The Death of a Workaholic with Jenny Lynne
“The difference between hard work and being a workaholic is consciously choosing what gets your energy, and when it’s done, putting it down and getting to rest.” – Jenny Lynne
I sat down with Jenny Lynne, a keynote speaker on work-life integration, hustle culture, and leadership. Jenny is on a mission to guide entrepreneurs and leaders beyond workaholism and reorganize their businesses.
In addition to her work as a speaker, Jenny serves as the Idea Activator behind Jenny Lynne LLC, an organization that changes the odds for micro-businesses and helps them start and sustain their impact.
- The symptoms of workaholism
- The difference between work ethic and workaholism
- Focusing on your strengths and delegating your weaknesses
The symptoms of workaholism
Jenny defines workaholism as the compulsion or the need to keep working, a voice in our head that spurs us to do one more task and then another and another, and so on. The feeling of never being “caught up.”
Symptoms of workaholism can manifest as a few main traits:
- Disengagement from life outside of work
- Pulling back from loved ones
- Attempting to outsource help yet still taking on more work
There are exercises and best practices for breaking out of the workaholic lifestyle, as Jenny did after losing the father of her children to cancer. Sometimes life gives us the conditions we need to make a change—other times, we must actively choose to create that environment and redesign our relationship with work.
“The first thing I tell people to do is pause and look at what voices are reinforcing that working more is a good thing,” Jenny says. “We all have them. And those voices are often positive ones. A common one I hear is, ‘My parents were the hardest working people I know. I learned my work ethic from them.’ Work ethic is not bad, but it’s separate from workaholism.”
The difference between work ethic and workaholism
There are circumstances where hard work is essential—starting up a new team, a product launch, creating a new project management system, etc.
However, the pace that works at the beginning of an endeavor is not the pace that works further down the line. Eventually, we must adjust our momentum to account for increased stability and altered responsibilities.
“A lot of times I'm talking to people, and there is an anxiety—anxiety to be good enough, to perform, to make more money,” Jenny says. “For some people, they grew up in poverty, and they're scrambling to make as much as they can. And they understand it sometimes takes hard work. But the problem is, at some point, that hard work stops working for you.”
Listening to the voices inside us that drive us forward is not a negative thing, but we must pay attention to the reality of what we’re gaining from submitting ourselves to constant late nights and over-encumberment, and what we’re giving away.
The difference between working hard and workaholism is that we choose what we focus on and give energy to, and take the time to rest.
What is the push or pull that can propel you to create the future you want, where your professional and personal life exist in harmony?
Focusing on your strengths and delegating your weaknesses
One of the most powerful steps to addressing workaholic tendencies is delegation and leaning into our “superpowers.”
For Jenny, that meant when she started her second company, she held onto creating systems and frameworks because that is her strong suit. However, she hired someone to take over marketing because distributing content is one of her weaknesses.
By determining her strengths and delegating the rest, she saved herself countless hours of toiling and created a more sustainable model across her company.
This approach allows for healthier boundaries:
“Part of what we have to learn is that we create those boundaries. Mine are, for instance, before 9 am, I don't take a meeting,” Jenny shares. “That's my me time, my spacious time where I meditate, stare out a window with a cup of coffee, or call a loved one. There are no rules.”
What do boundaries look like for you? Have you recognized any traits of workaholism in yourself? What is something you can adjust today that would improve your work habits?