The Minimalist Approach to Workaholism

workaholic recovery

This is a personal post about something I’m struggling with now. I’m sharing it because I bet I’m not the only who might need the wake-up call, and the action steps to solve it.

Over the past several months I’ve been working to become more minimalist and intentional in my personal world with a hope to cultivate more engagement in the work that I do, but also more joy overall.

 

minimalist workaholic

What I’ve noticed through this process is that I’m an over-worker. Not sure I like the term workaholic, but I do work too much, and lately, that’s started to take a toll on my personal happiness. The overworking started several years ago when I was trying to get a food start-up off the ground (it got about 10 feet up in the air before it crash landed, metaphorically speaking) and it’s a habit that I’ve never let go of. So I continue to work evenings and weekends in addition to my professional day job, with my new side hustle.

The left brain, suck-it-up-buttercup side of me says “this is good. It will help you reach your goals faster so you can enjoy life more”. My right brain, the idealist in me (I’m a Gemini folks) says, “but you’re wasting life now doing all this work and you’re not promised tomorrow”. Both sides have equally valid points.

In a perfect world, I’d retire early from my 9 to 5 work with enough resources that it wouldn’t matter if my passion projects provided income or not. I could just focus on them full-time because I love the work.  I have a strong conviction around this because I think following a passion for your primary income is really bad career advice. But I’m not financially ready to retire, and I’m not willing to put off my passion projects until retirement because:

  • It’s my creative outlet (although still work).
  • It will help me retire early so that I can do this full-time.

But something has to give because I feel like my brain is working 24/7. As I become more minimal and intentional, I see how my non-stop productivity is creating disconnection with others, compromising my engagement at work and contributing to a low-grade, chronic anxiety. This “always be doing something productive” mindset is starting to chip away at my self-worth because on some level, I’ve adopted a belief that I’m only worthy when I’m working.

This is really bad.

So I’ve spent some time thinking about how I can turn the productivity bus around (or at least slow it down) so that I can balance work and pleasure for a more enjoyable life.

Here’s what I can realistically do to manage my “workaholic tendencies”.

  • Take the ear buds out of my head, turn off the non-stop learning-based podcasts and audio books and enjoy hearing what’s going on in my brain more.
  • Take little media fasts. I can’t shut my computer down for days on end, but I CAN stop the incessant social media scrolling.
  • Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow until my social media feeds contain only those who bring me joy or value. Pro Tip: want pure Instagram joy? Follow Tuna Melts My Heart and Hamilton Pug. Both are exceptionally adorable pups that leverage social media to advocate pet rescue.
  • Go to bed earlier and leave my phone in another room. I waste at least 30 minutes scrolling social media before bed. Not only is this wasting precious sleep time (I need at least 8 hours a night), but staring at illuminated screens decreases natural melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. I know I have to do this one.
  • Make more time for friends and family. I love the people in my life, but I find I’m spending more time alone (working) or in surface level engagement through Facebook. I’ve gotten to a point in this obsession to work that I have to think twice about meeting someone for brunch or happy hour because that time might be better spent doing something productive. I can’t believe I even admitted that out loud.

If I were to add a few stretch goals to this list I would also try:

  • Not working at all on Sundays (this would be hard for me)
  • Opting for fiction only audible books.
  • Drive to work in silence.

I am sure I’m not alone in my little obsession to work. I see it in my peers and the folks I follow on social media. Does any of this ring true for you?

PS – In full disclosure, it’s Sunday morning as I write this, so yes…. I’m still working on a Sunday.

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2 comments

  1. I’m definitely a workaholic. I don’t differentiate between weekends and weekdays, and I work straight through public holidays. However I will take quite a few short vacations when the market is quiet and stocks aren’t moving.