Work, work, work, work, work, work. They're not only the lyrics to a Rihanna song I still can't understand, but they also describe the lives of many of us. Whether unintentionally or on purpose, a lot of us have adopted lifestyles that function solely to work. It's an easy trap to fall into, but there are certain things no one tells you about being a workaholic — I think because "working hard" has always been a good thing; and the harder you work, the better you seemingly are.
Working an insane number of hours often starts as a necessity. Depending on the city in which you reside, the cost of living alone can be crushing. (I'm talking to you, NY and LA.) Transportation, gas, food, insurance — all that adds up, too. And don't even get me started on student loan debt. (*Must not complain about debt. Must not complain about debt...*) At the end of the month, you find yourself with $3 left over, and it hits you: Welp, I guess I just have to work more.
Others become workaholics because they found a job they love and want to excel at; but it's a slippery slope: you start by working a couple extra hours a week just to get ahead; and before you know it, you're doing the jobs of three people at once.
Bragging (or complaining) about being soooo busy has almost become a sort of status symbol — even though, oddly, this can actually backfire and make you look inefficient, unable to manage your time well, uninterested in making time for others, and flat out rude. A lot of people are busy. That's life.
What isn't life is being so busy that you have none. Listen: employees aren't using all their vacation days. Many of us can't find balance. People are more exhausted and stressed out than ever. Being a workaholic, plain and simple, sucks. Here's what you might not realize about it.
1. It May Feel Exciting And Empowering At First... But It Will Get Old
In the beginning, there's something invigorating and motivating about being a total workaholic. You see how much you're getting done and how big of an impact you could potentially make. This makes you want to work even more. But the burnout is real: work is one of the top three leading causes of stress and burnout, and as of 2015, millennials were getting hit the hardest, with the highest levels of stress of any age group.
A new job or career goal is like a new relationship in that in the beginning, you'll experience the honeymoon stage. But once you stop seeing everything through rose-colored glasses, reality sets in, and you realize you have to find a way to make this work for the long run. Start off on the right foot and don't get in a place where you're obsessing over work. Remember, variety is the spice of life. You've got to mix it up.
2. Money Isn't The Answer To All Of Life's Problems
Money can give you options, stability, and security; but if you've got some deeply rooted source of unhappiness, don't think that the almighty dollar will be the answer to your prayers. To be fair, research has found a positive relationship between money and overall wellbeing — but only to a certain point. Once a person starts to make around $70,000 a year, money starts to lose its ability to reduce negative emotions.
Does this mean you should count on money to make you happier, at least until you hit the $70,000 mark? No. Don't ever hinge your happiness on the number on your paycheck, because that number can change and fluctuate and even go away entirely. Find happiness outside the dollar sign. You'll be so glad you did.
3. Relationships Don't Like Being Ignored
Relationships don't just work on their own; you have to invest in them. Abandon them for too long, and they might go south. Don't fool yourself into thinking you don't need your loved ones nearby to live a meaningful life. Data shows that strong social connections lead to a longer lifespan and greater fulfillment. Even if you are in good health, have a kickass career, and make tons of money, you might still be ultimately unhappy if you're going through life isolated. This isolation has measured consequences: loneliness can contribute to declining health, shorter lives, and a earlier decrease in brain functioning.
Remember that your work isn't going to tuck you into bed at night. It's not going to take care of you when you're sick or celebrate life's happier moments with you. Only people can fill that role.
4. Working Hard Is A Must, But Working Smart Is Nonnegotiable
It might sound corny, but it is so, so true: there is a huge difference between working hard and working smart. Working hard is sitting at your computer from five in the morning to 10:00 at night to get all your work done. Working smart is hiring an assistant to pass some of the responsibilities off to so that you can have a more balanced schedule. Working hard is taking care of each task manually one by one. Working smart is paying for services and softwares that help you automate these processes and free up your time.
It's crucial to know how to work hard; but the truly savvy businessperson will understand how to master their tasks more efficiently.
5. Nobody Can Function On Inadequate Sleep — And That Includes You
When I was in college, I could stay out until three in the morning pounding shots, go back to my dorm and sleep for a few hours, and then wake up for my morning sociology class. And I stayed awake the whole time. Then I got old. Now I wake up ready to go back to bed.
There's tired, and then there's exhausted; and exhaustion can be dangerous. It can lead to mental cloudiness, insomnia (wtf, right?), impaired concentration and attention, dizziness, heart palpitations, anxiety, depression, and loss of appetite — and that's not even the whole list.
When you're a workaholic, it's tempting to forgo sleep so that you can get more done. Been there, done that; and I regret it every single time. It's important to realize that even if you're able to work running on five hours of sleep, you're nowhere near peak performance. You're going to make more mistakes, move slower, and feel like garbage the entire time.
Just go to bed. Seriously.
6. Financial Success Means Nothing If You Can't Enjoy Life
If you've read this far, you know that money isn't the answer to everything. You probably also understand, then, that if you're constantly working, you will never have time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you recently cashed your biggest check yet, well, that's just fantastic. But if you can never pencil in time for the vacation of your dreams or a shopping spree or that house you've had your eye on, does it even matter?
Don't lose sight of what you're making money for — whether it's material items, travel, or simply stability. If you never power down and step away from work, it's all for nothing.
7. The Job You Love Might Become The Job You Hate
You know what they say: too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Such is certainly the case with work. A job that you once loved might become a living nightmare after five months of working 60-hour weeks. Distance makes the heart grow fonder; and spending a little time away from work gives you a chance to refresh, recharge, and miss it a little. This is a marathon, not a sprint — slow and steady wins the race.
8. Being Too Available Will Backfire
This is something that I battle to this day, as a 29-year-old woman who's been working for years — and I'm still learning my lesson. When you're eager to please and overdeliver on your promises, it's natural to go the extra mile. If you work with people or take care of clients, this might mean making yourself available 24/7. Make no mistake: there will be people who take advantage of this. They will text you at 6:00 in the morning until well after you've gone to bed, any day of the week. They want what they want, when they want it; and when they say jump, they'll get used to you pulling out the trampoline.
If you can, set the standard in the beginning. Be clear about when you're available and when it's OK to text you. If you've already gotten yourself in a bit of trouble with this, you'll have to backtrack. But it's so worth it, to get some of your life back.
Remember: take care of you first, or you won't be able to take care of anyone else.