Task Addiction: Diagnosed

There’s an old saying I’m sure you’ve heard:

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” -The Shining

It’s safe to say all-work Jack is rarely accused of being the “fun” friend or the adventurous, life-of-the-party friend. If he’s not working on a deadline, he’s preparing for the next one as well as the next one after that one.

The All Too Familiar Scene

When he’s home, Jack’s wife and kids can’t get his attention very often because he’s always on to the next task. He’s surgically attached to his smartphone, and the last time he made eye contact during a conversation was when his phone was broken as he pleaded, wide-eyed, with the repair technician, “I can’t live without my phone — I’m going to lose my job. How long will it take to fix?!”

But Jack’s an extreme case, right?

Surely, you’re not guilty of getting stuck in the same rut … or are you?

Let’s take a quiz to find out:

Quiz: Answer yes or no to the following questions. Be honest!

  1. You consistently start your day with email, and that means before getting to the office. In fact, it usually means before you have breakfast or see your kids off to school. Okay, let’s be real…for some of you it means you’re already halfway through the day’s emails before your feet hit the floor on your way out of bed…
  2. People notice you are obsessed with tasks.
  3. Achievement is the chief goal in your life.
  4. There are no boundaries on your time.
  5. You feel separation anxiety when you lose your Wi-Fi connection or can’t check email.
  6. You are constantly drained and never feel fully charged.
  7. It takes a lot of effort to connect deeply with someone or get social with family and friends. Or maybe you “pretend” to connect by sitting with your spouse to watch TV, but end up mostly keeping an eye on your email.
  8. Your mind is always racing and you struggle to get consistent sleep.
  9. Your spouse, kids, and friends know tasks come first. They expect you to respond to invites with the classic, “I can’t go. I have to work.”
  10. You are physically present but intellectually and emotionally absent. (See number 7 above).
  11. There is a lot of activity, but no real sign of progress.

Defeating Task Addiction

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might be stuck in task mode. What we’ve learned is that if you answer “yes” to one of these questions, chances are high that you will have said yes to more than one, and where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

There’s also hope, however. If you’re stuck in servitude to the daily grind of task mode, here are a few helpful tips to get healthy:

  • Replace email in the morning with something more inspirational — whatever helps you come alive. It could be reading, meditating, exercising, or starting the day with family breakfast.
  • Be proactive, not reactive. Don’t let someone else define your day in an email or phone call. Actively prioritize your day and goals rather than allowing every email to blow your schedule about like a flag in the wind.
  • Discipline yourself by turning off your phone, or leaving it behind, when you are off work or in a social environment. This will help you remain present with and connected to those around you.

Ultimately, my advice is simple: don’t let work dominate your life.

Learn to shift and be present with those in your life who matter most. A balanced life of meaningful investment in yourself, family/friends, team, organization, and community ultimately leads not just to a healthier, more joyful life, but also a more productive one. And that’s the goal that keeps you stuck in task mode in the first place, right? So why not give it a shot and try shifting gears for a change. We think you’ll like the results.

I go much more in depth with this concept in one of my books, The 5 Gears. It basically outlines your social awareness, keeping you in the correct “gear” every hour of the day. Learn more about it here.