Workaholics & Extreme Workers
By Dr. Donald E. Wetmore | August 31, 2007
In the May 23, 2007 edition of USAToday there appeared a feature article about the growing number of workaholics in our country. My experience with my clients confirms that it becoming an epidemic in the workplace where employees are given increased tasks and then achieve increased performance by paying for it out of their hides, putting in more time rather than acquiring better time management skills to learn how to get more done in less time.
About 60% of high earners work more than 50 hours each week and complain that their health and sleep suffer as well as their relationships with their spouses and children. About 35% of the workforce is giving up some vacation time to work more and more a third of those surveyed felt guilty about taking time off.
The causes for this increase of workaholics include a more competitive business environment, less job security and technology such as BlackBerries, laptops and cell phones that keep people tethered to their jobs 24/7.
The article offers some warning signs to tell if you are an Extreme Worker.
Do you find your enjoyment of social activities less?
Are you thinking or worrying about work?
Does your family complain about your work hours?
Are you the last one to leave the office?
Effective personal productivity is not working harder but getting the most important items done. You will leave undone more that you ever get done. You will only accomplish a tiny fraction of what you would like to get done. Having a goal, then, of “getting it all done” just buys stress and frustration and more hours for work and less time for you as you become ensnared in the Extreme Worker trap.
What to do? Two strategies might be helpful.
Start by setting in advance the total number of hours you wish to spend on the job. This will help you to take advantage of Parkinson's Law which says, in part, that a project tends to expand with the time allocated for it. If you give yourself ten hours in the day to do your work it will take ten hours to complete. You will fill in that time.
On the other hand, if you chose to give yourself eight hours in the day to do your work, you will find yourself generally getting it done within that time frame. You will automatically become more effective at planning and managing your time. You will be less willing to spend time in wasteful meetings for example and will suffer fewer wasteful interruptions.
Second, take a regular, hard look at your To Do list and identify the items that can be delegated. There is a big difference between “I do it” and “It gets done.” What is more important is that it gets done. And the hardest part about delegating is simply letting go, especially for Extreme Workers.
I have had many executive coaching assignments helping clients to get free of the workaholic syndrome and as is often the case, the problem stems from an inability and unwillingness to delegate. “If you want a job done well you have to do it yourself,” leads you to the prison of an Extreme Worker.
If these ideas were helpful, we have prepared an additional article entitled, “Your Just Might Be a Workaholic”. It's a humorous take on the Extreme Worker that you will find amusing and instructive. If you would like a complimentary copy, email your request for “might” to: firstname.lastname@example.org .