I grew up in the home of an alcoholic. It was not an easy life. My father nearly lost his health, his family, and in fact, his life, to alcohol abuse. But I am thrilled to say he discovered Alcoholics Anonymous in his later years and finally obtained the help he needed. He then began to reach out to others with the same affliction and help them as well. He has since passed away, but if he were here today, I am certain he would express one regret, and that would be that he did not get help sooner. It is hard to imagine how much different all our lives would have been if he had done that.
Now you may say, well, that is too bad, but I am a CEO. I am highly successful, and my family has everything they need because I work hard to see that they do.
Working hard is great and admirable. Achieving success and earning a six or seven figure income is impressive.
But here are a few tough questions for you as a CEO (or any type of leader, for that matter):
- How is your family?
- How is your health?
- When was the last time you took a day off?
The fact is, there is a widespread affliction in today’s busy world. Its symptoms include severe and sometimes debilitating fatigue; illnesses including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer; decreased cognitive function; apathy; and increased accident rates.
It comes on gradually and is precipitated by 18-hour workdays seven days a week; sitting at a desk for hours on end; and neglecting personal health and relationships.
Its victims tend to live in denial until it is too late, often wearing their work schedule and ability to get things done as a badge of honor while their personal lives fall apart. Their intentions may be grounded in a sincere desire to help others that gets out of control.
So let me ask you…are YOU a workaholic leader on the verge of burnout?
Sadly, you could work all your life to reach the pinnacle of success and then have no one to share it with. At some point in life, for all of us, legacy becomes the one thing that really measures our success – not income or accolades – but knowing that we have done something in life to make a difference to others. Steve Jobs paid tribute to legacy as he was in his final stages of cancer. His career, as stellar as it was, paled in comparison to the relationships he had forged throughout life, and only at the end did he see their true value.
Now I’m not saying everyone should give up their career to be with family and improve their health. But I am saying you must intentionally make room in your schedule for these things.
If you struggle with workaholism, here are some things you can do to gain a better balance.
- Decide right now what days you will take off between now and the end of next year.Mark those days on your calendar. Some of you may need to go as far as booking your travel in order to ensure you stick to the commitment.
- Decide right now what time you will go to bed at night.We live in a 24/7 society, but we are not 24/7 people. We absolutely must rest. I personally know many highly successful leaders who maintain excellent life balance as well. It may surprise you to know they normally get seven to nine hours of sleep…and many take a nap during the day. If they can do it, you can, too!
- Decide right now to put down your electronic devices when you are with family and friends.If you catch yourself grabbing your phone to check messages while on a date with your spouse, give your spouse permission to take your phone away. Ask yourself what is more important to legacy – that message you just got or your spouse who is sitting across the table from you. The fact is, you are making that choice every time you pick up your phone, and your spouse knows it. One day, you may look across the table and they will not be there.
- Decide right now to take at least one day off each week.Rest, take a walk outside, read a non-business book, play with your grandkids. But DO NOT WORK. Yes, it will be hard to break that habit. Yes, you will be tempted. Yes, your phone will beg for your attention. Ignore it! Or, better yet, turn it off. If you take a day off, you will actually get more done in the remaining six days than you did trying to work seven long days. There are a myriad of studies out there to support that theory. But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and let me know the results.
- Decide right now that you will focus, not just on the area of work in your life, but on the other areas as well.Check your schedule every week and be sure you are addressing ALL areas: Spiritual, Health, Personal Development, Relationships, Career, and, Personal Responsibilities. This will likely require that you reduce your work time in order to accommodate the other areas, but that is a great advantage because it makes you prioritize and work in a very targeted fashion.A well-rounded leader is a more effective leader. Be one!
- Decide right now who will be your accountability team.Find at least two people who know you well enough to speak frankly to you. And give them permission to do so. If they tell you that you are working too much, listen to them and adjust course. The fact is, a workaholic, like an alcoholic, may not realize the imbalance. You need others in your life who will recognize your behavior and help you regain your balance.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Remember that one regret?
“I wish I had gotten help sooner.”
Don’t let it be your regret as well.