to survive.  There is cash flow, that unhappy customer, the government, the next pandemic – the list just goes on and on   Working as hard as you possibly can (and some more) may be the only thing that makes you feel you have some control.

You are not alone in this

Last year’s Paypal report showed that 44% of small business owners regularly work weekends and another 36% go six months or more before taking time off.  

The Report named a variety of common worries.  52% of people worried about the future and a third were alone and isolated.  42% felt impacted by global events, which, of course, adds to that feeling of lack of control.  Three in five owners are finding running their business stressful.   Not healthy.

Steps you can take

While stopping a workaholic entrepreneur working, makes stopping a high-speed express train look simple, there are some ways you can introduce a better balance and less physical and mental damage.

So what helps a workaholic?

Planning:    There is a massive difference between working at anything and everything for the sake of working to organized time. 

If you have to break into weekend or evening times to work, allocating two hours for completing that project you needed doing or four hours to re-write your company structure means you are working to target and there is no messy overspill.  When the job is done, within the allocated time, it is time off.

To break the habit of being a workaholic, you need to break the habit of hitting your desk to do anything or everything.

Work time: Family time:  One thing all of us suffer from when working at home is people assuming you are free to be interrupted.  They can drop in for a quick coffee, send you a text, or give you a ring for a gossip – because you are there as normal.   So it is with out of hours working.

Your family and friends need to understand that if you are working (be it at 8 at night or on a Sunday) that is a no-go contact area.  Equally, it works the other way round:  when you are off, your team or customers cannot get hold of you. 

Otherwise, they will walk all over you.  I remember having one customer call me while the epidural was still working after a cesarean to discuss their order and another saying it wasn’t their problem when I told them I had to get off the phone to go to my father’s funeral.  

Don’t rely on others to put those boundaries in place.  And make them reinforced steel.

Sleep:  Workaholic is one thing – sleepless zombie is another.  This has to be one of the workaholics’ blackest sins and ultimate stupidities.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t work as efficiently.  So everything takes you longer.  So you have to work longer, harder.  It is a completely self-abusive cycle.

If you are, by nature, a poor sleeper, invest in help.  Whatever it takes from sleep candles to sleep clinics, get it sorted.  A good night’s sleep is gold dust.

Breaks:  Just as interruptions lose about 20 minutes in concentration, lack of breaks are also damaging.   Take five or ten minutes every hour or hour and a half at most to move around, stretch the body, and hydrate.  It’s the same principle as a power nap – the workaholics’ mini-rejuvenation.

Once a workaholic, always a workaholic

Like any addiction, you are probably stuck with being a workaholic, but progress is made one day at a time.

Map out your plan of structures, boundaries, good practices, and start today.   Check-in weekly, see how you have done, and repeat and improve.   The tendency to be a workaholic may still be there, but hopefully, you will be more productive and all-round healthier.