How a Global Pandemic Helped Me Say Goodbye to My Workaholic Habits

How a Global Pandemic Helped Me Say Goodbye to My Workaholic Habits

I have always been someone with a lot of energy, I believed in the hustle, the go go go and never seemed to mind that I was reheating my tea 5 times in a morning, too busy grinding to remember to take a sip.

Enter a global pandemic – let’s just say this forced me to slow down, become stationary to one working environment and relearn how to work at a different pace. There were less projects, less responsiveness from potential candidates and my workflow needed to be adapted to something I just wasn’t used to. These are uncertain times, we’ve all heard it, started emails with “I hope you’re well in these strange times” because YES this really is a strange time. My working day is now spent consulting with clients on how they are going to move forward, developing and exercising an empathetic level of patience with people, new footing on conducting interviews. Personally, I have created new positive habits for myself – taking time to exercise during the day and allowing myself to take guilt free breaks and checking in on my family’s and my own self-care routines. Here’s how I went from workaholic tendencies to accepting a new pace and thriving in it.

I was always that kid growing up with 3 jobs or working all around the clock. We grew up in the city and my parents owned a cottage on the ocean, a serene place to go away and relax right? Wrong. Growing up we worked on that land all weekend, doing mostly chores and helping with the garden (all the things I still love today – and I thank my parents for that). So at a very young age I learned about hard work, always staying busy and “productive”, there was time for play and relaxation but our cottage was always a place of work. I believe this kickstarted my strong work ethic, one I am still very proud of today in a new form. I love to work, I used to pride myself on never taking a vacation day. I did, although get sick often, a cold here, strep throat there, and I always wondered why. In hindsight, I now see this is how my stress was shown, no breaks until the breaking point of being out of the office for at least a week feeling miserable. The COVID-19 pandemic and the changing working world provided me with an opportunity to see past the rise and grind and instead target my focus on new ways to remain productive. 

For someone who puts a lot of their self-worth and value into their jobs, COVID-19 really was an eye opener for me and something changed, in me, the way I work and how I want to continue to have balance in my life once we get back to our “new normal”. If you are a fellow workaholic, I hate to break it to you but this is no longer considered to be a good thing. The long hours, no breaks, grinding it out culture was put on hold for most people (we can say the opposite for our essential workers whose hours and working overtime during these times have increased). Let’s say for the average person working 60+ hours a week, grinding night and day to hit those goals and targets, for most of us this has changed, going from that lifestyle to having things be unknown and come to a complete halt has been a hard transition. We put value on how many hours we work being productive, head down can’t stop/won’t stop. This pause felt strange and was anxiety driven and uncomfortable, like when I have nothing to do I get antsy or when you are having a conversation with an awkward pause – we want to fill space and move on. The COVID-19 work pace has given me time to reflect, to sit with myself and my fears and accept that if I only have 5 calls, reply to 10 emails and have two Zoom calls on that day, I still made some significant accomplishments and I am productive. I had to fight against feeling the guilt of I “should” be doing MORE. The reality is this change doesn’t have to be scary or leave you ashamed you didn’t put in a 12 hour day forgetting to eat lunch. No, now with the extra time on my hands I want to explore this lifestyle more and take time for exercise and breaks and really being okay with the slower pace. Enjoying the simpler things in life and evaluating all the things you put value into. What do you really value? What is important to you and how do you want to live life going forward?  

As a Recruiter, I get the opportunity to meet and get to know many organizations. They invite me for tours to meet their teams and get a feel for the workplace culture. Now with COVID-19, I believe more and more candidates are asking these questions about values and balance to potential employers. As I look at my company, Venor’s, own culture and our values, I can confidently say they align with my own and give me the freedom and space to create a balanced lifestyle. I’ve made the transition from hustle culture to enjoying my time at my cottage, yes to actually RELAX. Taking time for myself during the day to work out or do my yoga routine from home. Making a habit of mindfulness has given me a new perspective when looking at this global pause and it fits well into what the pause in my life has been, I’m now embracing it and the unknown. This new perspective has allowed my creative thinking to flourish and out of the box ideas have come to light. I now have more energy when I sit down and jump into a new project and my work is thorough and the high quality standard I still hold myself to. Sundays have less anxious anticipation of the hoard of emails I was used to dealing with, I now get excited for Monday to jump into my work for reasons other than productivity and staying on the grind. So, the pace may not be as high for now, however I am enjoying the process and the time I have for myself to be a better employee and to contribute to some of the bigger more important things, in life and in our business.  

Key Takeaways:

1. Practicing Balance – Remember your third grade teacher preaching practice makes perfect? Well that’s a little dated, you don’t need to aim for perfection because in life that really isn’t realistic. Instead, use methods of practice aimed towards balancing out the full throttle routine you are used to. As long as we keep practicing finding balance, we will find one. Of course, changing routines isn’t linear, you will lose it, get frustrated or stressed, but with practice you will find it again and it can be as second nature to you as those 12 hour days once were.

2. Acceptance & Perspective –  Look, it’s important to accept that we are all in this together, you are not alone in feeling like a fish out of water when it comes to transitioning from “workaholic mode.” Changing your perspective is vital, it’s not that you aren’t getting as much done, but instead that you’re turning focus and productivity to other areas of your life as well in order to maximize your quality of work. Looking at this from a new lens and taking this as an opportunity to renew your vision of the future can help shape and develop new and healthy working habits.

3. Goal setting – This means changing our priorities of what is important and taking time to re-examine how we work. This is a great time to create new habits. For me, it was daily walks and workouts – which I always put off. The clarity of taking this time every day for myself has done so much for my creativity and energy that I put into my work and also allowed me to reconsider what goals I want to reach.

4. Self Care – This is cliché I know, however everyone looks different – and yes, I like to get a pedicure and take Epsom salts baths, but this should also be seen as taking more time to be mindful/pause and be okay with uncertainty. It’s about closing the laptop screen guilt free to take a quick walk and gather your thoughts before diving head first into your next project. Self-care is something that you need to actively make time for, even if this pandemic were to disappear tomorrow and your schedule was suddenly full again. Test the waters and see what helps to clear your head and incorporate it into your daily routine.

5. Celebrate it All –  Recognize your successes and be proud of yourself for those wins, but on the flipside accept your failures and explore them rather than cower away in defeat – there is a lot of wisdom you can learn from your own mistakes.

Whatever the “new normal” is moving forward, whether the old grinding and hustle is over, I know one thing for me is that I will always be a hard worker and love to work – it just may look different. Still successful, reaching and exceeding my targets, but also challenging myself in a new way as part of my goal setting by being willing to take time away and keeping on track with my values. So to my workaholics out there, this is me telling you to take a step back and rethink how you can attain your goals without working yourself to the point of burnout. This is also me telling you to throw out that reheated tea or coffee, make a fresh cup and enjoy every sip of it still hot, guilt free.

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