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Recovering from Workaholism - Tools for Recovery


If you have or are experiencing any of the telltale signs of workaholic behavior, there is one pretty good way to assess your addiction. Ask those with whom you have your most important relationships. Your spouse will tell you; your kids probably know as well. Asking them honestly, sincerely, and with an attitude of bring willing to learn will give you a significant revelation about yourself.

So if you are a workaholic at any stage of that addiction, what should you do? How do you begin to break the bands of work addiction?

Schedule Your Time. Now, this may be a little counterintuitive for a workaholic, but the key is scheduling for the right priorities. Make time on your calendar for your important relationships. Program time with your spouse and with your children individually. Relationship experts suggest that a minimum of 20 minutes each day of uninterrupted time is needed to maintain a relationship. Also program longer stretches for true connect time-an occasional weekend getaway with a spouse or an adventure like camping or a sporting event with a child.

Force Social Interaction. Make time to be with your friends and keep those relationships fresh. Reconnect with someone who made you feel good when you were with them-even if it first it is by phone or email.

Take Time for Health. If you haven't been in for an exam recently, call your doctor and set up a visit. Check your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, weight, blood sugar, etc.) to see if you have room for improvement. Then set up a realistic exercise and nutrition program. Make time to take care of this body that is supposed to serve you well.

Make Time for Short Breaks. Get up from the desk for 5 minutes every hour just to stretch, get a drink of water, take a quick walk down the hall. And make a point to say hi to someone at work while you're at it.

Sharpen the Saw. Stephen Covey writes in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about a man who was so busy sawing wood with a dull saw that he never seemed to have time to stop and take the saw for a sharpening experience. We all need reminders about what Covey calls "personal renewal." He suggests four different areas for saw sharpening:

  • Physical: exercise, nutrition, rest
  • Social/Emotional: social and intimate connections with others
  • Mental: reading, learning, writing
  • Spiritual: connecting with nature, meditating, prayer, service

Set and Review Goals. Those of us caught in the trap of work addiction tend to not see the forest for the trees. For that reason, a reconnection with our goals, both short and long term, is in order. We have to make sure that while we are climbing the ladder of success, we make sure that it is leaning on the right wall. Setting goals and then reviewing our progress regularly is a good way to break the cycle.


Sometimes coming to realization that we are putting the things that matter most at risk by pursuing things of lesser importance can be a rude awakening. As I have thought deeply about my own tendency to a work addiction, I have come to see that I was letting the important things pass me by. Taking the time and spending my energy with the truly important parts of my life (principally my wife, my family and my spiritual life) I have become much more productive in my career and found greater joy in my human existence. Despite the praise and rewards I experienced as a middle stage workaholic, nothing compares with the quiet assurance that comes from better balancing my life.

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