Workaholism is too often synonymized with productivity when it couldn’t be further from the truth.
We’ve grown so accustomed to idolizing and fetishizing workaholism that we regularly hear mantras like, “Always hustle” and “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” We’re willing to sacrifice our physical and mental health for the sake of “getting the job done” when, in fact, we’re sacrificing a vital part of our ability to be and stay productive.
Workaholism doesn’t care about you.
It doesn’t care about your health, your family, your friends, your wellbeing. It only cares about itself.
It doesn’t care that you’re doing something else instead of spending long overdue time with your family or friends, or getting much-needed sleep. It’s sure to make you feel guilty if you’re not working when you should be, and it’s willing to jeopardize your health and relationships for the sake of getting work done.
A decade ago, I was putting in 70–90 hours of work Monday–Friday. That didn’t include the 30–40 hours I was putting in on the weekends for ministry work. It was expected of me, and I was OK with it. I was productive, but it killed me. My health took a huge hit, and it affects me to this day.
The pace that some of us are working can make us feel productive, but it’s not designed for longevity. Our productivity is counting on us to stay healthy and happy 5, 10, 20 years from now.
Workaholism doesn’t care about your time.
Too much of our time is governed by other people and things: the expectation of needing to drop everything we’re doing to provide an immediate response; the need to have notifications enabled to feel connected.
I’m a big fan of Basecamp’s Work Can Wait feature. It allows people to set their own work notification schedule—it silences work so we and our loved ones can enjoy our downtime.
Many things designed to make us feel productive, like smartphone notifications, do just that—they make us feel productive without making us actually productive. Our days are inundated with non-vital notifications vying for our attention, and it’s important to eliminate them.
Cal Newport says in his book, Deep Work, that “The common habit of working in a state of semi-distraction is potentially devastating to your performance.”
I’ve learned that very few things in life need immediate responses.
I’ve made some important changes to my life and work values over the years. Here are some of the things I’ve done to improve them:
I avoid all nighters like the plague. I never feel good after an all-nighter—it ruins my appetite and makes me irritable. The stress it puts on my life and health isn’t worth it, and I’ve noticed that as I get older, it takes longer to recover from one.
I stop feeling guilty about going to bed early. If I’m tired, and I want to go to bed at 8:30pm, instead of feeling dumb/guilty/childish about it, I acknowledge that I need rest and my body needs to recover, so I just go to bed.
I have scheduled time with my wife and kids. I have date night with my wife just about every week, and every few date nights become family date night where we take our kids with us, too. I also try to have one-on-one dates with each kid every couple of weeks. These date nights are nothing extravagant—dinner at a local restaurant and shopping for things for the house with my wife; car wash and a slushie or ice cream run with the kids—but I intentionally schedule dedicated time with my family because spending one-on-one time with them is healthy and necessary.
I say “no,” a lot. To allow the above to happen, I have to say “no” to things. I have a full-time job during the day, and that’s my dedicated time for work, but with any freelance or side projects, I rarely say “yes” to them. If I’m considering one, I evaluate it to make sure I can reasonably fit it into my schedule without having to grossly neglect my family and health to finish the work.
My family, especially my wife, always knows about any work in the evenings. Before I’m willing to say yes to a project, I run it past my wife to let her know how it’ll affect the evenings to make sure she’s comfortable with the project and situation. I try to work on these projects after my kids go to bed, but I also let them know that there may be a couple of days daddy will be working in the evening.
In a wonderful new podcast “Hurry Slowly,” Jocely (the host) says “Always trying to figure out how to cram more and more stuff into our schedules is actually the worst way to try to be more productive.”
Doing less (work) has allowed me to invest more in non-work-related areas to fill personal, emotional, and physical voids that have been neglected and desperately need attention. As a result, I find myself invigorated and revitalized, thus more productive in the long run.
I challenge you to actively reject the culture of workaholism and start investing more into you and others.
Get sleep, and lots of it. Eat, and eat well. Spend gobs of time with your family, friends, and loved ones. Take a day off. Disconnect from emails during off hours and the weekends, and disable notifications. Stop trying to do too much at once.
Your productivity will be rewarded by it.