Workaholism is a real condition. While it can contribute to successes and progress, it can also wreak havoc on your mental well being and your relationships with those closest to you. If you don’t know if you’re a workaholic, consider this: when you’ve finished a to-do list for the week and you have the opportunity to sit and relax… do you consider working some more? It sounds worse than it is, but there’s a compulsion to not stop. When you finally have time to yourself, you think, “Well, what else would I do with this time?”
Entrepreneurs are among the most susceptible to workaholism. They have a tendency to fall into a cycle of working. Part of this is due to the fact that building a business from scratch tends to mean it’s near and dear to your heart. Add to this the fact that you can make a living by keeping it alive and you think this is what you should be doing. While this work ethic can contribute to your business’s growth, there’s a chance it’s doing more harm than good. If working constantly becomes your norm, then when you need to take time off, you can feel worse. Imagine taking time off to watch your child’s graduation or you get sick and need to take a couple days. Suddenly, work continues to pull you back and you’re not able to be present.
Moreover, some of the best thinkers know that to effectively tackle a problem, you need to take breaks. If you’re constantly working at something, you’re not giving yourself perspective or room to breathe. It’s why so many mental health exercises include “deep breathing” where you focus on one thing happening in the present and slow down. With a business, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds, but taking breaks is good and when you return, you’re able to get that 30,000 foot level view.
This time of year, it’s especially important to budget for a break. Turn off your computer, silence your notifications, and return to work in the New Year.
Holidays can put strain on the problem
Work’s only part of the problem. While marketing has increasingly contributed to this idea that this is the most joyous time of the year, myriad studies confirm people tend to suffer depressive feelings during the holidays due to:
- unrealistic expectations
- financial hardship
Throw in the pandemic and this is a tough time for anyone. With that in mind, there is something you should consider for yourself, that’s cost-effective and a good use of your time during the holidays: investing in some self-care.
So I should take time off work, but how can I take care of myself?
First, if you’re taking the last week off (which is becoming more commonplace), then reinforce healthy boundaries between work and life. In business, there’s a propensity (especially in unhealthy work environments) to treat “abbreviated weeks” as an opportunity to cram 40 hours into fewer days. If you’re taking additional time off, set the expectations with those in office. You should not aim to get everything done, so delegate appropriately.
Nationally recognized holidays should be treated as such: holiday. Whether you’re going on a vacation — or reserving time for a stay-cation, this should be expected time off. This is true if you’re an employee of one, working for a huge organization or running a startup with a small but healthy amount of employees.
Burnout is real and frankly, if you’re spending the run-up to the holidays stressed and cramming to deliverable end of year results, then the first thing you (and likely your employees) will do as you usher in the new year is reevaluate if this (your job) is somewhere you want to be. Don’t simply tell employees, “we’ll get through this year and then things will be better.” Instead, enforce that all employees turn off Slack, set their work email to “away” and only — under the strictest of definitions — answer a work call in the event of an emergency.
Enough about work, how else can I unplug?
Focus on Being Grateful
There is an entrepreneur mindset that can lead to impatience. You may be one signature away from securing a client or completing a work order, but like most other businesses, you’ll need to wait until after the holidays. Rather than worry about what’s to come or rushing through the holiday, be in the present, content with the state you’re in. Ambition doesn’t die overnight, there’ll be plenty of work to do when you and the rest of the country reopen.
Give Yourself Time to be Alone
Gift yourself some ‘me time’. Many people this holiday are seeking to regain some normalcy, traveling and hosting parties. However, given the pandemic and the stressful economic landscape, take this opportunity to decline invitations. As yet another silver lining of the pandemic, you don’t need an excuse to decline invitations. Steal yourself away from further commotion and chaos and come up with activities that make you invest in yourself; try something new.
Work Out instead of Working
Exercise whenever possible. Working nonstop is draining and especially in the startup world, it’s all too easy to put your “physical health” in the “important but not urgent” quadrant of your day-to-day. With the national holiday however, why not tend to that quadrant in particular. If everyone is shut down anyway, focus on exercise and eating healthier. Take care of yourself to ensure you’re at your peak when the New Year starts. You may enjoy the momentum and energy from “working,” but “working out” will provide the same (if not more) endorphins to feel energized, empowered and optimistic. Even if you do decide to travel, try running around the block or following some exercise videos.
Invest in Yourself
Take an online course to develop yourself. During the holiday, you may be tempted to only buy gifts for others, but consider an investment in yourself. Book yourself an online course to pick up some new skills. Many platforms offer affordable courses online courses (with discounts around the holidays). Learning something new will strengthen your memory, lead to innovation, and potentially increase your efficiency.
Despite the holiday cheer, it can be a rough time of year for many. And whether your business has suffered with COVID-19 or is on the cusp of launching, sometimes hitting “pause” is just what we need for clarity. For many, there’s a “ready, fire, aim” around this time of year, so take a breath, so you can emerge in the New Year rejuvenated.