When I decided to freelance, things got tricky. Suddenly, I had more control over my income. I had control over how much or little I want to work, and I had control over where to work and to what extent I allow work to interfere with the rest of my life. This control sounds great, and it is - I love it. But it's been hard for me to set my own boundaries. Why?I'm scared I've written about being a fear-based saver. I grew up poor, and I don't want to go back to that place. So it's hard for me to say, “no.” It's hard for me not to want to work as much as possible. I like being in control; the control I have over work makes me feel good. Dopamine-good. As long as I'm working, I feel like I'm in complete charge of my own financial destiny. And maybe I am, and that's great, but it's not healthy to be driven by fear. Plus, like the article pointed out, I've subscribed to the oversimplified idea that, the harder I work, the wealthier I will become - and there are repercussions for this. Career quality; life quality Work isn't as much fun as it should be. I switched careers for a reason - because this is what's enjoyable to me. But lately I'm not enjoying it; I've commodified it. It's just not as much fun this way. They say it's not work if you're doing what you love. But if you're constantly doing just that one thing, it gets old. Brian and I have a vacation planned. I'm very excited, but the prevailing thought has been how this vacation might affect my work. Not cool. Time There's no way to gauge how many hours a week I work, because I'm constantly thinking, talking or doing something work-related. It's a constant that robs me of my personal time. I want to read more. I'd like to write a book. I'd like to travel, go to trivia night, and take a lunch break. But my obsession gets in the way. Value Why do I have an emergency fund? Why do I have a savings and retirement account and a budget? So I can be comfortable, not worry so much and take time to enjoy things. That's the value of that money for me. By being in a constant state of self-induced stress and by not fully enjoying anything outside of a single obsession, I'm diminishing the value of my money. Career It's hard to think straight when you're obsessive. I remember faltering over calculus problems in high school. My teacher said to walk away, do something else, and then come back to it. It helped. A fresh perspective gave me the clarity necessary to do things the right way. This is something I need to remember in my career: if I keep obsessing and not taking the time to look at my work with a fresh, clear perspective, it's going to suffer. My career is going to suffer. Advancing in your career (and thus, building wealth), isn't just about hard work; it's also about maintaining quality and clarity.
Thinking about all this, I remembered the article I wrote on workplace gratitude. While I still agree with myself, I might have written it differently had I been thinking about workaholism at the time. I might have added a disclaimer. It's one thing to put in 110 percent because having a good work ethic is important to you. But putting your entire life into your job because you're fixated on it and need it in order to feel something…that is, I'm starting to realize, very unhealthy.What I'm doing about it Communicating Not only does communicating this issue make it more real to me, it also keeps me from engaging in workaholic behavior. For example, Brian knows and agrees that I have an issue, so when my work email dings at dinner, I don't pick it up because he's looking at me like I'm some of kind of fiend. Setting boundaries Recently, things were becoming so overwhelming that I had to drop a client - this wasn't easy. It wasn't a huge loss income-wise, but it was still tough. Maybe because of how I grew up, this was like looking a gift horse in the mouth. But I did it; I politely said “no” and thereby set a boundary for myself. Disconnecting Part of the reason the statistics keep climbing, I think, is that technology makes work so accessible. Even if you don't work from home, you likely take your office with you. I've started to disconnect. I've disabled email on my phone, for example, and set my laptop to automatically go to sleep. Work is important. A career is important. I'm certainly not suggesting neglecting either one. But personally, I've gone overboard, and ultimately, I guess it stems from a fixation on building wealth. And I'm still intent on building wealth. But while I do think hard work pays off, I've found that an obsession with it can backfire and end up costing you instead.