Help, I’m Always Thinking About Work
I’m asking myself, “Who are you if you aren’t working?”
Work brings value and meaning to life. But what if there’s more?
I’m mildly workaholic according to an assessment on CNN.
The assessment has three categories:
- Highly workaholic.
- Mildly workaholic.
- Not a workaholic.
Frankly, if I can’t be HIGHLY workaholic, I’m disappointed. Be the best at everything or don’t do it. That’s why – if I can’t win – I don’t play.
Workaholics burnout, struggle with relationships, and neglect loved ones.
When I’m not working, I’m preparing to work.
Schedule fun. Last year my wife and I were intentional about fun. It was new for us. We went to concerts and shows.
Schedule fun or fun won’t get done. Planning fun is captivating.
Anticipating fun is often the funnest part of fun.
If you’re always thinking about work:
#1. Respect relationships.
- Practice being with people when you’re with people. Don’t answer your phone when you’re with family or friends.
- Express interest in people AS people.
- Build a few honest relationships.
#2. Cultivate spiritual health.
- I’m a Christian. Faith helps, but some forms of Christianity feed a performance mentality.
- Choose what you want life to be about.
- Focus your attention and energy on things that matter most.
#3. Protect physical health.
You might be a workaholic if all you think about is work while you workout.
The world will go on when you’re gone. Someone else will do the work you’re doing.
When you imagine the world without you, it confronts self-absorption and self-importance.
It’s been a rough few weeks for many of you. Maybe it’s time for permission to stop working for a few hours.
Do something, other than work, that helps you forget work.
What helps you forget work?
7 Ways to Cure Your Workaholism (Huffington)
You Don’t Have to Work Long Hours to Be a Workaholic (Fast Company)
It is so hard to forget work right now. I’m in healthcare! The news, social media, texts and messages – all filled with Coronavirus news!
What helps me forget?
Meditation & prayer
Calling/ZOOMing friends & family
Cooking & Baking
Be well & Stay safe.
We are all in this together.
Hats off to you gapinzon. Thanks for serving.
I still notice that a few minutes of personal conversation help leaders center themselves.
Turn your phone off, or better yet, leave it at home, when you’re with friends and family. Sometimes just knowing someone is trying to get a hold of you is distraction enough. It’s amazing how freeing it is when your phone is not in your pocket.
Thanks Robb. I’m going to try that.
Sometimes we joke about our inability to drive somewhere without your phone. What if something happens???
How the heck did we survive before cell phones. I can’t believe I got in a car.
Cultivating spiritual health has helped me to put work in context and be present with my wife, our three young children, our friends and my colleagues, who were the first to notice and comment. Most of my life I conflated prayer with telling God. He listened so well I thought I’d try listening back and life’s never been the same. Thanks Dan.
Thanks David. There’s power in being still. 🙂
Love this David. Speak Lord for your servant is listening.
Take it from a slow recovering high workaholic
(who has the designer and planner so ingrained in his persona that no one [least of all myself] can parse it out):
Drop it; just stop, enough is enough.
Work is invariably “making” something – you can only put so much time in a day, energy in the moment into creating something (actually being effective and not destructive).
Labor is what is required for “sustenance” – whether it’s making a meal, doing laundry or cleaning house/home, do it for yourself … because it’s where you live, don’t let others do it/live for you (actually having it be meaningful rather than taken for granted).
Leisure is what is required for “perspective” – balancing your own concern with those of others, dropping your expectations so that you can be open to the expections of others – whether a hobby, reading (poetry, fiction, etc. ilo technical “how to,” etc.), arts …
I’ve repeated the mistake of (successfully) integrating all three, and the result is that you become unbearable to others (unintended, but consequential).
Give each the time and space (the respect) in each day that it deserves – work for building a life/career, labor for sustaining a life/home/family, and non-agenda leisure for perspective/connecting with society at large.
“Being” there is better than “getting” there … trust me.
Thanks Rurbane. I appreciate your observations. My big takeaway concerns the power of leisure. Brilliant!! Stay well.
In my 30’s I spent time as a patient in a Nursing Home to recover from injuries. One thing still haunts me … men crying and angry. What I learned is: If you can’t answer today “Who are you if you aren’t working?”, it only gets harder when you retire and get older. I try to answer that now so I will know the answer when I no longer work.
Wow! Thanks Duane. I know people who don’t know what life means after their careers are over. Love your advice.
We ALL needed to hear this…
Pastors need to hear this as much or more than anyone.
Burnout among our shepherds is so high. As a former pastor, I know that many of those wounds are self-inflicted. Too many times the need to “prove” to the church that we are actually working, or the competitive nature of religion with the church across town or the church on the internet drives pastors into a workaholic lifestyle. It’s just wrong.
God created Sabbath for a reason. He didn’t need it. But we DO.
If someone reading this thinks their pastors need to hear it, I pray they will forward this article to them… post it on Facebook and tag them. Most of all, as parishioners, take the lead in holding them accountable to “sabbath” for themselves and their families.
Thanks Page. The thing that kicks me in the pants is “self-inflicted.” When live the life of a workaholic, i find the person responsible when I look in the mirror.
On Fun, I think there is a saying “HOPE FOR JOY IS MORE ENJOYED THAN JOY ITSELF” so planning for joy/fun is indeed good..
Thanks for this timely post, Dan! I work for a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization with teams in Iraq and Colombia right now and I’m finding myself hardly being able to relax. At the same time, there’s so much stuff that is suddenly out of my control that it’s really forcing me to just trust in God. After all, if He’s really in control, than what do we have to worry about, right? But I’m so used to being in control that it’s hard to let go…
Thanks Mike. Your comment brings to mind that work apart from leisure is a short-term strategy. If we really want to make a difference then rest is part of the formula.
One of the things that COVID-19 is doing is reminding me of the things I can control and the things I can’t.
Workaholism is an opiate. It calms our fears. If we worked less, what would we be confronted with? Beautiful insights and valuable gifts await when we pause, explore and discover. A gentle reminder: We are human “beings” not human “doings.” And, since we have the time, why not read or reread “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. It could help us get over our “win or don’t play” mentality AND realize our greatest potential.
Kim … you touch on a truth here …
the physically addictive aspect of work …
usually driven by adrenalin,
which induces a state of mind (mindset?)
driven by the
“fierce urgency of NOW!”
Which in turn subsumes one’s curiousity to “explore and discover” things unrelated to that urgency, but often important to those we love and care for
(a primary signal/indicator of the addiction aspect).
Thx for the thought.
Hi, Rurbane. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Personally, I don’t think of urgency as a mindset. Indeed, urgencies are sometimes real and we must deal with them immediately. Often, however, a sense of urgency is just that, a sense. It’s all in our mind. Mistaking that for a hard and fast truth frequently results in misplaced use of our time and energy. We’re busy but not productive. This may offer a soothing escape from what matters most … and scares us most. The mindset, as I see it, is the desire to distinguish between what feels urgent and what is important and consciously choose our response. Doing so enables us to realize our purpose and our potential and have a greater impact on others. It becomes less about us and our ego and more about serving others. Like anything worthwhile, however, it’s much easier written than done!
I was speaking primarily as one addicted …
Acting NOW is (potentially) disastrous,
if only driven by an intuitive sense of “fierce urgency,”
We need to balance what is required …
v. what is useful (constructive),
and what is necessary (effective).
Addicts will confuse the three, with all their heart and soul. Let’s be careful out there.
Dan this may be my favorite post of yours yet. I struggle immensely with this problem and it sometimes really does feel like you are just eternally preparing for work or worrying about it, when you could literally be on the other side of the world. Luckily would definitely think I fall on more of the Not to Mild workaholic spectrum, but I consistently worry about anything and everything associated with my job even when I am not there. And, like you discuss, this accelerates me to burnouts and limits the ability to hold, develop, or create relationships with people. I really like the idea of humbling yourself though and essentially giving yourself permission to simply do something that can completely take your mind of reality for a few hours every once in a while. Also, removing yourself from your world and understanding that self-importance is definitely critical is confronting this problem, and honestly, it is kind of liberating in a way. It does not release one from accountability entirely, but can at least mitigate the self-imposed tension work can cause.
I have also found, both from experience and from reflection after reading your post, that worrying extensively about a work related issue, project, deadline, or what have you usually causes me to perform worse or make more errors when working with the source of work-based stress. It makes sense, people generally make more errors when they are nervous, and I am certainly no exception. But it is also kind of ironic how stressing about something will inevitably cause you to screw it up even more. But the questions you ask yourself is something I will absolutely be keeping in mind now, “Who am I when I’m NOT working?” and I think the answer to that question can really reveal a lot about who you are and what you currently prioritize.
Work is basic for our prosperity and necessary to our personality. Making most of the work during office hours is acceptable while working overtime during personal time or skipping most of the social time just being workaholic makes life miserable.
Most of us have a habit of working while on holiday or while at home. Excessive work and burden of the working more than usual result in issues in personal life. Knowing that work-life is still creating major problems in your personal life, we should keep a balance between work life and personal life. Taking necessary breaks, vacations, spending more time with the family, planned strategies to work and setting boundaries to develop a balance between work and life. Doing other activities such as exercise, games, meeting up with friends, making time for hobbies to keep the mind fresh. Avoiding online communication related to work during breaktime, keep checking an email, or other office portals online when in personal time and relaxing rather than doing work continuously. More work gives us more burden or creates issues related to mental as well as physical health. Maintaining both physical and mental health is mandatory to make yourself more productive and avoiding unnecessary burdens. Planning self-care to keep yourself engaged and more refreshing. Scheduling time for working and giving out time for yourself, and the family. One solo walk during a daytime, peaceful session of yoga, or just meditation with a focus on your physical as well as mental health.
This topic resonates with me, as anyone who knows me knows I work in the ICU as a nurse. It is such a big part of my life that it does define part of me, but it is not the only part of me. Often after working a shift, I will spend time researching a new disease, medication, etc. that I can’t seem to get off my mind or obsessively want to learn more about. I will talk with coworkers to de-brief but it often leads to more stress about work and definitely is not productive time away from work.
One of my favorite ways to forget work is to watch a movie, or more importantly, read a book. I try to stay away from topics that hit too close to home as far as nursing goes, and enjoy reading historical fiction or science fiction. This allows me to escape into a different universe, or reality, and is often one of the only ways I have found to replace my thoughts on nursing with something that I feel just as passionate about. Physical exercise is also a good way to decompress. Meditation is a goal, but I still find it incredibly hard to quiet my mind.
I think to some extent, we are all workaholics in this country. That’s because unlike other countries we live in a capitalist society, which places our value as individuals and as a nation on our productivity. The need to compete for survival as opposed to being granted human rights regardless of our ability to contribute to the economy, has prioritized working and earning an income above everything else in our lives. Rather than find passion in our work or take joy in the jobs we have, we have to put our sole focus into gaining capital so we can afford to buy food, pay rent, and get medical care–all of which we as human beings should be inherently granted. Instead, individuals who can’t contribute to the economy or can’t contribute enough to make a living wage are viewed as lazy, free-loaders, or not worthy of assistance. This is hugely problematic for a wide range of reasons, including the fact that many individuals cannot work to the same extent as others due to disabilities, or not knowing the language. Additionally, many women and people of color are often socio-economically disadvantaged and without the same resources or opportunities as their male or white counterparts. So, essentially the system in which we currently live is rigged in favor of a select population, one which further perpetuates an agenda which only they can meet. Furthermore, the vast majority of us who cannot meet this unattainable expectation are made to believe that we are never doing enough, never working enough. Workaholism and capitalism are inextricably linked and solving one cannot be done without solving the other. Perhaps the impetus should be on re-evaluating the way in which our society is run as opposed to re-evaluating ourselves to determine why we so often feel inadequate, overworked, and unable to give our time or energy to anything other than our work.
I don’t always think about work, but I think about it a lot more often than when I’m actually working. I enjoy my job, and I like the people I work with. And it’s easy for me to spend too much time dwelling on work if I’m not diligent in keeping the boundaries I’ve set. That’s been more challenging during the pandemic than it was when I worked mostly at my office, so I had to realign my boundaries with work to keep myself from feeling like all I do is work.
I decided to make a schedule. It’s flexible, but I set expectations during calls that might require someone to call me back. I tell them that if I don’t answer, I’ll call them back on the following workday. Another thing that really helped was turning off email notifications on my phone. I enjoy the ease of answering quick messages on my phone, but it’s a lot easier to leave them alone until I’m working when there’s no red circle looming.
I also quiet my mind each morning. I start by reading the Bible and journaling, etc., and that helps me set the tone for my day. It also keeps what’s most important to me front and center, which makes it easier to keep work in its proper place.
Thanks Mr.Dan for the post
Help I am always thinking about work will classify me as a mild workaholic. However, when you add online classes from a Master’s program, the scheduling of a teenager and all that a wife juggles throughout the day, I likely fall into the high workaholic stage. Not to mention working remotely since the pandemic and hoping that your patients and family members are not affected by this Covid-19 virus..
I agree we need to learn how to schedule fun into our day. That sounds strange, scheduling fun! But we need to learn how to take care of ourselves. So scheduling some down time that will allow your mind to do absolutely nothing sounds good right about now.
Your statement is correct, “the world will go on when you’re gone, someone else will do the work you’re doing” . Everyone does not learn this, this has to be taught through life lessons. Hurricane Katrina taught me that I had to retrain my mindset that I was a mother first and a career woman second.
Enjoy life each day and learn that your job/career is only a part of your life. The pandemic should teach us this. Life is short!
There’s so much to life outside of work! Even when you absolutely love what you do, even if what you do is an extension of your soul, even if you met the love of your life through work, there are several things you simply cannot get from work. It’s very American to base life on what they do. I read an interesting article about work life balance and how it differs across cultures and countries. One particular interviewee suggested that if you met someone and they casually asked, “what do you do?” you knew they were American.
A great escape from the world that encompasses your work is not only forming meaningful relationships, but meaningful relationships with people far outside anything relevant to what you do for work. Even in quarantine, you can tap different corners of society and connect with people you may have thought to have little to nothing in common with. Surround yourself with academics? Befriend artists. Only speak with economists? Talk to a sociologist or anthropologist. Absorb different world views and you’ll more organically be able to step outside of your work mind into more of an Earthbound human existence. I consider what I do very important, for the betterment of others and in terms of my personal values. Even still, I am separate from my work in that it doesn’t feed my need for connection and to express those other parts of myself. I love to paint, I’m athletic, I like to continue to learn about things outside my job.
You know that thing you always said you wanted to try to learn? Do it. There is little to no usefulness to learning Polish here in Southern Louisiana, but I am because it’s part of my heritage and I’ve always said I would. French, too, just for kicks. Might pick up the guitar again since school’s over. None of those things have to do with my job, they just make me happy.
So, instead, I ask you: Outside of your work universe, what does, or could, make you happy? What would make you proud of yourself if you took the leap? What otherwise useless and quirky skill would make your heart dance a little?