Shifting to Healthy Hustle
It’s no secret that, today, being crazy busy is a way of life. Bosses are demanding. Companies expect commitment.
Some clients come to me thinking that changing jobs or career paths will magically solve the problem. Unfortunately, this quick fix is rarely the solution. Many people just end up carrying their workaholic ways with them into a new role.
It is possible to find a middle ground of healthy hustle — one where you can go big and be ambitious without burning out. Once you start to shift your habits and thoughts, you can break the cycle of addictive overworking.
1. Own Up to Consequences
Identify the hidden payoff of your overworking addiction. People generally don’t keep repeating a behavior unless they get some positive benefit from it. Is staying late at the office a way to avoid your marital problems? Does having a lot of tasks on your to-do list meet a deeper psychological need to feel validated?
2. Confront the Costs
Get radically honest about what workaholism is costing you. Talk to your friends and family about how your habits have affected them. Ask what changes they’d like to see. You’ll probably find that instead of being critical, they’ll express how much they miss you and care about seeing you happy.
3. Ditch the All-or-Nothing Mindset
You’re not a failure because you didn’t accomplish every item on your to-do list. You’re not lazy if you take one weekend off (or two!) from pursuing multiple side gigs. Catch yourself when you veer into this type of unhelpful thinking.
Have some compassion for yourself. Cut yourself some slack. You’re not perfect; you’re human. Remove the words “I should” from your vocabulary. Swap “I’m busy” with “I’m focused.” Only say things to yourself that you would say to a close friend.
4. Imagine Your Best Self
Are you bleary-eyed, hunched over your desk? Or are you relaxed, well-rested, and engaged in a task that brings out your strengths? My guess is the latter. The “Best Possible Self” exercise comes from positive psychology research. It’s one you can use to fuel a more fulfilling vision for your life — one where your work inspires joy, not dread.
5. Be Deliberate About Boundaries
Set clear limits around your schedule, especially if you work from home, where the separation between on/off hours blends. Practice saying no more often. Instead of letting stress or a desire for approval drive you to take on too much, push back on demands, negotiate responsibilities, and be very clear about expectations.
6. Bookend Your Days
Begin the day with morning ritual that leaves you feeling happy. It’ll help you create a sense of mastery and self-control, all before you step foot in the office or open your inbox. End the day with a fun activity so you have a reason to leave work on time. It also gives you something to look forward to and keeps rumination at bay. Make sure your evening routine helps you wind down and clear your head before bed.
7. Control Your Stress
Right now, work is a coping mechanism that helps you avoid uncomfortable feelings. Luckily, you can get better at managing difficult emotions instead of turning to work to numb out. One of my favorite tools is a simple self-inventory called HALT, which involves periodically asking yourself if you are:
This practice is widely used to aid addiction recovery. It’s an effective way to self-monitor so you can stay in control and make decisions that better serve you.
8. Schedule Self-Care
Many of my self-professed Type A clients prefer reframing downtime as recovery time instead. This helps them be more proactive and intentional about scheduling it.
If workaholism is starting to affect your life, get the right treatment. Find support through your doctor, therapy, or a support group like Workaholics Anonymous.
Finally, keep in mind that change happens slowly. Workaholic habits take a lifetime to form. Be patient with yourself. You’re undoing decades of conditioning. Commit to making space in your life for more than just work. That’s a step forward.