5 things workaholics need to know about life and retirement

Beautiful mature business woman workaholic tired working in the office until the night on overtime

Image: Tiplyashin Anatoly / Bigstock.com

How can a workaholic retire? Will a workaholic retire? If you’re hooked on work it won’t be easy.

What’s a workaholic? Psychologist Linley McMillan from simplystrategic.com says, ‘A true workaholic is highly driven and finds it difficult to disengage from work, often working past hunger pangs and failing to see relationships and health red flags.’

Are you a workaholic? Try the Bergen Work Addiction Scale test at the end of this post to check yourself out.

Meanwhile, here are the five things workaholics need to know about life and retirement:

1. If work is your life, you haven’t defined life well

If your work constantly occupies your time and your mind you probably already know that isn’t healthy. But it can be hard to get off the work treadmill. After all, the work must be done.

But life—real life—is more than work. When was the last time you took the time to watch the sunset? To walk barefoot along a beach? To go to a concert or a sporting event? Without thinking about work?

Work is important, but real life adds experiences outside of work. Take the time to think through what you believe your life is missing.

The reality is that you can work long hours without being a workaholic. It’s about—to use McMillan’s word—‘disengaging’ from work when you’re not working.

2. The who in your life are important

‘John’ isn’t his real name, but he’s one of the dying in Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. His regret was that he had worked too hard.

He enjoyed what he did, but, ‘I gave less time to what truly kept me going through life: Margaret [his wife] and my family, my dear Margaret. Her love and support was always there. But I wasn’t there for her.’

She died three months before John was due to retire. Actually, he’d retired early to care for her because of her poor health.

People are important and need to take priority—starting with those at home.

3. Wellness demands a balanced life

John made another point: ‘There is nothing wrong with loving your work and wanting to apply yourself to it. But there is so much more to life. Balance is what is important, maintaining balance.’

That includes balance in having a healthy life. It’s true that you can be physically healthy by going to the gym before or after work. And you can make sure that you eat well.

But health is more than this. There’s also mental and emotional health and wellbeing. It’s about how we relate to people, our attitude and how we spend our downtime. Life is more than work.

4. You need to take time to think about your retirement

For the workaholic, it’s hard to find time to think about anything else but work. However, you do need to think about retirement—starting with thinking about what you will do.

Perhaps workaholics should treat preparing for retirement as a project to work on. A personal work project that needs to be done. It’s a mistake to leave working out your retirement until you’re retired.

You could start by asking yourself: ‘How am I going to keep my mind active and what goals do I want to achieve in retirement?’

5. You’ll need to work to a plan for retirement

For  workaholics, psychologist, business consultant and author of Beyond Work, Bill Roiter, says they should not assume retirement will sort itself out. He suggests that ‘when you cross the threshold of retirement you heavily schedule the first three months to cushion the disorientation of not working as you have for so many years’.

Those three months will perhaps include an extended holiday and some of the other things you have wanted to do.

Halfway through that time, plan the next three to six months based on what you’ve learned. Take advantage of the time to learn new skills, but ‘keep planning, doing and learning in short segments for the next six to eighteen months’.

He adds that there will be successes and failures and it often takes up to 18 months to adjust to your new life. ‘Don’t rush it!’

In the meantime—for now—John warns: ‘Don’t create a life where you are going to regret working too hard,’ he says.

Are you a workaholic?

Developed at the University of Bergen (Norway), the Bergen Work Addiction Scale uses seven basic criteria to identify work addiction. All items are scored on the following scale: (1) Never; (2) Rarely; (3) Sometimes; (4) Often; and (5) Always:

  • You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  • You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  • You work to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.
  • You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
  • You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  • You prioritise work over hobbies, leisure activities and exercise.
  • You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

Cecilie Andreassen from the University of Bergen says that scoring ‘often’ or ‘always’ on four (or more) of the seven items may suggest that you’re a workaholic.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of RetireNotes.com

Category: Planning, Working

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