We all know that entrepreneurs work long hours. Sixty-three percent more hours than the average worker, according to one UK study.

Almost every entrepreneur I know has had to put in 80, 100, even 120 hours a week at one time or another. There's always too much to do and never enough time or people to get it done.

When hard work becomes an addiction

Some entrepreneurs, though, are not simply trying to stay on top of their to-do list. They have found that the work itself provides a high, a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that few other things do. The motivation to work is not the desire to get things done, but simply to work for work's sake.

Working long hours is not a necessity. It's an addiction.

In the book Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them, psychotherapist Bryan E. Robinson explains, "Work addiction or workaholism is an addiction in the same way that cocaine and alcoholism are addictions.... [It] can lead to an unmanageable everyday life, family disintegration, serious health problems, and even death."

Addictions have serious consequences

Unlike addictions to cocaine, alcohol, and other substances, we as a society tend to affirm addiction to work. Those who prioritize work above all else in their lives are regularly rewarded with praise, admiration, and financial compensation.

But every kind of addiction--even a socially accepted one--eventually catches up with us, no matter our age, stamina, or ambition. Workaholics are susceptible to exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and other health problems.

The sooner you can identify if you or a loved one is struggling with workaholism, the better. The challenge is that it can be difficult to distinguish between working hard and being a workaholic--especially when it comes to driven entrepreneurs.

In both cases, you are working hard. In both cases, there is plenty to do to keep you occupied. In both cases, you probably believe you have to work this hard to keep the business alive.

How to know if you or a loved one is a workaholic

Robinson defines workaholism as "an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work to the exclusion of most other life activities."

Those who are addicted to work can't stop working--not for the sake of family or friends, not to participate in other meaningful activities, not even for their own well-being. An entrepreneur with a healthy relationship to his or her work can put it down when necessary and is able to genuinely enjoy other aspects of life.

If you think you might be struggling with workaholism, here are some questions to consider:

  1. Do you regularly work on weekends and on vacation instead of resting or doing recreational activities?
  2. Do you prefer to do everything yourself instead of delegating work to others?
  3. Do you base your sense of self-worth on what you accomplish?
  4. Do you find that you're unable to sit still and always have to keep busy?
  5. Have your friendships and other relationships deteriorated because you have not had time to invest in them?
  6. Have you given up hobbies and favorite pastimes so you can work more?
  7. Do you have trouble saying no to new opportunities that come your way?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be one of the millions of Americans who struggle with an addiction to work. You can take Robinson's more extensive quiz to be certain.

There is life after workaholism

The good news is that workaholism is an addiction that can be broken. Admitting that you have a problem and being willing to ask for help from others, including mentors, trusted friends, coaches, and therapists, are major steps toward transforming your relationship to work.

In the end, your business will actually benefit from having a founder who is more balanced, rested, and focused. And your personal life--especially your relationship with your closest loved ones--will be stronger as well.

Published on: Mar 6, 2017
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