As a recovering workaholic, I have finally come to terms with the reality that workaholism is unhealthy and unsustainable. The tragic reality of workaholism is that is also leads to unhappiness and burnout in life and career.
I believe that suffering is optional and now I’m focusing on being a high achiever instead of a workaholic. I can still honor my strong work ethic and be highly productive while also feeling gratified and inspired by my work, and not overwhelmed.
This took some reprogramming before I was able to truly make the switch. I share these insights to help you navigate the journey from the dark side of workaholism into the light of being a high achiever. Onward!
High Achiever by Definition – A high achiever differs from a workaholic in that they are results driven and focus on the end goal. They use down time to look ahead and prepare. Or, rest and rejuvenate instead of creating meaningless work to fill the time.
Stop The Busy Brag – Workaholics feed on being busy and often fill time and space with tasks that are not valuable or necessary. They are stuck in a mental block that busy equals important and nothing is farther from the truth.
Some work cultures also encourage the busy brag so fight the urge to wallow in how busy you are with fellow workaholics. Focus on how you are being strategic to work smarter and not harder so you can more fully enjoy your life and career.
Work Smarter – Research has shown how multi-tasking is not efficient or productive as the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Single tasking will allow you to focus fully on one thing and complete the task at hand faster, which then allows you to move on to the next thing.
High achievers embrace single tasking and the clarity that comes with controlling your environment. Consider setting blocks of time to respond to email instead of reacting to the incoming mail signal with a Pavlovian like response.
High achievers are proactive in their work environment and design their day around the most important tasks that have the most significant return on investment of their precious time.
Good Enough to Go – Savvy professionals have embraced the good enough to go maxim that was birthed in the Design Thinking paradigm of tech start-ups. Workaholics often get stuck in the perfectionism paradox and never let go of a project because they believe it can always be better.
High achievers believe that “80% can mean done” when it moves the needle closer to the end goal. Tweaking and improvements can happen in the iteration and test drive phases of a project. If the work product never sees the light of day because of workaholics who practice perfectionism – you might as well have not done the work at all.
Validation Seekers – Workaholics often want to be seen as the over-achiever workhorses that put in long hours and burn the midnight oil. They buy into the over working culture and consider it a badge of honor. It’s not. In fact, it’s a badge of stupid since leaving PTO days unused is like throwing hard earned money out the window.
If your car is in the company parking lot late at night and every weekend then you are a work martyr, not a high achiever. Leaders must model the way to establish a high achieving work culture that honors vacation time, work life integration, and sustainable hours and flexibility that promotes wellness. This is the kind of work environment that develops and stewards high achiever talent.
If you need validation from your boss, seek it out and ask for constructive feedback. Don’t assume that the unsustainable cycle of being the last one in the office will earn you the recognition you are seeking.
Accountability Partner – Moving from workaholism to being a high achiever must be a conscious effort. To help you reprogram your habits and commit to this new life plan, consider an accountability partner whom you can turn to for support.
My tagline and mantra is: Enjoy Your Career. Love Your Life! As a recovering workaholic, the temptation is always there to slip back into bad habits and unsustainable behaviors. The life of a high achiever is so much more compelling and gratifying. I highly recommend giving it a try.