logo image

ATD Blog

Borderline Workaholism


Fri Sep 30 2016

Borderline Workaholism-c10bee22a71bd8e39e6e8902bac59d20c40fb9ea9fcd5d6cf13a2140eb8a3117

Are you the kind of person who starts early, puts in a full day, day after day, pitches in when needed, works late, and is widely regarded as a credit to the organization? Do you pride yourself as a dedicated professional? If so, wonderful.

How can you tell when you cross the line between diligent worker and unintentional workaholic? At times a dedicated professional might have to emulate some of the behaviors of workaholics, so the issue isn't always clear. If you consistently work past normal ending time, you might be a workaholic without realizing it.


Look for the Clues 

It's understandable that on occasion, you work late. Once a week, even twice a week, is probably not so bad, especially when situations call for it. What if you’re working nine or even 10 hours a day, three, four, five days a week? What if you're devoting part of your Saturday or Sunday to your work responsibilities?

One sign as to when you might be crossing the line into workaholism is right in your hand. Are you taking your briefcase home every night? Does your laptop, tablet, or smartphone contain various work-related items that you intend to address in the evening?

Dedicated professionals offer predictable, excellent performance, but not to the point where they experience stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, or other undesirable manifestations of being out of balance. Giving 100 percent is great. Offering 105 or 110 percent, occasionally, might be merited. Consistently offering 115 to 120 percent, or more, might not be prudent.

Way Beyond the Call 

It's understandable that you are consistently busy. People who seek to rise in their careers find themselves in the same boat, more or less. When you are consistently busy, make sure it is on high-level tasks that fulfill vital responsibilities. Anyone can be busy today with what competes for our time and attention, but are you busy on the right issues?

Do you find that work is incessantly encroaching upon your weekends? Do you have a clear, uninterrupted stretch of leisure time on Saturday or Sunday? Constantly taxing yourself physically and mentally is a prescription for burnout.


Surprisingly, the top achievers in almost every industry seem to be better at marshaling their resources and allocating their time than others. Often, they don't put in the extra-long hours in the evening or on weekends because they focus on the key tasks at hand during the normal workday.

Timed and Focused 

If you don't currently have this level of concentration and focus, rest easy. You can develop it. Begin by acknowledging the importance of staying attuned to the task at hand and not allowing your peripheral vision to take hold. I find that by using a device as simple as a timer, I can focus on any task, desirable or undesirable.

For whatever task you face, if you devote yourself for 20 minute segments, take a break, then repeat, you can accomplish a lot and finish working at a reasonable hour. Not coincidentally, from a physiological perspective it makes sense to stand up, walk around, and stretch every 20 minutes.

You owe it to yourself, your family or significant other, and even your employer to maintain a work-life balance. Yes, you want to be regarded as a high-value worker who accomplishes a great deal each day and week, but not at the expense of your health and well-being. When you can come home on a Friday afternoon and have a whole weekend without being concerned about work, then you know you have arrived at a good place.

You've Reached ATD Member-only Content

Become an ATD member to continue

Already a member?Sign In


Copyright © 2024 ATD

ASTD changed its name to ATD to meet the growing needs of a dynamic, global profession.

Terms of UsePrivacy NoticeCookie Policy