Getting ahead means putting in more hours, taking on more projects and making work your life, right? No, according to career coaches. Workaholics tend to burn out fast usually neglecting the very things they need to do to achieve success. At business conferences you often hear expressions such as “My work is my life,” “I’m married to my work.” Despite the obvious downside our society celebrates obsessive work ethics and is it often viewed as evidence of an individual’s commitment to work, a project or start-up idea.

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However, research has shown that being a workaholic actually makes you less productive, although you might feel and are ‘busy’. Workaholics usually have “being busy” in common instead of “being productive”. All that busy work isn’t necessarily your life’s work. Productivity can be tied to nutrition and being happy. And happy people are more focused, which leads to being productive; receive higher evaluation for quality of work, dependability, and creativity.

Having obsessive work ethics is not only detrimental to your health but damaging to your relationships. Instead of spending quality time with their partners, family, and friends, workaholics tend to obsess about businesses, emails, and reports. Activities related to workaholism, such as not getting enough sleep and having obsessive thoughts about your business can affect your physical health including increased risk of experiencing strokes, heart attacks, depression, burnout, and increased alcohol consumption.

Recently I was talking to a self-confessed former workaholic and client. He explained that he became a workaholic because of fears that permeate the business [corporate] world. “It is often believed that you must work hard all day and all night to get ahead in your business.” This kind of work ethic may seem impressive, and wildly accepted across many industry norms. However, I soon found out that excessively obsessing about work is not the best path to success. Many former workaholics have learned to set clear boundaries between their work and personal life and still excelled in their professional lives. So, there is a better way to get work done and achieve success in business without necessarily becoming a workaholic.

Consider some tips from ex-workaholics on how to work less and still achieve more;


TIP #1 Take time to switch off completely from work

Naturally, we all have some basic needs in life; the need to feel secure, safe and connected to people around us. The need to give and receive attention and enjoy a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment makes us feel ‘normal’. If you unconsciously use work to try to meet some of these needs, then it may be to the detriment of others. You may feel you need to have ‘work/life balance’. Most people think work/life balance is about a 50/50 split, an evenly distribution of hours between work and life. What if it was more about flow verses balance? Instead of balancing hours, try to experience fulfillment/happiness/progress. Because, sometimes your work will need more of you, depending on projects or activities in the business, and other times your life will need more of you because life happens.

To ensure flow, you need to switch off completely from work, distancing yourself both physically and psychologically from it. If you are still checking your emails when you should be spending quality time with your loved ones, then you are still obsessing about work. Your family and friends will know when you aren’t present in the moment or present with them. Striking a work/life flow will enable you to be more productive when you are actually at work. So, make sure you have a life outside of work, stay connected to your loved ones, eat and sleep well. Remember, you are not a machine; even if you were, they need some downtime too. And if you truly believe you are a machine, think of it as scheduled maintenance, because if not it will breakdown.


TIP #2: Outsource

The concept of outsourcing is not new. Outsourcing may be a difficult concept to practice for those who want tasks completed in a specific way. However, if you ignore the benefits of delegating or outsourcing, you will quickly burn out. Delegating responsibilities involves distributing tasks to competent hands so that you are not tackling all the work alone. If it seems that work is gradually taking over your entire life, then it’s time to consider outsourcing some of your responsibilities.

You can start with smaller tasks, and slowly add weightier responsibility as you become comfortable with the outcome. Just ensure you don’t micromanage the process. You will soon realize that you have more time to focus on your professional growth—and, you’ll be a lot happier and productive at work. This is a great way to develop others as well. Others on your team can’t improve if not given an opportunity.

Outsourcing could also include hiring an expert. So you can focus on the tasks that require your specific attention.


TIP #3 Learn to Say No

To make the most of your time at work, you need to be efficient and plan your time well. Most times business professionals often say yes to everything to be seen as a hard worker [go getter]. But the truth is that if you want to get ahead, then you need to learn to set boundaries and become more tactical in what you say yes to. Becoming so task saturated that leads to you not being able to keep your commitments, getting the tasks completed, will be the fastest way to be left behind and losing credibility. Before saying yes to any additional project, think about how the project will contribute to your professional growth, or benefit your business. This will allow you to be more productive and focused on the right task.

Remember you cannot do everything, you only have access to 24 hours in a day, and being a better multitasker isn’t the answer either. In fact, multitasking is a distraction to peak concentration and delivering high quality work. Our brain is hard wired to the previous uncompleted task. Take an honest look at a typical day to see what you spend the majority of your time on. You will realize that most of the things you do may not be a priority. Instead of spreading yourself too thin, you will be able to concentrate and focus your energy on bigger and better projects.


TIP #4 Set Limits

It is not enough to limit the amount of time you spend working. Some individuals cannot do without checking their smartphones even at dinners. The most important thing is setting limits to enhancing your productivity. Spending more time working at the expense of personal commitments will not help your business. It sure won’t increase your sense of fulfillment, nor is it sustainable. Remember it is not how many hours you put in at work that matters, but what you do with those hours. Staying focused on a particular task will help you to accomplish more work in less time while ensuring you maintain that critical work/life flow.

Interruptions are another major distraction to productivity; they impact your focus and you will then need to reorient to the original task. Workaholics often realize that once they reach their goals, there is nothing there – so they start something new and the cycle begins again. However, focusing on goals, working on your commitments, being success oriented and driven will help you to get ahead over the long-haul.


TIP #5 Make a To-Do and a Done List

Making a to-do list helps you to track what you need to accomplish and what you have accomplished. This is especially helpful when you’re overloaded with work. It will help you to prioritize the things that are most important and probably delegate or outsource other less important tasks or tasks that don’t need your specific attention.

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleby Dr. Stephen Covey, the third habit of Put First Things First, identifies the four key quadrants; urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent and important, and not urgent and not important.

“Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.” – Dr. Stephen Covey.

Furthermore, lists will keep you organized and on track and will serve as a constant reminder of what you have accomplished – remember, you cannot manage what you don’t measure. Make it more about quality of work and dependability instead of hours of work you put in.


The Bottom Line

The truth is that you won’t enjoy your work if you’re overworked and fatigued. Take time to switch off from work, set boundaries, delegate responsibilities whenever you can, and you will find out that you can be successful without losing your sanity, health, and energy. Don’t become so obsessed with work that you end up becoming resentful when you don’t get ahead and miss out on other key areas of your life. You only have 24 hours in a day like everyone else, spend that time wisely and ensure when it comes to work and life you’ve got flow.

I’d love to hear from you. Let’s talk about how you can adopt work/life flow in your life, leadership, and business.



About the author: Kyle Kalloo is the Chief Executive Officer, Business Coach with Change My Life Coaching and Strategic Leader. Through his management training and experience with McDonalds, Famous Players (Paramount) and WestJet, and all of the ongoing learning and development he’s completed, Kyle has refined and perfected skills and processes and is eager to share how to execute them efficiently to help individuals and companies achieve even more of their dreams. 83% of Kyle’s business comes from referrals. https://www.changemylifecoaching.ca and https://strategicleader.ca