Workaholism & My Slow Road to Real Productivity

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How I stopped working obsessively and actually got more done.

I was a workaholic for years and years. It was something that I took pride in for a very long time.

I knew on some level that it was an issue for me: that I worked too long of a day, that it cut into my personal and social life, that it left me feeling empty in other areas of my life. Yet, I just assumed those were the only issues — and once I got this one thing done, I could deal with those areas.

Honestly though, I did want to be free of the grips of  workaholism. I had experienced burnout before, and I ruined something that had taken years for me to create because of it. I didn't want that to happen again. I wanted to curb the long hours, but it was hard because I've always been a hard worker — I loved work and I loved to work. I equated working hard with working long hours. But I couldn't deny that the burnout factor was real, and I was actually starting to notice I was more or less just pushing shit around and only getting some work done. So, over the past few years I started actively looking for a solid solution, or some sort of epiphany to shift my thinking. That a-ha moment (please repeat in Oprah voice) finally arrived via 99u's book Manage Your Day-to-Day, last spring.

Manage Your Day-to-Day is a book dedicated to building a daily routine and refining a tight focus in today's day and age. It is all about working online as a creative entrepreneur, and straight up my alley. After a friend recommended it, I quickly bought the Audible version, and listened to it ALL THE TIME the first few weeks. (I still listen to it because its so jammed pack with great resources and advice.)

How I stopped working obsessively and actually got more done.

This book changed my life in many ways. But the biggest thing it did for me was to make me see that workaholism is in fact more of a waste of time than extensive productivity:

Unlike computers, however, human beings aren't meant to operate continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time. Rather, we're designed to move rhythmically between high and low electrical frequencies...

Instead, we live linear lives, progressively burning down our energy reservoirs throughout the day. It's the equivalent of withdrawing funds from a bank account without ever making a deposit. At some point you go bankrupt.

The good news is that we can influence the way we manage our energy. By doing so skillfully, you can get more done in less time, at a higher level of quality, in a more sustainable way. - pg. 51 Manage Your Day to Day

When spelled out like this, it resonated like a ton of bricks. The clincher for me was that it never occurred to me that working to the point of exhaustion wasn't productive. I just assumed it took up too much time, not that it wasn't efficient - I understand now how totally backwards that is. But I truly believed by working long hours I was getting more done (although I was starting to recognize more of my time was spent in weird Internet K-holes). Given this example of bankruptcy, it drove it straight home how naive I had been.

Since reading the book I've developed an incredibly tight routine that has not only helped me get a lot of work done in shorter time, but its given me back so much of my time that I often wonder if I've forgotten something! Now I have a pretty detailed work flow with tools I use every day, which I'll share later this week.

Here's an overview of the sections of the book and how they have helped me immensely:

Creative work first, and reactionary work second: Stop answering emails first thing in the morning. Figure out when you're at your most inspired and energetic and use that time to work on your most creative projects. Use down time to answer emails, do paper work etc.

This has been so important for me, I would often do all the little stuff (or annoying stuff) first, thinking I would save the good stuff for later. When in actuality, by the time I got to the good stuff I had no excitement anymore or energy! I've now flipped this routine, and it is way more fulfilling and productive.

Develop space for solitude within your day: Identify distractions and put social media on notice. Make a commitment to yourself to section off time to work and create with no distractions.

This was a big one for me. Even though it's important for me to respond to people online because of the work I do, I don't need to do it every time I hear a ding. As long as its done within 24 hrs I'm golden. Now during my peak creative time I turn off all notifications. Another few helpful changes for me: I no longer keep my phone by my bed so its there for me first thing in the AM or when I wake in the middle of the night. I also try and turn off all screens around 10pm most nights, and read a book before I go to bed. Life changing stuff!

Replenishing your creative energy: Make time to reenergize your creativity. Take time off. Make for the sake of making, not just for work. Find time to get out and be inspired.

This has been key for me recently, I started a #YearOfMaking and it has completely unleashed an unbelievable amount of inspiration for me.

Regardless of if you are a workaholic or not, I highly recommend this book if you work for yourself and/or work online. It is totally written for today's creative and the world we work in. I love the audible version because of the way the book is set up. It's filled with anecdotal examples and interviews with many industry leaders, because of that its wonderful to listen to it. I ended up buying the hardcopy to easily reach for when talking with a client. That should tell you how important this book is to me. I can't recommend this book enough.

Have you read Manage Your Day-to-Day? If so how has it helped you? If not -- what do you need the most help with?