Just imagine if your business was like a Formula 1 Team – how successful do you think you would be? On race day, would you be the Team Manager, completely in control of the situation and calmly orchestrating events from the safety of the pit wall? Or would you be running around, doing every job to make sure it is done properly and getting in everybody else’s way, but feeling good because you are busy helping, with the end result being that the car goes out long after all the others, and with only 3 wheels on?
One of the biggest problems for us business owners is that we convince ourselves that being ‘busy’ is what ‘business’ is all about, and that as long as we are working hard, then there is not much else that we can do. While we all know the theory that we need to work smarter rather than harder, the reality is that life always throws us curve balls, and we end up reacting to the environment we find ourselves in and reverting to our old busy ways .
The reason we do this goes back to why we got into business in the first place. When you are starting your own business, there is a real buzz from getting things off the ground; everything is new and exciting, and the dreams that you have are still clear in your mind. At this stage of building your business you’ve got to work hard, because there is nobody else to do the work – if you don’t do it, then it doesn’t get done! Unfortunately, this is the root of our future problems.
When we are busy like this, we usually end up running on high amounts of adrenaline. We are pumped up, working long hours and overcoming all the challenges thrown at us. Every win we achieve makes imprints in our subconscious mind that link working hard with success. These imprints are made deeper by the people we meet, who are usually similar to us, doing the same things and ending up with the same results.
The downside of this is that we actually become workaholics, and find ourselves addicted to the buzz that we get from doing what we know is bad for us. Just like an alcoholic, the last person to see what is really happening is the person with the addiction, and it is the people around us that suffer the most. Family are neglected, friends become acquaintances, hobbies and interests fall by the wayside. What makes things even worse is that the people we recruit into the business to provide support are either driven away, or become workaholics themselves, which only reinforces our bad habits!
Do I have a problem?
If this sounds like you, what do you do? Well, the steps are similar to dealing with any addiction. The first step is to recognise that you actually have a problem. The signs are quite clear, but if you need help to see them, ask somebody close to you to be honest with you about it, and try to listen to what they have to say without becoming defensive.
Some of the more obvious signs are:
- struggling to sleep at night because your mind does not switch off;
- getting stressed and losing your temper at relatively minor things;
- regularly working late at night or at the weekend, when those around you seem to be off enjoying themselves;
- being unable to form or maintain emotional relationships.
Once you are aware that there is a problem, then you then have to take ownership of the situation. There is no point in blaming anybody else, such as your team, the bank, your family, the economy or your customers. Where you are now is a direct result of the decisions and actions YOU have made up to this point. The good thing is that where you will be in the future will be a direct result of the decisions and actions you take now and in the future. So stop doing as you have always done and getting what you have always got, and try doing something different.
The 3 steps to recovery
When you are clear that you are in control and are able to act differently to get a different result, what can you actually do to help you wean yourself off your “workaholism?” The good news is you don’t need a 12 step programme – you can get control of your addiction in just 3 simple steps:
Step 1 – the first thing you need to do is to get real clarity about what sort of work life you really want to have. Ask yourself:
- how many hours per week do I want to work?
- how many weeks per year do I want to work?
- what role do I really want to have in the business?
- what do I want my team to do for me?
- what would I rather be doing, instead of working?
This last point is really important, because if you don’t have something you would rather be doing than working all the time, then you will always end up working, even if deep down you hate doing it.
Step 2 – now you know how you want your work life to be, decide the time scale in which you want this change to take place and plan out what needs to happen each week, month or quarter in order for you to get there. You may need to train and develop your staff to take on some of the tasks you have been doing for years. Remember, the longer you have been a workaholic, the longer it will take you to change your many bad habits.
Step 3 – be honest with yourself and with others, admit when you need help, and embrace that help when it’s given. Those around you will notice far sooner than you if you start to fall back into your old ‘busyness’ habits, so listen to them when they tell you!