7 Ways to undermine your workaholic mind


Workaholism isn’t just connected to the actions that we take, but the way in which we think about – and attach meaning – to our work and careers.


Most of us grow up with our career goals being the carrot on the stick that we’re always chasing; we are encouraged to get the best grades, so we can go to the best schools, to get the best degrees, to get the best jobs, to get the best careers… but why?

Because we are persuaded into thinking that our value comes from the job that’s on our pay slip. If we work really hard, we will have an amazing life. If we contribute, we are ‘good’ people. If we perform well, others will respect and like us. 

These beliefs can easily see us working ourselves to exhaustion, constantly sacrificing the joy and love of today for the promise of ‘more’ in the future – but I’m pleased to say there is a new working paradigm rising… working smarter, not harder.

Here’s how you can shift your thinking and behaviour so you can start to break down the workaholic mindset and instead create the space and time to let your whole life thrive. 

1. Define what is valuable

In case you didn’t know it… you are incredibly precious and valuable just for being YOU. Every single one of us gets to decide how we wish to create and define value in our life. Yes, in today’s world, work and money are necessary to have our needs met, but attaching our value to our work is a choice, even though most of us do it unconsciously.

Consider what you find valuable outside of your work. Write this down and come back to it any time you feel like your job is taking over. Always look for ways you can nurture these values into your regular lifestyle. 

2. Accept that you’ll be going against the tide

Here’s the thing: we live in a workaholic world. This means that temptations (and pressure) to work, work, work will always surround us to some degree. There will always be some task or additional thing you could squeeze within your workload. Accepting that you cannot, should not, and do not have to do it all will help you on this path.

You are just one human, with human limitations, and that is MORE than OK. There will always be another email to read or send. There will always be more projects you could do, more books on the shelf to read, more people to support, more training to attend. More actions than you could ever physically or emotionally create space for. This is a fact of life (don’t try to prove it wrong).

3. Prioritise your engagement

Often, there are too many messages to have an empty inbox at the end of each day. No big deal – the quality of your work or the ability to do your job is definitely not measured by the quantity of emails you are able to reply to. Remember, just because someone gets in touch, you are not always obliged to offer interaction. A great way to reduce any guilt or stress around this is colour-coding your contacts to indicate the speed in which you should reply to their direct communications.

When you’ve had a long day, you can leave feeling totally satisfied that those marked 2-3 days (or more) can be left for another time. Also be clear on what isn’t in your remit. If you’re a senior leader, marketing emails are likely better passed to your PA or administrative support team. 


4. Understand your goals (and how they relate to your values)

Create annual, monthly, weekly and daily goals that allow you to achieve what you need to at work, WITHOUT sacrificing your relationships, wider life and wellbeing on the way. This means selecting and prioritising tasks that create clear, significant value to the success of your team or business.

Allow yourself to remember this balance with a daily intention. Try working with a ‘To-Deliver’ list instead of a ‘To-Do’ list. This will encourage you to shift your thinking to results instead of processes. You can then discover the quickest, most impactful way to deliver these outcomes. Go through your weekly calendar and invitations with this ‘delivery’ mindset. Cancel or decline anything where your presence or attention wouldn’t significantly influence the outcome. 


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5. Remain focused but flexible

Seeing work as a jungle to navigate or a river to sail down, instead of a static staircase, can reduce the build-up of stress or resistance and instead allow you to flow with what the day brings up. The aim here is to set your daily intentions, but understand that other more pressing situations may stop you from achieving them. If things start to pile up, take a look at your workload and see where you could stop or delegate the least important tasks.

6. Learn how to delegate and flex your trust muscles

Your fingerprints don’t need to be on everything to make it a success. Often a workaholic mindset can feed and nurture a controlling one, which will see you stretching yourself too thin and consequently diluting your impact. I know your standards are high, but learning how to delegate or inspire others to take the lead will, in the long run, reduce your stress and support you to create a healthier work-life balance.  


7. Schedule in your private life

When you’re stuck in a work-based mentality, what you don’t schedule in likely won’t happen. Put your gym classes in your calendar and treat them as if they were work commitments. Book a table for dinner with your friends or your loved one. Register for that paragliding course. Join a painting class. Sign up for that salsa evening. Fix a regular session with your running buddy. Schedule in some ‘me time’ to simply keep it clear. Whatever it is that you dream of doing, stop waiting for a space to appear and make the time to do it. Time isn’t something that we have, it’s something that we make.


So there they are… 7 practical ways to reduce work’s tight grip and welcome joyful balance. 

Whenever you feel resistant to creating more balance or maintaining the boundaries you’ve decided to set, remember: this is YOUR life. Don’t let someone else’s workaholic mindset dictate your own values. Saying ‘No’ is no bad thing, as it enables you to have to space to say ‘Yes’ to other opportunities that excite you.

Let me know how these steps work out for you in the comments below! Or share with fellow workaholics your top tips that have helped you change this mindset around.

Heidi HauerComment