Is Your Work Getting in the Way of Your Life?

Despite improving living standards and wages, there is a growing phenomenon of people becoming addicted to working. The workaholic becomes obsessed with work leaving little time and energy for anything else in life. To rely on work for all aspects of life is to live an unbalanced life.

If you feel work is dominating your life, these are a few suggestions for creating a better balance. However, the first thing we often need to do is to acknowledge the prominence that work has gained in our life; if we are not careful, we can be in denial about how much work has come to dominate our lives.

Are you A Workaholic?

Take a moment to consider the following questions:

  • Is your first thought on waking about work?
  • Is your last thought before sleeping about work?
  • Does work take priority over everything else?
  • Is your social life based around going out with your office colleagues to talk about work?
  • Do you take work home with you at the weekend?
  • Would you struggle to enjoy a 3 week holiday away from work?
  • Is your greatest aim in life to get a promotion and the respect of your work colleagues?

If you find yourself answering yes to many of these questions, you would probably meet most criteria of being a workaholic and you should consider creating a better balance between life and work. These are a few steps to breaking your attachment to work.

Know the Limits of Work

With many jobs it is always possible to find more to do. However, it is vital that you are able to stop working at the end of the work day. If you get paid from 9-6pm why should you be spending another 2 hours in the evening thinking about work problems?

At the end of the day make a firm decision to stop even thinking about work; don’t take work home, and avoid checking work email in the evening. Even if there is a problem with work, feel that worrying about it will not help in any way. Unless you make a conscious decision to switch off from work, it is possible for the office to dominate your life even at weekends and in the evening.

Working More Decreases Efficiency

A workaholic is someone who spends excessive amounts of time and energy on work. However, spending a lot of time doesn’t equate to higher productivity and efficiency. Rather than just spending more time, think of the most effective ways to work; try and increase your productivity and efficiency rather than just the number of hours. If you are really focused you can finish the essential tasks in a short time, then the optional extras can be left for another day. Prioritize what is important and do this well. Also, be aware there are many tasks that are completely non essential; don’t create work for the sake of it.

Write Down a List of 7 Things You Enjoy Doing

To break your attachment to work decide on other hobbies / activities that you would like to do. Write down a list of things that you would like to do now or in the future. After you have made a list, resolve to do them in the evening and at weekends. Feel that these activities are just as important, if not more important, than work. By having something else to aim for and get involved in, it will force you to make time away from work. If you can’t think of 7 things you enjoy doing apart from work, this is a serious problem and you should seek to create some genuine interests.


There is More to Life Than High Income

Another motivation for working excessive hours is the desire to secure a higher income. There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed in your career or grow your own business, but it shouldn’t be the only goal in life. If you allow your career and financial security to dominate your thoughts and life, you will be ultimately poorer for it. If you have money but no time to spend it, you have the wrong balance. Put a value on leisure time, don’t just measure the success of your life through your bank balance and prospects of promotion.

Work on Improving Other Aspects of Your Life

Sometimes people become absorbed in their work because they feel a sense of inadequacy and failure about other areas of their life. If this applies to you, take time to work on these aspects of your life. Don’t hope that by ignoring your family and relationships they will improve. Your social life and personal relationships will never be improved through spending every waking hour at work. It will also be helpful to make time for spending time with your family and meeting friends. When you do spend time with your family, avoid the temptation to start talking about your work; it is really very boring.

Consider Alternatives to Your Current Job

Nothing in life is secure. Sometimes we can devote ourselves to a job only to later be made redundant. Just because you make sacrifices for your company doesn’t mean that they will make sacrifices for you. It is always good to have contingency plans; what would you do if your current job ended? By thinking of these issues, you come to realize that your work is not the sole purpose of your life.

Don’t Feel Indispensable

Sometimes we become a workaholic because we feel our presence and work is indispensable and that there is no one else who could do it. If this is the case try to delegate more work; give others more responsibility. Don’t expect perfection from others; the company won’t collapse just because they don’t do it exactly like you. Generally, it is an unhealthy attitude to feel we are indispensable; it probably isn’t true and becomes a justification for working too hard.

Tejvan Pettinger is an economics teacher in Oxford and enjoys writing on issues of self improvement. He writes for a blog called Sri Chinmoy Inspiration. If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy: Effective ways to get out of a Negative Mindset. Photos by Tim Caynes and Peter Bowers.

23 Responses to Is Your Work Getting in the Way of Your Life?

  1. Damien says:

    What about working inefficient long hours *because* you feel dispensable?

  2. elizabethb says:

    Wow this message is timely. I am divorcing my husband and, while there are many reasons for this, his obsession with work was a significant problem. To the extent that even reading this article caused me pain because it brought back all the memories.

    When it gets to the stage where you won’t do things that your partner asks of you but you will do the same things when work asks them of you…stop and think very very carefully about where you are. And yes, you are paid by a company to work for them but that does not mean that they own your entire day.

  3. Matt says:

    Being a workoholic is hard to break if you don’t really notice it. Last year I poured my heart and soul into the company I was working for and the net result was that I ended up more stressed than the president of the company. I’m now into my third week off the job and only now is my brain starting to get back to normal. If you had asked me in August or September if I would be able to take three weeks off I would probably have given you a strange look.

    Its a very odd phenomenon that in some ways society drives us into if we’re going to fit the ‘successful’ mold.

  4. Peter says:

    I can certainly see how that would influence someone to work longer hours. But when you think about it, do you really want to be working in such a position that makes you feel that way? I’m not saying it is easy to change jobs/ career, but it could be worth looking into other options…

  5. Peter says:

    Personally, family is my #1 priority. That is not to say my career is not important (quite the opposite), but it comes behind family in terms of importance and any employer I work for must understand that. I don’t think is a coincidence that my current manager, who I get along with extremely well, is also a family man.

  6. Peter says:

    For some reason, I find it hard to pour my heart and soul into a company I work for, but don’t own. I think I am best suited to being self-employed, and that is where I see myself being in 2-3 years time.

  7. John Wesley says:

    I think the biggest shame is people that work long hours just for show. They might not get any more done than they could in 8 hours, but the company culture dictates that appearances are more important than real productivity.

  8. Mike says:

    I work as a freelance writer and editor, and I once heard another self-employed person say, “The best thing about working for yourself is that you get to pick which 70 hours you work each week.” Although I try to work fewer hours than that, I would rather work 50-60 hours per week at home than 40 hours per week in an office. Of course, if I ever figure out how to have a “4 Hour Workweek” and make enough to survive, I’d take that too!

  9. Isn’t this assuming that the work you do is something you don’t particularly enjoy? What about the lucky few who are actually passionate about their careers/callings and enjoy the job process? Would the rules still apply or do they need some tweaking?

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  11. Tevjan:

    If I had read this article during the early to mid 1990’s, I would have said I was one of those workaholics.

    I was a Wall Street stockbroker working for a major financial services firm at the time and I was literally living in my office. Always the first to arrive and almost always the last to leave. I worked 7 days a week. Of course, my social life was practically nil at the time but I didn’t seem to mind because I was making a truckload of money.

    But this behavior ultimately led to my spiritual revelation when I realized there was much more to life than making money. Consequently, I left and pursued my dreams of becoming a motivational speaker, author and pilot.

    Thanks for this very important article – you are reminding thousands of people to wake up and smell the coffee. I loved in particular the section where you ask people to think about what they want to do. This is one of my favorite subjects when I give a motivational talk. It makes people STOP and THINK.

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  13. Erik says:

    Great article. I think that becoming a workaholic actually puts you on a path of less success and less income in the long-term. You’ll be more burnt out and you’ll be a slave to your employer. They’ll take advantage of you because they know you’ll drop everything for them.

    Sometimes, we need to step away from our work to refocus ourselves, achieve our life goals, and gain the energy to produce a quality work product.

  14. Thanks for comments. I think it was a good point by Eugene that it is important whether you enjoy your job. I think it is important to try and get value from any job, even if it is 9-5. But, as Stephen says best thing is to keep asking yourself – what do I want out of life? What is important?

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  17. Steve Mills says:

    Great article. I don’t think that anyone gets to the end of their life and wishes that they had gone to work more. I have started in the last year taking stock of my life and seeing work as what it is, the part of the day that pays the bills and enables me to enjoy time with my family and friends the way that I want.

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  22. Thanks dear for mentioned line, really is too great.
    Is Your Work Getting in the Way of Your Life?

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