Just imagine if your business was like a formula 1 pit team: how successful do you think you would be? Would you be the team manager calmly orchestrating the events from the safety of the pit wall? Or would you be the one running round trying to do every job because you can’t bear to delegate, getting in everybody’s way but feeling good about yourself because you are busy with the end result that the car goes out late and with only 3 wheels?
One of the biggest problems for business owners is that we convince ourselves that being busy is what business is all about and that as long as we are giving our all, then there is not much else that we can do. While we all know 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 going back to our old ways.
The reason for this stems from why we got into business in the first place. When you are starting a business there is a real buzz from getting things off the ground, everything is new and exciting and the dreams that you set off with are still clear in your mind. At this stage you have to work hard, because there is nobody else to do the work and if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Unfortunately, herein lies the root of our future problems.
When we are busy like this we usually end up running on high amounts of adrenaline. Pumped up, working long hours and overcoming great challenges and with every win we have we make imprints in our subconscious mind, linking working hard with success. These imprints are made deeper by the people we tend to meet, who are usually similar to us, doing the same things and ending with the same results. The downside is that we actually become workaholics.
Just like an alcoholic, we become addicted to the buzz that we get doing what we know is bad for us and the last person to realise what is happening is the person with the problem. Also like an alcoholic, it’s the people around us that suffer the most. Family is neglected; friends become acquaintances and worst of all employees, who provide support, are driven away if they too are not workaholics. This only goes to reinforce the bad habits set by the business owner.
So if you are a workaholic, what do you do? Well, the steps are similar to addressing any addiction.
Becoming aware of habits
The first step is always being aware that you are a workaholic. The signs are quite clear and if you need help to see them ask somebody close to you to be honest with you. Some of the more obvious ones are:
- struggling to sleep at night because your mind does not stop
- getting stressed and losing your temper at relatively minor things
- starting things and not finishing them
- working late at night or at the weekend when those around you seem to be off enjoying themselves
- finding yourself being accused of not listening to other people.
Once you are aware that there is a problem you then have to take ownership of the situation. There is no point in blaming anybody apart from yourself. You can’t blame your team, the bank, the government, the economy or your customers. Where you are is a direct result of the decisions and actions you have made to this point. The good news is – that where you will be in the future will be a direct result of the decisions and actions you take now.
Know what you want
So when you are clear that you would like to change things what can you actually do to help you wean yourself off your ‘workaholism’? The first thing is to be really clear what sort of life you want to lead: how many hours per week, days per year you want to work, what will your team do for you and what would you rather be doing instead of working all the time? This is really important because if you don’t have something you would prefer to do, you will always end up doing what you are doing now, even if deep down you don’t feel fulfilled by it.
Now you know what you want, decide the time scale in which you want this to happen. Then plan out what needs to happen each quarter in order for you to get there.
Remember, it takes 21 times to create a good habit and the longer you have been a workaholic, the longer it will take you to change your many bad habits.
Finally, be honest with yourself and admit it when you need help and embrace it. Other people will see you fall back into your old ‘busyness’ habits far sooner than you do.
So go on, rev up your business and get yourself out of the pits.