As administrative professionals, we’re hardwired to give our all on every task – and sometimes it seems those tasks just keep coming, one after another. No sooner do we finish one than another pops up – and we don’t want to leave the office with an important job half-finished.

But how much time in the office is too much? Are you a hard worker or a workaholic? The former is a good thing; the latter can cause problems in your personal and professional life.

Most people have to come to the realization that they’re a workaholic themselves. A lot of times there’s a personal reason – a new relationship, kids, family obligations, etc. – that triggers the understanding and necessitates a change.

Are you coming in earlier and staying later than your colleagues on a regular basis? Do you often miss important events with family and friends because you “have to” work? Does your job bleed into your personal life to the point where even if you’re physically present, your mind is on the next budget report or board meeting? If any of this sounds familiar, you may be traveling down the dangerous path toward workaholism.

The Consequences of Being a Workaholic

Workaholism is not unlike any other addiction. Psychologist Wayne Oates coined the term in the 1970s, defining it as “the compulsion or uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” True workaholics aren’t people who occasionally stay late to work on a big project; they’re people who find it difficult or impossible to separate themselves from their job.

There are some serious consequences for a workaholic. Relationships may suffer – one study found the divorce rate among workaholics to be 55%. Workaholism also takes a toll on your physical and mental well-being, increasing your risk for depression and anxiety, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and other long-term health issues.

Busyness Does Not Equal Productivity

There’s a myth that the busier you are, the more work you get done. This isn’t always the case. It may be that you’re filling your time with tasks that don’t really matter instead of focusing on the ones that do just to keep up the appearance of “being a company player.”

Make no mistake: Stepping back and getting your life (both personal and professional) back on track will not damage your career. In fact, it can help it!

Not sure how to get started? Here are my best tips.

  • Recognize the cues of being overworked. You need to learn to identify the mental, emotional, and physical signs that you’ve reached your limit. These can range from low creativity and motivation to being short-tempered and cranky to feeling sick, tired, or just generally “blah.” Recognizing these cues will show you where and when you need to take a step back and recharge.
  • Work smarter, not harder. As an admin, you have plenty of resources at your disposal to make your job easier. Use your procedures to help you delegate tasks. Create effective systems that keep everything running smoothly. Learn the art of collaboration and use it to increase your productivity through others. You don’t have to do this alone!
  • Perform a time audit. It’s hard to see where you can scale back or be more productive if you’re not sure where your time is going. Tracking your time and tasks allows you to see where you’re using your time ineffectively (chatting with co-workers, browsing on social media, etc.) and eliminate the time drains that are causing you to come in early or stay late. You may find it helpful to hire someone to shadow you for a day or two and help you identify where your time is going; alternatively, you can download these free templates to help you keep track.
  • Find your focus. While some people think of workaholics as orderly, organized, hyper-focused people, the opposite is usually true. Workaholics work so hard because they lack the ability to see the forest for the trees. Cleaning up the clutter (both mentally and physically) can help you see the bigger picture and avoid some of the stress caused by a seemingly never-ending to-do list.

We’re all overworked from time to time. But when it goes from an occasional occurrence to a daily battle, sometime needs to change. Becoming a full-fledged workaholic is not the answer. Instead, identify the root of the cause, recognize the signs that you need to step back, and reclaim your life!

© 2018 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.