Advertising

Summertime: Rehab Time for Workaholics

Summertime: Rehab Time for Workaholics
Advertising

How to use a vacation to conquer work addiction
beach view

    Workaholism is as much an addiction as those to drugs, tobacco or alcohol. Those who suffer from it crave the constant ‘highs’ they get from throwing themselves into work’s deadlines, problems and constant hustle and bustle. Even those near-impossible targets and deadlines can provide an adrenaline rush. Staring into the abyss of an empty order-book or hurling yourself headlong into the race to chalk up still more quarterly profits has something about it akin to extreme sports like bungee-jumping or free-fall parachuting.

    To many people, work seems so much more exciting than the rest of their life. Once hooked on the ceaseless crises and challenges, they can’t let go.

    Advertising

    Going ‘cold turkey’

    Nearly all addicts face withdrawal symptoms when they try to break free and workaholism is no exception. Recovering addicts are likely to feel unfocused, aimless, tense and irritable. They suffer anxiety (“I ought to be doing something“) and fear (“What’s going on that I don’t know about? Who’s plotting to mess me about some way?”). If they’re in the office, the temptation to fall ‘off the wagon’ and get back into their old ways can be overwhelming.

    That’s why a vacation is a good time to cope with post-workaholic stress disorder (PWSD). Aside from the initial period of cold turkey, the state of nervousness that hangs around is easier to deal with if you aren’t in a place where you can start checking up again. That’s why some high-end resorts now offer to lock away guests’ computers, CrackBerry’s, cellphones and PDAs so it’s almost impossible to slip back into staying in 24-hour contact “just in case.”

    Advertising

    Designing a vacation to deal with PWSD

    Taking the kind of vacation you’ve always taken — assuming you’re not such a hopeless workaholic that you can’t remember what that’s like — won’t do for this purpose. A PWSD cure needs careful planning in advance and some tough decisions to take your medicine and stick with it long enough to see results. You may need to enlist the help of your nearest and dearest along the way. They’ll probably be willing to assist since, in my experience, they are usually the ones whom you have made to suffer worst during your years as a workaholic.

    Here are the steps you will need:

    Advertising

    • Take a long enough vacation to allow the cure to work. Three weeks is ideal, two weeks is reasonable, 10 days is the minimum useful period.
    • Go right away — a long way away — so you can’t be called back in anything but the most dire emergency.
    • Contract with someone else (that nearest and dearest person would be ideal) to take charge of all means of contact with your office and deny you access. Tell them also to keep you away from telephones, Internet cafés, and any other ways of getting in touch with your place of work.
    • Before you leave, tell everyone at work that you are going to a place so remote that contact will be impossible. Give an emergency contact number to only one person and threaten to erase all their hard drives and backups when you return if they give it to anyone else.
    • During your vacation impose a total media blackout. No news, no papers, nothing.
    • Select a vacation that includes plenty of activities. It’s best if these are either compulsory or you have paid for them in advance, so you’ll be unwilling to waste your money by not taking part. A beach holiday should be avoided at all costs. The abrupt transition between the continual, hectic activity at work and hours with nothing particular to do will be too much. I used to take group birding tours. You had to go along, because everyone expected it (and you rarely stayed two consecutive nights anywhere, so they couldn’t leave you behind) and you were out looking for birds from before dawn until the sun went down, every day.
    • Act like a recovering alcoholic, for whom a single drink will start it all over again. Don’t check in with your workplace even once. That will send you right back to being addicted. The rule is not a single call, e-mail, or internet connection. Not one.

    Just in case you think this all sounds too extreme and “one little drink — I mean phone call — can’t hurt,” Air New Zealand found that staff who took a total-break vacation showed an 82% improvement in performance on their return. What else can do that?

    Besides, you owe it to yourself to break your addiction, whether it’s strong or mild. Workaholism lowers energy and resilience, undermines your health, wrecks relationships, inflicts needless pain on others and destroys your judgment. The effects can be on a par with drink and drugs. It’s high time organizations took it as seriously and made it either an offense meriting discipline or a condition for which treatment is compulsory.

    Advertising

    Make this year’s vacation the one where you finally free yourself to live a normal, healthy life.

    More by this author

    Ethical Office Politics Don’t Bring Me Answers, Bring Me More Questions! Who? What? When? Where? Why? Questions to Ask BEFORE Asking “How” to Live Your Life Summertime: Rehab Time for Workaholics Boredom Can Be Good For You

    Trending in Productivity

    1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
    Advertising

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

    Advertising

    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

    Advertising

    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

    Advertising

    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

    Advertising

    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Advertising

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

    Read Next