Workaholism is running rampant in today’s modern world. The onslaught of technology right at our finger tips makes it difficult for people to “unplug” from work. The solution is not to work harder but to work smarter to find the perfect work-life balance. For starters, are you a workaholic or just a hard worker?
An article from Huffington Post along with research from the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen in Norway pinpointed seven symptoms that could be used to define a workaholic:
- 1. You consistently think of ways to make more time for work.
- 2. You spend more time working that what you originally planned on.
- 3. You work to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression.
- 4. You have been told to cut down on work.
- 5. You become stressed if you’re not allowed to work.
- 6. You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
- 7. You work so much that it has negatively affected your health.
The research concluded that about 10 percent of people are workaholics.
We have personally seen evidence of workaholics in very transactional groups like call centers where people are bombarded with short-term metrics, and, surprisingly, in many executives at various organizations.
We asked these people one simple question: “Is it actually possible for you to work harder?” The majority responded by saying: “No, it’s not possible.” Those who do try to work harder are the ones who become workaholics.
We followed up the first question by asking the participants what they can do as an alternative to working harder. Their answer is simple – work smarter. When asked what is required to work smarter, they say taking the time to think. There you have it, the fundamental conflict – to work harder you need to work smarter which means taking time away from work.
To work smarter, each person needs to take the time to be a reflective learner, meaning everyone in the organization needs to allocate time for thinking. This is a relatively simple idea. Set aside time to think. Unfortunately, it’s contrary to the industrial ethic that says meaningful improvement will come from working more hours, more intensely.
Here is some perspective: We never hear complaints from the star performers about feeling overworked. Granted, part of this is due to the fact that they love their work. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the old adage: “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” So one of the reasons star performers don’t feel overworked is that they enjoy their work so much.
A second reason, star performers never feel overworked is that they are very focused on working smarter. Since the stars are incredibly intolerant of inefficiency in their desire to achieve their greater purpose, they always set aside time for the reflection needed to work smarter. From reflection, the star performers maintain a better work-life balance, while increasing their own productivity and the organization’s overall performance.
This is the paradox of performance improvement. Those who think transformationally work smarter and outperform those who work harder and transactionally on the transactional metrics.
If you want to avoid becoming a workaholic and instead transform into a top performer, change your mental model from “work harder” to “work smarter.” Give yourself permission to take time to think. You owe it to yourself and your organization.