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“Workaholic” is a tricky word.

Everyone knows a self-describing “workaholic.” It’s even possible you’ve been called a workaholic once or twice. But — and let’s be clear — there is a difference between a workaholic and someone who loves their work.

Workaholics are missing critical distinctions between work and life. Their happiness is derived almost exclusively from time in the office, and that’s dangerous territory for one’s health.

Here are some distinctions between “workaholics” and someone who “loves their work.”

What Is a “Workaholic?”

As defined by The American Psychological Association, a workaholic has 3 key characteristics:

  • Feels “compelled to work because of internal pressures.”
  • Has “persistent thoughts about work when not working.”
  • Works “beyond what is reasonably expected of the work despite the potential for negative consequences (e.g. marital issues).”

For workaholics, your work will absorb your thoughts and you will feel a lack of separation between work and life. Workaholics feel like they must be working in order to feel satisfaction from life. As a result, relationships suffer, health declines, and workplace productivity actually takes a hit.

Ironically, workaholics might not be working as efficiently as they could!

What Does it Mean to “Love Your Work?”

When you love your work, you’re aligning your passions and core values with a way to make a living; working doesn’t define your happiness — it’s just something you enjoy doing.

Like any aspect of life, some days are better than others, but at the end of the workday, you feel fulfilled and satisfied. Don’t be confused here: taking on longer hours at work for a big deadline or feeling stressed before an appointment is completely normal when you love your work; the distinction here is that self-inflicted mental pressure isn’t driving your long work day.

Am I a Workaholic?

Similar to other addictions, workaholics often don’t notice they’re overworking. One way to find out if you’re a workaholic is to ask a trusted friend or your spouse for their opinion; asking candidly if there are issues caused by the amount of time spent in the office should give you a clear perspective.

The next step is to take a look at yourself. Do you feel happy with your work/life balance? Are you recognizing when you’re scrutinizing yourself about work? Have you ever skipped holidays and personal time because you feel compelled to work? If you’re unsure how to the answer these questions, you might be a workaholic.

What to Do if You’re a Workaholic

Once you acknowledge your workaholism, you can start making changes to better your situation.

First, make an effort to leave work at work. Turn off email notifications or your phone if you think you’ll feel tempted to continue to work. Then, go for a walk or exercise. This will help transition your mind from work back to home.

Also, make an effort to absolve yourself from work-related pressure once you’re off the clock. Did you feel like you messed up? It’s okay. You can fix it tomorrow.

It’s Important to Get Help or Help Yourself

Taking little steps such as these to free your mind from your work pressures will go a long way. If you feel like you need help with your workaholism, reach out to a therapist or friend. They can be your accountability and help you get back to a balanced work-life situation.

And finally, if you think you don’t love your job as much as you should, you should change it. Wasting time in a job that doesn’t align with your goals won’t do you (or your boss) any favors! Taking a step toward balancing out your life and may even help you reach your long-term goals faster.

Have any thoughts on being a workaholic? Let us know on Facebook.

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