Workaholic’s Curse

Just as our view of work affects our real experience of it, so too does our view of leisure. If our mindset conceives of free time, hobby time, or family time as non-productive, then we will, in fact, make it a waste of time. For example, many of the business leaders and Harvard students I work with exhibit the telltale symptoms of the “workaholic’s curse.” They conceive of all the time spent away from actual work to be a hindrance to their productivity, so they squander it. As one CEO of a telecommunications company in Malaysia told me: “I wanted to be productive because that’s what makes me happy, so I tried to maximize the time I spent working. But, as I later realized, I had too narrowly defined what ‘being productive’ was. I started to feel guilty when I did anything that wasn’t work. Nothing else, not exercise or time with my wife or relaxation, was productive. So I never had time to recharge my batteries, which meant that, ironically, the more I worked, the more my productivity plummeted.”