Like many terms, “workaholic” has been bandied about and misused by the general public. Genuine, conscientious and hardworking individuals are called “workaholics” in a derogatory sense when it’s really not called for. True, workaholics are hard workers, but not all hard workers are workaholics.
What sets them apart, and how does the term workaholic apply to real estate investors? It makes me laugh as I write this article thinking about my own family and our business and the environment that I was raised in both personally and professionally. My older brother and I were working in the family business before we were teenagers. While my dad always did his best to be at our sporting events or extra curricular activities, work always came first because work paid the bills and allowed us to have and do whatever it was we wanted to have and do!
At the early age of 32, he left the security of the corporate world and became an entrepreneur and paved a path or each of his sons to follow. We learned a lot of lessons from him — and still do as he continues to actively be a huge part of our companies each day. One lesson we learned is how to be productive when working — how to make sure each day our actions are either earning for our families or setting us up to earn for our families. No questions asked, and no wasted time.
I am laughing as I write this because most of my generation would call him and even me “workaholics.” Truth be told, we are far from it. We just have a strong ethic that says “you work until you are done and then you leave work behind.” So what is a workaholic, and how do I characterize those who work hard as different from a workaholic?
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What Exactly is a “Workaholic?”
Workaholics are addicted to being busy. That is a simple truth, and when you dig in deeper, the reality of that statement is pretty harsh. They aren’t driven so much by the joy in their work as they are by a compulsive need to either look busy, active and important in the eyes of others or by their own need to advance in their work life. That need for advancement comes only from a need to feel important, and that is the only way they can achieve that. Work-life balance is non-existent to the workaholic. It consumes their tasks, conversations and thoughts. They forgo other activities and pursuits habitually for the sake of whatever they can call work.
People who are simply motivated go-getters aren’t necessarily workaholics. For the workaholic, work is life. Some psychologists would say work becomes an addiction and a compulsion. While there’s certainly merit in many workaholic tendencies and qualities, such as ambition, motivation, focus and going the extra mile, when workaholics go unchecked, it can be damaging to their personal and professional lives.
5 Ways Being a Workaholic is Harmful
1. You Can’t Talk About Anything Else
For the workaholic, their career consumes them. Not only do their thoughts and actions reflect this, but their conversation does, too. They only seem to want to talk shop, no matter where the conversation began. This can be taxing on those who have to listen, and it can damage relationships, particularly those that are supposed to be more personal. Now, for those of us in the real estate business…. just recall how annoyed we are at our peers who CANNOT stop talking shop every minute of every day!
The same conversation over and over can be very taxing when everyone knows what they are talking about and downright obnoxious when a workaholic is still fairly new to the business. These are the types of investors that I seek to avoid getting bogged down by in situations I can’t get out of quickly!
2. It Puts a Strain on Your Loved Ones
Long hours, skipped meals, missed commitments, minimal face time — all of these and more can make your loved ones feel as though work takes priority over them. Many family members, spouses and partners of workaholics have found themselves bitter and resentful, as maintaining the relationship takes a backseat to career advancement. While you may excel in the office, beware that obsessing over your career can hurt your loved ones and add conflict to your personal life.
My company is a family real estate business so the whole strain on the loved ones is built in. But if we went overboard with the workaholic syndrome, then even the family unit within a family business will suffer.
3. Skipping Vacation & Breaks Makes You Less Efficient
A few extra hours here and there aren’t the end of the world. There’s nothing wrong with meeting deadlines or even getting ahead on a project. That said, it isn’t healthy to opt out of your paid vacation time or skip breaks in favor of work. It’ll still be there when you get back. Studies show that employees who skip out on vacation time are actually less productive and have worse performance reviews.
This is a huge one for every reader! Oftentimes, real estate investors get into real estate in the first place for lifestyle design. The purpose of working for yourself is to not be a workaholic! The purpose at some point has to be creating a sustainable lifestyle including vacations and quality breaks.
4. Your Self-Worth is Tied to Work
I can promise everyone reading this one big thing! For real estate investors, your self-worth should never be tied to your net worth or the value of your portfolio. There are simply too many ways to be successful as a real estate investor. You can be hands-on or hands-off — extremely active or totally passive. You can own assets or work with paper. But never tie your self-worth and the value of your time and effort to your net worth.
More than anyone else, workaholics wrap their identity and self-worth up in work. A pink slip, bad review, missed deadline, mistake or perceived failing at work can cause depression, stress and anxiety in the life of a workaholic. When a deal is missed or a deal lost, or a property goes vacant or sells lower than the value you expected, you may find yourself in the middle of a full-blown crisis! Tying your self-worth to something temporal is not healthy or a lasting way to contentment.
5. You’re More Likely to Burn Out
When there’s no work-life balance and more and more hours of work, it’s no surprise that workaholics crash and burn. No one can do it all and trying can be devastating to one’s health. Burnout will catch up with you, as hours pile up and bad habits get worse. Take care of yourself with mental, emotional and physical breaks from the stress of work. Don’t buy into this one? Ask yourself again why there are so many out there with stories of when they “used to invest in real estate.”
Tips for Recovering Workaholics
If you know that you’re a workaholic, never fear. There’s hope — even for real estate workaholics. You can channel your tendencies and learn to take control of more damaging habits.
Start Better Habits
Training yourself to change your workaholic ways isn’t easy. You won’t succeed immediately — unlearning bad habits and replacing them with new ones takes dedication. First, you need the resolve to leave work at work. Refuse to check your email after hours. Don’t take phone calls. Let your family hold you accountable, and let them encourage you as you try to find balance. Start moving away from your desk to eat lunch.
Plan out your days in advance by deciding when and where your real estate activities are going to take place. The phone calls are a big thing, and you really need to pay attention to not take real estate calls during family time. After hours is one thing; after hours during family time is quite another. Make a plan for yourself, step-by-step, to get a grip on work-life balance.
Delegate Small Tasks
Give up the need to do everything yourself. Maybe that’s learning to recognize your limits for a regular working week and simply letting someone else take up a task. Learn to say “no.” It will be difficult at first to delegate. Eventually you’ll realize that you do not need to hire every vendor, make every call or review every comp, and you’ll learn when and where you can delegate those tasks to others. Giving others more ownership of the work will ease the burden on you.
As I wrote earlier, I was raised in an entrepreneurial family where I was taught that you focus solely on work until you reach tangible goals and the bills are paid. Luckily, I was taught that workaholics tend to focus on themselves and their own personal goals to the detriment of others, and I wanted to be the exact opposite. There is a fine line between having passion for what you do and being a workaholic. Stay on the right side of that line, and you can not only find great success, but find it very fulfilling as well.
Have you seen the negative effects of being a workaholic in yourself or others?
Share your experience in the comments.