What Does it Really Mean to be a “Workaholic”?

In the age of opportunity, it seems the most difficult thing to do is take time to rest. Working hard and working long can move things forward—but is it worth the cost in the end?

Hi, my name is John, and I’m a workaholic.

I’d been sober for a while until I recently relapsed for at least five weeks.

At the time, I couldn’t see it (nor would I listen to what my wife encouraged me to see).

I was so focused on the prize, that I forgot which race I really wanted to run.

“Workaholic” Defined

Google defines Workaholic as “a person who compulsively works hard and long hours.

I’d like to take that definition a little further, with a real look at the cost:

Workaholic /ˌwərkəˈhôlik/, n: Someone who chooses the immediate gratification of building a personal empire over the gradual, lasting reward of investing in relationships, spirituality, and personal growth.

Every time you choose work, you are choosing not to spend time on something (or with someone) else.

What does your calendar say about what matters most in your life?

The Regrets of the Dying

After spending much of her life working hard as a banking manager, musician, and bartender, Bronnie Ware got the opportunity to work as a caretaker for people who were very close to death.

Spending time with people who knew their life was ending gave Bronnie a profound perspective on life.

She discovered that people consistently brought up regrets as they lay on their deathbed.

In those regrets, Bronnie found five common themes:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

In Bronnie’s book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, she further explores the impact of these regrets on living life.

Looking back, people consistently wish that they’d spent more time working on themselves and spending time with those that they loved most.

Did you notice regret number two? Dying people wish that they had not worked so hard.

[clickToTweet tweet=”People miss intimacy far more than the taste of success.” quote=”People miss intimacy far more than the taste of success.”]

A Better Path

Knowing this, how should you respond?

I’m pretty sure the wrong response would be to quit your job, never work again, and spend your life holed up with your family & friends.

That said, it’s crucial to find a balance that allows you to work while still spending time with your loved ones and taking good care of yourself.

Case in point:

There are many ways to get closer to work-life balance, but one of my favorite methods is to divide your time and focus by using daily themes.

How Daily Themes Can Help

Looking over your task list and calendar, you should be able to group your responsibilities into a small number of different categories (in my case, right now that's seven).

Next, you need to assign each theme to a specific day of the week (I have two on Monday, so I can keep my Saturdays free).

Every time I’ve updated my daily themes, the result has been a much more well-balanced life.

Each day's task list becomes focused around a specific daily theme, and when you finish those tasks you're done with that category for the week.

If something comes up that's not part of your day's daily theme, make a note and come back once the relevant theme comes around.

Daily Themes make it possible to work less, accomplish enough, and spend more time with those who matter most.

If you’ve ever been called a workaholic (or worse—called yourself one, with any hint of pride), you need boundaries on when and how you do your work.

It's your responsibility to remember where your time truly matters most.

Question: What can you change about your schedule to reflect your true priorities in life?

4 thoughts on “What Does it Really Mean to be a “Workaholic”?

  1. I think when you’re connecting your passion to your purpose then it doesn’t feel like work any more. Also, if you can do that in community and in partnership with those you are closest with…then life becomes your work becomes your passion becomes your play. This is what I aim for.

    1. It’s a fine balance, Justin. I absolutely love what I do, but if all day long I did nothing but email marketing, writing blog posts, and course development I would miss out on a huge piece of life. So I believe it’s important to love what you do, but also to create boundaries around for family, relaxation, and spiritual/personal growth.

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