Slice of Life - Work & Life Balance
I planned only to write these Slice of Life blogs once every other month or so, but I thought I'd share my experience with grappling with workaholism over the years. Work related Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) recently hospitalized a good friend of mine. The following day they immediately decided to return to work. Sure enough, later that evening I came home to discover their condition had worsened. When they explained why they went to work, they expressed the idea of staying at home all day sounded miserable. They leave for work at the crack of dawn and often aren't home until just before bed.
What is Workaholism
"Workaholism is a soul-destroying addiction that changes people's personality and the values they live by. A workaholic is a work-obsessed individual who gradually becomes emotionally crippled and addicted to power and control in a compulsive drive to gain approval and public recognition of success." (From a great article by Dr. Killinger, a Professional Psychologist with a specialization on Workaholism.)
My History With an Addiction to Work I can speak on workaholism from experience. Back in college, three years ago, I had excelled to the top of my Game Design classes, become Student President, Microsoft Intern, and was committed to several major projects. I stayed awake 3-4 nights a week and took my friends ADHD medication to stay focused and awake. I skipped meals, receded from social obligations, optimized my time management to enforce tight schedules. When my partner would visit, they would end up sleeping alone while I worked through the night. The only friends I hung out with were ones who worked with me, or shared my dangerous work-ethic. My commitment to my work showed in a lot of the progress and accolades I had earned. However, all "good" things must come to an end. I had an emotional breakdown and subsequent health crisis about a month before graduation.
As turbulent as things were at the time, it was the best thing for me. It made me realize that I was harming myself and those around me. When I moved to Australia, I made a commitment to myself to ensure I kept a healthy work and life balance. It has been a difficult road to recovery, especially since game development is both my passion and my job. I discovered that my workaholism would flare up when I needed to escape external anxieties I didn't want to face. Work related stress I could handle because most of the time there is a clear-cut solution with measurable progress.
The hardest part about this transition was learning to listen to my mind and body in a way I used to neglect. I make an active effort to sleep enough, to eat well, to find sports I can enjoy, surround myself with positive people, and pay attention to my work habits. The above has helped me improve my bodies ability to cope with stress and find satisfaction. Since starting my freelance work and working from home, I've had the opportunity to listen to myself even better. The first few weeks of working from home were pretty miserable. I would stay inside all day, hunched over my laptop. Unlike an office, where I can walk around and socialize for a bit, I felt extremely isolated. Over time I learned to detect when I needed to go for a small walk around the neighborhood, or relax for a bit and absorb a bit of media or play a few quick matches of Hearthstone.
Overcoming Workaholism I'm sure workaholism is quite common in the Game Development industry. We get to pour our hearts and souls into crafting worlds and experiences for others. In an industry where crunch is a common trend, it is vital that we learn how to be introspective and force ourselves to put down our work each evening after we've returned home.
Overcoming workaholism is a very personal struggle. Each person will have their own way of dealing with it. A few things that worked for me are as follows. - I've learned to throw myself into new hobbies and explore activities I would never consider doing. When your only friends are people you've met through work, or actively work with, how can you possibly expect to separate work from relaxation? - Be open and honest with your close friends and family. Very early in my relationship with my current partner, I explained my struggle with workaholism. They experience it as well. It has been an incredible boon to point out when we find one another neglecting social, health, or domestic responsibilities for unhealthy work goals. - Discover ways to enjoy time alone. For me this means subscribing to my favorite channels on Youtube, finding games I could play in short 15-30 minute bursts, listening to podcasts, and treating myself out to a private lunch and coffee. - Anyone who spends any amount of time with me will notice that I am very much a "People Person." Lesser known is how much time I enjoy spending in my own company with the silence and time for introspection. Spending time with yourself can be unpleasant at first, but give it a go!
The friend who inspired this post asked me to write up a list of the podcasts I subscribe to. I've found listening to podcasts an excellent way to "switch off" when transitioning between work and personal life. I've cobbled together a few of my favorite podcasts below. Give them a listen when you're stuck at home and unable to do work, or on the train coming back from the office to get your mind off tomorrow's tasks.
"Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience." If I could recommend any two episodes to introduce you to Radiolab, I'd start here: - From Tree to Shining Tree
Invisibilia: "Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions." If I could recommend any two episodes to introduce you to Invisibilia, I'd start here: - The Personality Myth - The New Norm
Freakonomics: A podcast run by Economists. While the two episodes I recommend are work related, they explore a ton of awesome topics! - How to Be More Productive
99% Invisible: "99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world."
Welcome to Night Vale:
Alice Isn't Dead:
"A new fiction serial from the creator of Welcome to Night Vale, Alice Isn't Dead follows a truck driver in her search across America for the wife she had long assumed was dead."
"National project to instruct and inspire people to record each others' stories in sound."