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4 Signs You May Be Addicted to Your Work – And How to Break Free

Gary Gilles is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in private practice for over 20 years. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the University ...Read More

Most of us are thankful for the opportunity to work, earn a living and make some type of contribution to our family and society as a whole. It can act as an important part of our lives However, it has become increasingly difficult to know where work starts and stops in the modern era. Some of us never feel as though we are not working.

When Do We Draw the Line?

Where is the line between being conscientious and responsible in our work and feeling a compulsive need to always be working or producing?

Here are 4 signs that you may be addicted to your work – and how you can break free from this pattern.

You have a need to stay busy: This is more than just having a full schedule. You may tend to be in perpetual motion and measure your time by how much you accomplish. You fill your daily schedule so full that you don’t have any margin in your day to think, reflect or sort out the best choices from the many options available to you. It’s not uncommon for you to experience an “adrenaline high” from having a full agenda.

Breaking free: Realize that saying “no” to certain things is a good thing and prioritize what needs to get done. Make a list of the things you feel you need to accomplish, then place a “1 next to the most important and urgent items, a “2” next to the second most important items, and so forth. Make your goal for the next day to get through the top two or three items on your list instead of the entire list. The goal is to be purposeful in what you do instead of being in perpetual motion. This will not only be more satisfying, but also give you some margin in your life to think and learn from the choices you make.

You need control: This control may extend both to people and circumstances. There is a tendency to over-plan and over-organize. You might feel discomfort in situations that you cannot effectively manage and therefore delegating tends to be difficult for you. The unconscious goal is to make conditions feel predictable and consistent, which inhibits spontaneity and flexibility.

Some people might use the term “perfectionist” to describe you. You have unrealistic expectations for yourself and others and your greatest fear is to fail at what you attempt.

Breaking free: Practice delegating tasks to others and learn to distinguish what you do and don’t have control over. Focus on letting go of those things that are beyond your control. When you feel out of control, pause and take several deep breaths to help center your mind and calm your body. Let yourself off the hook from having to do everything perfectly.

You value tasks over relationships: Accomplishment is often the organizing principle for any task, putting relationships in the distance. It’s not that you think relationships are unimportant, but your drive to accomplish a task often communicates to others that work is more important.

Thoughts and energy that could go into enhancing genuinely warm, meaningful relationships are spent “more productively” on tasks that can be more easily measured. Communication is merely a means of exchanging information, not about relating or having meaningful interaction.

Breaking free: Although there is satisfaction in accomplishing tasks, the contentment that comes from having meaningful relationships can be even more satisfying. However, you have to nurture those relationships in order to feel that emotional connection. Name the five most important people in your life and make time for them every week – even if it is just an hour.

You have difficulty relaxing and having fun: You are often restless and easily agitated. You find it hard to slow down and enjoy leisure time because it often feels unproductive. If you do take time away from work, you are more likely to engage in passive entertainment versus active recreation or other pursuits.

Breaking free: Think of play, recreation and non-committed time as a productive way to spend your energy. It refreshes your perspective by allowing you to step back and gain more objectivity about what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how you might approach it differently. You need that space and change of pace to see life in a new way.

Finding a work-life balance is not always easy. But by exercising deliberate choices to better manage your work, you are likely to feel more purposeful and satisfied with your life.

Image Source: iStock

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