Workaholism is not the same as just working hard. Many in-house attorneys routinely log far more than 50 hours a week at their desk or traveling (See my post of Dec. 12, 2006 on “extreme jobs.”). Yet just because someone doesn’t leave until late or doesn’t take full vacation time does not brand him or her an addicted or compulsive slave to work.
A piece in IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 44, June 2007 at 72, offers six prescriptions on what to do to resist the poison of incessant labor. “Manage your time better” (See my post of Oct. 16, 2006 and references cited.). “Don’t be a perfectionist.” It may be that good old Pareto gives chronic worker bees some guidance (See my post of June 27, 2007 on other manifestations of Pareto’s Law.).
“Don’t eat lunch at your desk every day.” The author writes that this “sure sign of a workaholic” just tires you out. “Learn how to say ‘No’.” Rather than take on the assignment to be completed right away, set a realistic deadline, or ask the client to rearrange its priorities on other needs (See my post of June 25, 2007 on status reports.).
“Work at home more.” This advice sounds paradoxical, because at least away from the office the workaholic may have some respite and you don’t want to further blur work with non-work time. But perhaps the author suggests it to save commuting time, break out of a vicious cycle, or because even a bad day at home is better than a great day at work (See my post of May 30, 2006 on telecommuting and references cited.). “Take vacations” without laptops, cell phones, Blackberries, Red-Welds, advance sheets, and other umbilical cords to the office (See my post of May 18, 2007 on vacation days and references on stress.).
Sound advice and we should all work extremely hard on following it.