9 to 5 Culture, Streamline Your Life

Bringing the Office Home

Our culture of overwork is increasingly pervasive and unhealthy. Perhaps it’s a Westernized thing. Americans work very long hours. Whatever the cause, the symptoms are clear. Time spent at the office oozes away from the plastic, income-producing world of work and seeps into the comfort and familiarity of what was once our lives.

All is not lost, however, if you still recognize yourself, see the truth and can separate your work life from your real life.

Who are you?

Two Classes of Hard Work

A separate distinction between work and leisure is clear for many people. They’ll go to work and work (most of the time) and then go home and eat, sleep, go out for drinks, spend time with friends and spend time with their kids (not in that order, of course.)

But a few types of people seem to have trouble with this. They blur the lines between their work and their hours of pleasure, and surprisingly, it seems to be two very different types of people who do this:

  1. The people who are in love with their work
  2. The people who are addicted to work

Do you fall into the first class? It’s rare. Here is a hint: if you have to ask, you aren’t.

Anyone who is in between these two extremes (and they are extremes) usually seems to have a better work/life balance.

Which category do you fall into? Many people actually don’t fall into either one. Here two questions to answer:

  • Do you spend a lot more time than the average person being productive/working, even when it isn’t always necessary?
  • Do you love your work?

If you said “yes” to the first question and anything but “definitely” to the second one, you are a workaholic and fall into that second category.

Workaholism is a very problematic thing for not only individuals, but whole families.

I remember a conversation I had with a former employer of mine who took a week off to travel to San Diego with her family. She took all the responsibility of planning the entire trip, from the flights to the hotels to each and every activity of each and every day. Not only did she need everything planned out literally to the hour, (by the way, this is a terrible practice for having quality vacations, not being spontaneous) but she also spent a good part of her trip on conference calls and “catching up” on work from outside the office. Apparently her mother and husband didn’t have a very good time. I’m glad I wasn’t on that trip.

But this is what I mean when I say family suffers too. Workaholics affect everyone around them, because they cannot relax, are always looking to the next thing and don’t know how to stop “doing.” They must always be productive.


For those of you who are in love with your work, (ie: you fell into the first category) you don’t have a problem. Your work gives you energy, you are probably very good at what you do, you are making a difference in the world in your own way, and you actually relax by “working.” You are not a workaholic. You can skip the rest of this section.

But if you are increasingly using your leisure time for being productive, and you spend hours outside of work thinking about work, checking and responding to work-related e-mail, and spending more time at the office than you need to, well you have a problem. It’s time to unplug, dude.

Start small. You need to give yourself one day per week (preferably a day that you don’t have to work) where you spend at least half the day not doing anything related to work or productivity. This means no talking to co-workers, not answering the phone, no job-searching, no doing anything productive. There will be plenty of time for this behavior in the coming week.

If you can keep this up for four straight weeks, then take the next step. Take an entire day off. It’s hard work, not working isn’t it?

After awhile, (three months), take the final unplugging challenge. Take an entire week off and go on vacation. Make sure to disconnect yourself entirely from your co-workers and really be on vacation. If your family comes with you, they will appreciate you for it. In fact, leave some of the planning to them! Don’t be like my old co-worker. Don’t spend your entire trip on your cell phone either. Don’t send text messages to anybody back home. Life is too short.

A Final Thought

764072_weedWe spend 60-80% of our waking hours working. There is no need to make it 100%.

When you ask an older person to reflect on their life and tell you what they regret, they NEVER say “I wish I had worked harder.” Heck, after watching so many years of their lives flash by, most older folks simply wish they could have spent more time with family and people they cared about.

Do this while you still have time.



  • Deb April 15, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Hey there. I found you!

    I’m still working on not being a workaholic and getting better at unplugging… It is definitely a process.

    One major step forward was identifying the attempt from another person to put their monkey on your back and also recognizing that I sometimes volunteered to take the monkey!

    See you in class.


  • Mike April 15, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Hey Deb!

    Thanks for visiting my blog. This is all part of the reason for my return to school and doing the web development program…

    I actually am working on re-designing this site as part of the program, which should be fun!

    See you later…


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