“Having kids has been a fantastic thing for me. It’s meant that I’m a little more balanced. In my twenties I worked massively, hardly took vacation at all. Now, with the help of my wife, I’m always making sure I’ve got a good balance of how I spend my time.” – Bill Gates
“If I had more time, I’d have more fun,” we tell ourselves. Or, “If I had more time, I’d knit/ paint/ write a novel/ [fill in the blank].”
Time is an equal opportunity provider. Every one of us, regardless of age, sex, race, or religion, has the same 24 hours a day. How we use those hours determines our success.
On the one hand, we know that working long, hard hours is a characteristic of most successful people. On the other hand, we understand that working that way gives us little pleasure and less time to pay attention to family, friendship, intellectual stimulation, etc.
“Workaholism is an addiction,” Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, “and like all addictions, it blocks creative energy.” Cameron’s concern in the book is to find time for creative writing. But her advice is useful for anyone who is fighting his or her workaholic streak.
You can be successful in business without sacrificing personal relationships. You can make money and art too. You can accomplish your major goals in all of life’s four most important dimensions:
- Your health-building goals
- Your wealth-building goals
- Your social responsibilities
- Your personal aspirations
To do so, you’ve got to follow a productivity plan that recognizes (1) achieving any important goal takes time, (2) at any specific period of time in your life you must establish priorities and give primary attention to your top goals, (3) many of the problems prioritizing may cause can be limited by respectful scheduling and thoughtful communication, and (4) as opportunities change, so must your objectives.
You must also recognize that the way you work right now may be working against you. A workaholic pattern might help you accomplish your primary goal, but will usually leave your other goals in a shattered heap.
Begin, today, with this self-administered evaluation – from Julia Cameron – to help you figure out if you have workaholic habits. Answer “seldom,” “often,” or “never” to the following:
- I work outside of office hours.
- I cancel dates with loved ones to do more work.
- I postpone outings until the deadline is over.
- I take work with me on vacations.
- I take work with me on weekends.
- I take vacations.
- My intimates complain that I always work.
- I try to do two things at once.
- I allow myself free time between projects.
- I allow myself to achieve closure on tasks.
- I procrastinate in finishing up the last loose ends.
- I set out to do one job and start on three more at the same time.
- I work in the evenings during family time.
- I allow calls to interrupt – and lengthen – my workday.
- I prioritize my day to include an hour of creative work/play.
- I place my creative dreams before my work.
- I fall in with others’ plans and fill my free time with their agendas.
- I allow myself down time to do nothing.
- I use the word “deadline” to describe and rationalize my workload.
- I go everywhere, even to dinner, with a notebook or my work numbers.
“There is a difference between zestful work toward a cherished goal and workaholism,” says Cameron. “That difference lies less in the hours than it does in the emotional quality of the hours spent. There is a treadmill quality to workaholism. We depend on our addiction and we resent it. For a workaholic, work is synonymous with worth, and so we are hesitant to jettison any part of it.”
Your answers to Julia Cameron’s self-evaluation questions will give you a quick sense of whether you have a problem with workaholism. But don’t just test yourself. Do what I did. Ask a few members of your family, or a few friends, to answer those questions for you. You may be surprised by what you find out.
It can be hard to make time for your personal life when you’re trying to prove to your boss that you deserve a raise… when you’re busy building your business… or when you just plain love what you do. But don’t work so hard or so long that you neglect your family and friends. If you do that, you will eventually regret it.
Here’s how I keep myself from falling into that trap:
- I don’t take work home at night. I put in my time at the office, and then I come home… without my laptop and papers.
- I don’t take work home on weekends. If I want to put in a few extra hours on Saturday, I clear it with my family in advance. But, again, I don’t pull out the computer or papers in front of them. It sends the wrong message.
- Away from work, I try my best to stay “in the present.” For me, this was the hardest lesson to learn, because my mind is always jumping from one topic (the story someone is telling me) to another (something related that happened at work). When I feel myself drifting – and it happens frequently – I pull myself back.
When I follow these rules, I am happier twice – at work and at home. I recommend that you do the same.[Ed. Note: If you’re a workaholic, you could benefit from learning how to break your goals into smaller, more manageable objectives. ETR’s Total Success Achievement program can teach you how to accomplish all your goals – without neglecting your health, social life, or family. We’re putting the finishing touches on our 2008 Total Success Achievement Program right now. So keep reading ETR for more details about how to make 2008 the year you accomplish all your dreams.] [Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]