The Workaholics Guide to Personality Type & Creating Work-Life Balance
Having started my career in the 1990s, been a corporate wife i.e. witnessing others work silly hours & be on 24-7 call & now, returning to an office environment as an entrepreneur, I have witnessed no real cultural change in over two decades in the ‘go-hard or go-home’ attitude to career, progression & business life.
But this is not ideal.
As sensible adults we realise that work dominated life is not only ineffective in getting jobs done, but also destroys family, community & leads to burn out.
It is actually the individuals’ role to manage their work-life balance. It is your responsibility.
You can assertively stand-up to corporate culture & still progress your career like my friend Andrew.
He was high-level director at Unilever.
However only a few years into his career & marriage, he returned home one day to a pile of suitcases & a wife and children ready to leave. At this crisis point he chose eating with his family every evening & being fully present at weekends over his career.
Or so he thought.
As it turned out he was still regularly promoted up the greasy pole but no one demanded his time after 5pm or at weekends. The rules had been set.
Why had Andrew believed he was making a choice? Because everyone else was working long office-based hours, bosses, directors but there was nothing in any contract that stated a minimum of 80 hours a week. No one had signed their soul to the corporate devil on accepting a job.
While we can say popular culture e.g. films like Jerry Maguire, 9-5, the Devil wears Versace have during our formative years given us the impression of work hard, play hard, be rewarded.
We are also partly to blame.
We see others doing silly hours, we hear stories of the guy who left early on a Tuesday & whose desk was cleared instantly, managers dump work on desks at 5.05pm, texts & notifications appear to demand immediate attention at 11.30pm.
And we behave like sheep.
The reason we do is far more to do with our personalities than real threat.
If trying to create a work-life balance, the first place to start is you.
You need to conduct a
Who are you?
In my 20s & 30s this was me. The person whose work had to be not only perfect but better than anyone-else’s. I regularly reinvented the wheel creating brand new filing systems, writing whole presentations from scratch when notes/former presentations were available, making videos, reorganising exhibitions and so on.
Overachievers are often people who excelled at school & in education and then take what it took to get to the top in a limited environment into adulthood. But their world has grown. The skills needed for varying tasks are the wider than those required by study. And the demands on time have also increased. As a child or young student, the world is organised for you. In the adult environment, you have demands on your time from family, friends, children, community and work.
Overachievers strive for perfection in all areas. It is, believe me exhausting. Once I had a young family I found myself working from 6am to 1am to get everything done – housework, children, job, exercise, husband. Nothing was delegated. I could handle it.
Why did I need to do it all perfectly?
A large part of my identity was my success at work. I was wife & mother second to being a marketing manager with a department to run.
I glowed in the inner knowledge I kicked-arse. And was admired for being able to do it all perfectly.
The recognition craver feels validated by positive feedback from others far more than salary increases <<< though those are welcome too. A ‘well-done’ or ‘you’re awesome’ is very important to a recognition craver. Obviously without getting deeply psychological it comes from some deep rooted insecurity or lack of praise as a child but for now let’s just accept that recognition cravers tend to overwork.
Often also an overachiever & recognition craver, the martyr takes on more & more work but boy do you know it. Generally disliked by other colleagues, if their over-contribution hasn’t been recognised enough, they are the first to moan about how much they have to do. Just so everyone is aware how sacrificial they are to the cause.
The martyr gets 100 times worse if they believe someone who is lazy & incompetent is making out they do loads. It drives them insane & they will be very vocal about it.
Equally they will never delegate as that not only hands power to others & others may get credit, but also they cannot be seen as needing help, unable to cope.
They have other fears too.
By not taking on yet another work-related project they fear they may be missing out or that they could be offending others. They may wish to be seen as solid and reliable or worry that saying no is the end of the line for their career or even their job.
My final workaholic from hell is the:
Like the over-achiever & recognition craver they get a kick out of being seen as the go-getter.
They have to be hyper-busy, hyper active to gain the admiration of others.
And in today’s society of social media, you will see the adrenaline junkie posting exciting instagram photos of all the meetings, conferences, work travel, business celebrities they meet. It’s rather embarrassing to admit over my 3 decades of being a workaholic I have been all 4 personality types.
And there are dangers.
Mostly burn out…and somehow the odd bit of praise, recognition & ego boosting social media comments are quite enough to make-up for the stress, lack of sleep & poor lifestyle.
Often workaholics suffer from mood swings, depression & anger management problems.
This is actually just the burn-out starting to flicker. So what is the solution? Let’s start with realities.
The first port of call is to realise that doing more isn’t necessarily effective & can be very inefficient. The more tired you are, the longer it takes to do any one task & the more likely it is that your mind is wondering.
And you are likely to make mistakes, which certainly does not please any overachievers. Actually if you are an overachiever strive for excellence rather than perfection. By the way excellence will still put you above others if you are a recognition craver.
Martyrs just need to stop it. It makes you look a pain & your inability to say no, or delegate, makes you look immature & not management material. You are often wasting precious time on things others can do better & sacrificing your strengths.
You should be putting your efforts into what you excel at.
And if you do insist on doing everything, then shut up about it.
I am quite serious about that…no one appreciates whingers.
Adrenaline Junkies need to dig deep to understand why only work validates them.
Why they need the world to see them as successful. And really question whether it is of any real importance or if anyone really cares that much.
Ok now we have established the ingloriousness of being a workaholic & the personality types that drive it.
Let’s go about creating a plan to overcome the problem…and potentially save friendships, marriages & deathbed regrets. Current Life Structure Action >>>> map out a day.
Write out everything you do from the moment you wake to the moment you go to bed.
Be honest with time-wasting activities like surfing the internet, facebook news feed, trolling on twitter, over-long conversations etc.
Map out each day for a week.
Once you have done this I am sure you can see lots of very unproductive hours that if you managed your time better could be spent elsewhere. You may well be busy but are your being effective?
We are not creating or finding wasted time so you can work more, but so you can create a life outside of work.
You need something to do with this life outside of work, so you need to understand what is important to you….and if you answer work at this point, go back to the section on personality types and give yourself a good shake.
If you still can’t think of anything more important to you than work…think about your childhood, what hobbies & activities did you enjoy back then … I doubt very much it was studying for exams or doing school homework.
Or think about retirement. What are you going to do with your time when you retire? Why are you waiting until then? No one is guaranteed four score years and ten. What is stopping you using some of your wasted hours to do the ‘retirement plan’ on a small scale?
Decide what is important to you &, if applicable, those around you, and create a road map of your time.
This road map should have new activities outside of work if you have fully taken on-board work is not everything & the world will not stop if you take some hours for yourself & your loved ones.
Creating Your Road Map
This road map is not an optional extra if time/work allows it. This is a commitment from you to create more life in your work-life balance. It should contain the things you love to do & the people you love.
Question what is important to you and also what you enjoy and give yourself more time to do this.
Now we all have things that are important to us that we don’t enjoy.
I like a clean, organised house but I don’t love doing housework. If the house is messy I can’t switch off from that and go for a swim, something I enjoy. However I shouldn’t sacrifice something I enjoy a swim for something I hate but bothers me if not done. The obvious solution is to outsource it.
I do understand not everyone will have the money to outsource everything they dislike but nee ds doing. However you can skill swap. I would happily consider cooking meals for a friend who hates cooking that they can freeze and store, if they would clean my house.
There is always a solution. You just have to be creative about it.
Most of us have some kind of diary, planner or phone app. We use them to note future meetings, important appointments, possibly social occasions involving others.
How many of us plan in our own hobbies & activities.
I don’t just mean block out time with no plan as to what to do with that time, as they can be wasted watching TV, mowing the lawn, surfing facebook. By the way if you block out any me-time/family-time you are doing better than most of the population.
I mean actually block-out time with an actual activity that you commit to; for example 8pm oil painting (1 hour), 8pm reading two chapters of CJ Sansom novel; 8pm bubble bath & candles.
There are so many things that can go into your life schedule, I have listed a selfish few but your life schedule should also include time with family, time with friends, date nights, exercise, even chores (unless you are not bothered about eating)
No I am not going all 1980s on you and having to-do lists & planners for your every move, just making sure you sometimes plan in your hobbies or family fun, as well as have 8pm slob in front of tv watching cr*p.
Your planner should be a commitment. It is not flexible. Unless the office has burned down, this is a commitment as much as a meeting with a CEO whose business you hope to win. Get it?
Being Effective at Work
I am self-employed so everything in here also applies to entrepreneurs who sometimes feel the only way to make money is to work non-stop and that everything is easier, by everything I mean having a life outside of work, if you work for someone-else & your wages are guaranteed.
The likelihood is self-employed or employee, that you are inefficient & waste time at work. That if you up-your time management skills (as well as delegation where appropriate) it is not necessary to work 11 hour days.
I used to be a time management fiend when I was employed. It meant I never had to work late. But self-employed, I have let those skills slide. Partly because I have all day to get it done, so take all day about it. And partly due to social media, or let’s call it technology as can include emails, skypes, texts, distractions.
Brain Dump you cannot work effectively if you are carrying around lists in your head such as answer email to x, phone y, contact designers, check cash flow, book conference, write blog. So get it all out on paper.
Then categorise as A B C tasks.
Big hint. C tasks can wait .. if ever get done.
When I worked I an office C tasks were a draw in my desk. The world didn’t collapse when that drawer was full & those tasks had never got done. Often it was thinks like circulars from human resources about some new expenses rules. As a self-employed person, C tasks are almost certainly all those free courses other entrepreneurs capture your email with. Every now & again I take that file to the trash bin on my laptop, just like I emptied the drawer into a physical bin.
B tasks are things like answering emails. They can be performed at set times of the day. I suggest twice a day checking an answering emails. Set aside enough time to actually answer & move that email on.
Never pick up a piece of paper or open and email or look at a messenger notification & not action it. That wastes time. You will only come back to it later in the day or next day.
Do this for several times in your working day & you may easily lose an hour.
A tasks should be your first tasks of the day. These are the ones that require proper thought 7 no distractions like project management, planning sales funnels, writing a blog. As entrepreneurs we say working on your business not in it. If employed these are your more management style jobs.
Every day write up your brain dump, assign things A B or C & plan in the times of the day that yo will deal with them.
To-do lists never get smaller by the way. Often moving a task off a list, creates one or two more, let alone what other people give you or you think of. Do not let this depress you. A clear list is a fairytale, you have not failed or been ineffective if you still have items on your list for the next day.
One way to clear you list quicker is to have a set deadline to complete the task. This may hurt the overachievers a little as having only an hour to say write a report means it can’t be perfect…but it can be done.
Remember when you were at school exam times were not flexible, if the paper wasn’t finished there was no extra time to complete it. You coped then, you can cope now.
Deadlines, even self-imposed ones, and I don’t mean by the end of the week, I mean in minutes & hours, gets sh*t done.
The advantage to getting jobs done, is not to do more jobs, but to fulfil your planned life outside work activities.
Do not be tempted, if finishing early, to just squeeze in item 27 off your to-do list…your to-do list never clears, there is no benefit in working faster & harder, if you simply do more work as a result.
Everyone I know is a bit of a social media addict. Close it down.
You can’t be distracted by notifications if you are not aware of them. And don’t be tempted to check say facebook during a break, especially if self-employed, as that 5 minute break will easily turn into 30 minutes as you happily comment on your friend’s status watch, the latest prank video, think of something interesting to say about yourself.
Even if your business is built around social media, as mine is, you still have to have set times you allow yourself onto it, or it will dominate your time.
And of course there are now apps so you can batch post everywhere. The apps will manage your instagram, twitter, facebook, linkedin – using them will improve your productivity.
Talking about batching this is a useful time management skill in all areas not just social media. I recently booked a varied tour of 3 Greek Islands, rather than go back & forth mulling it over for days, I attacked the project one evening & got it done.
No it’s not fully done, I have flights to book, UK end to sort out, but the bulk of it is done. Compared to last year, this has saved huge amount of time on google, booking.com, skyscanner, ownersdirect, which ate into hours of my life last year.
It may seem a little odd that a blog about work-life balance has been talking about planners, scheduling & time management. These are tools for you to realise you do have time & are entitled to time for life-enhancing things. Important to all of your tools are the ;people around you.
You need to communicate with them.
Look sometimes I accept work does have to come first esp. when self-employed but don’t let that situation drift from a week into years and do explain to those that matter. Explain the current situation explain why & give a deadline to the sacrifice.
When starting my own business I worked all hours. My children had a whole school summer holiday where I worked every day for 15 hours. But I did take time to explain why, explain the benefits long-term. Two years later we spent 3 weeks holidaying in Greece. Next year we are spending 6 weeks in Greece.
They made a sacrifice for 18 months, I made a promise, I have kept that promise.
In fact I have more than kept that promise as I take time off every weekend and we go out on trips.
So when your back is to the wall, take time out to explain & set a done-by date and stick to it.
Equally if your partner helps you out, or you have asked them to help you out and they have taken on extra duties to free up time for your work commitments. Thank them. Praise their efforts. Be grateful. Express that gratitude. Busy executives who never express gratitude to their wives soon end up divorced. Ask my ex-husband.
Oh and don’t criticise their efforts. If they have redecorated the spare bedroom alone because you didn’t have time to help out don’t moan at the standard of the work. Be supportive they are doing their best to support you.
And whatever you do. Do not take the p*ss. They are not an unpaid slave to fetch & carry & bring up family alone because your work comes first. If that situation eists you need to take action to adjust your work-life balance.
Brings me onto my next point.
When you are with people be with them.
Switch off the phone, don’t be checking emails & notifications. Whoever has messaged you they can & will wait, your family & friends are the ones who will be at our funeral not some Canadian executive who ignores time zones & believes the world, (and you), revolve around them & their needs.
Do not allow family or friends to feel secondary. If you make them feel unimportant, they will remember that for a very long time…if they stick around.
If you are working long hours its not just your work, your hobbies your relaxation or your family & friends who suffer. So does your
People never realise how important their health is until they don’t have it. And although you know this in theory, most workaholics still believe they do not have enough time to look after their health whether that be eating decent food, over junk food, takeaways & snacks, or exercise.
If you are working long and probably unnecessary hours, you will not have the energy to cook from scratch & exercise daily.
But by not doing so you are putting yourself in a catch-22. The more junk food you eat & the less active you become the more exhausted you feel, the less likely you are to cook, the less likely you are to go to a gym or take a walk.
There is only one way out of this cycle.
And that is to force yourself to break it.
Use your planner to schedule in walks, gym, cooking & stick to it…no matter how much you don’t feel like it.
Once you start exercising & eating better you will have more energy. With exercise it will refresh you & relax you. The endorphins released because of it will help you to control stress and actually feel happier.
As a workaholic having more energy & feeling less stressed & more productive should be a massive turn-on & something you’d kill to have.
Well you can have it. You just have to commit to doing it & planning it in.
Revisiting Your Roadmap
You should do this every week. Review what worked & what didn’t. And be honest with yourself as to why.
Often when people decide to create a better work-life balance being workaholics they set unrealistic expectations & schedule in tonnes of activities & being at home with loved ones time.
Which of course they fail to achieve, beat themselves up or even give up.
This is like New Year Resolutions. People set loads of them, all revolutionary to who they really are. They don’t set a small change, they set an almighty change and then feel weak & failures when 3 weeks later they have given up all of their resolutions.
Do not be that person.
Don’t go from never cooking at home to scheduling home cooking every evening at 6pm. Or taking the kids swimming 3 nights a week when the last time you spent any time with them was Christmas Day. Christmas Day 2012.
Commit to a small planner change. Being home by 6pm on a Friday evening or spending Sunday 12-5pm with the family. And stick to that for a few weeks before introducing another life balance.