Dealing with Workaholism and Anxiety

I just emailed Richard Siddaway and informed him I was not going to be attending the PowerShell Summit. The Summit is the conference I love going to every year but this year was different. I love meeting other people, talking tech and when I’ve finally made it up on stage presenting my ideas on how to make our careers better. But this year was not going to happen. Why? Because it was throwing me into a depression and my family was being affected.

You might ask yourself, “Why would a conference talk have such an effect on somebody?” That’s a fair question. If all I had on my plate besides my full-time job was this conference talk, I might have been able to make it happen. After all, I did do my first conference talk at Techmentor in 2015, and it went great. I was nervous beforehand but not the nervous that affected everything else in my life. That’s a different kind of nervous and is one that I wish upon no one. It’s the kind of “nervous” that completely removes your appetite. It’s the nervous that removes your will to do just about anything. That kind of “nervous” is an anxiety disorder and is something I’ve dealt with off and on for nearly my entire life.

Workaholism

Along with this occasional bout of anxiety/depression I’ve worked hard for many, many years. I’ve always been that go-to guy for many of my jobs; If no one could figure it out, give it to Adam. I love the fulfillment my work gives me to the point where lately I’ve been thinking it borders upon workaholism. I enjoy the work I do; hell, I love the work I do right now. I love that quote by Marc Anthony: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”. This rings true for me but is a double-edged sword. I have no hobbies. When I do try to get a hobby, my mind races with ways to make money from it. When I try to relax, I can’t. Visions of being productive at work dance through my head and I’m constantly thinking to myself of how productive I could be when I’m lazy on the couch. This isn’t healthy.

I work from 8-7 Monday through Thursday and 8-5 on Friday with generally with no breaks. Then, on the weekends, depending on what my side project workload is like I’ll probably get in another 10-12 hours. This means I’m in front of my computer actively working on something nearly 70 hours/week and is routine for me. When I have a big deadline on something, that can easily go up to 80 or more. With a wife and two kids, this isn’t healthy.

Day to day, this attitude about work enjoyment is fine, but occasionally, the workload spikes above my red line and my brain seem to implode upon itself thus no Summit attendance. I work from home and have a pretty standard routine, but this routine has recently been upended due to travel to San Francisco next week, a family vacation the next, the PowerShell Summit the next and then right after a Microsoft Virtual Academy recording on Pester. On top of that, I was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity on another project that I can’t yet let be known. For someone that gets in the groove of a routine, this was way too much for me handle. I made the decision to remove a little bit of that stress, and it felt great.

Community/Side Work

I always one to tell people to contribute to the community and to have side projects. You should share your knowledge and help others, and this still rings true but do what I say not as I do. In hindsight, I should have known I’d take this community thing to level 100 in no time flat, and it burned me. If you have the 0-100 mph attitude, take it slow. Start a blog and blog occasionally, help some people on the forums and just do it if you enjoy it.

Here’s my “community involvement” all while having a full-time job:

– Pluralsight courses
– Client training courses
– Thousands of short article over the past few years taking up who knows how much time.
– Started a blog and wrote a blog post every so often
– Consulting business on the side helping between 2-3 clients at a time
– Wrote a book
– Going to write another published print book
– Microsoft Virtual Academy courses
– Conference talks

I HAVE to slow down. Even though my family is the best financially we have ever been there comes the point when the money isn’t worth it anymore. From now on, I’m going to be more selective in my work and focus more on personal and family time. This is something I should have done a long time ago without my brain telling me it’s time with a panic attack.

Adam Bertram

Chief Automator at Adam the Automator, LLC
Adam Bertram is an independent consultant, technical writer, trainer and presenter. Adam specializes in consulting and evangelizing all things IT automation mainly focused around Windows PowerShell. Adam is a Microsoft Windows PowerShell MVP, 2015 powershell.org PowerShell hero and has numerous Microsoft IT pro certifications. He authors IT pro course content for Pluralsight, is a regular contributor to numerous print and online publications and presents at various user groups and conferences.You can find Adam here on the blog or on Twitter at @adbertram.

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16 comments

  • Great post Adam. Like yourself and many others, I’ve always struggled with the work-life balance; it’s so hard to switch off. However, I still maintain that it’s passion in our work that put us in this position, so we’re still lucky to have that compared to some.

    Amazing strength to be so open and honest though, so well done. I learn loads from your various content every week, so please don’t re-balance too much eh!?

  • Thanks adam nice blog

  • Acknowledging the problem is Problem 50% solved 🙂 I’m sure you’ll figure things out!

    I myself devote maximum wake hours stuck to a computer screen but in recent years I’ve started feeling some mental wearing off due self inflicted stress in urge to contribute in Powershell community and writing blogs. Even though I love my work and reading your article makes me think that you should ensure that your work is somewhat pleasurable and there is a limit to everything.

    BUT, there is a different perspective to this as well, you “Adam Bertram” have made your place in community you are already there, people know you and your work well, so its easy for you to choose the work that comes your way, but young people like me (I’m just 26) have to cope with stress and work ethics to get to the level you are and definitely we can’t be picky about it, at least until I get married 😉

    • Thanks for the kind words. If you’re only 26 and not married I’d throw myself into work! :)? I recognize your name and know you put out some great stuff. Keep it up!

  • Wow I could have written this same article to be honest. I work 8-5 on weekdays, have a side consulting business, a blog etc. I am a workaholic as well. I find it so hard to make that transition from work to family on a daily basis and to actually be ‘present’ with my family. One thing I tried at home was to leave all devices in one room and to try and not touch them when I am doing family time. It has helped a lot. In addition, I try to get out and hike 2-3 times a week to get away from technology and let my brain rest and recharge.

  • Adam:

    I completely understand you situation. It’s very difficult to have a work/life balance these days. Taking a vacation is quite hard, I always get calls even when I am 5800 miles away from work. Just remember that family is most important, and you will be fine.

    Larry

  • Hey Adam, we’ve never met, but good on you for 1) being brave enough to acknowledge this on your blog (it’s an issue that should be discussed more), and 2) your not alone – I see many people in this industry battling the same issues …especially among MVP’s (we tend to love our work … maybe a little too much).

    It’s extra challenging with kids – there is only so much time in a day. Just remember, you can’t enjoy any of this without your health – and making time for other things is key to maintaining your health.

    The most useful tool i’ve learned is to get used to saying ‘no’. It sounds like you are starting to get the hang of that one 🙂

    Take care,

    • I agree with saying ‘no’. I have become a victim of my own success. Being so involved in the community and working on so many different things has really got my name out there and work comes to me now. It’s very hard to say no to high-paying offers and I’ve always just said yes without hesitation. This has at least forced me to think things through a little more.

  • That’s pretty bad Adam, that it came so far. I guess that weren’t even noticing it, but your family did. Good choice to step down a notch. Keep your head up and your back straight. And, don’t leave the ‘scene’. 😜

    • Thanks for the support. I’m definitely not leaving any time soon. My body just told me it had enough and where that line is. I’ll just be more cognizant to notice the stress level creeping up there.

  • Good for you for reeling it in . And it seems like a fair warning to some of us who love what we do and want to learn or do more. Note taken.

  • takes a lot of courage to admit when your overwhelmed

  • “I work from 8-7 Monday through Thursday and 8-5 on Friday with generally with no breaks.”

    Adam, that is an insane amount of hours, I can’t imagine how can you be productive the whole time. You should slow down a bit and enjoy life in different ways. You have an impressive skillset, me and all the people who read your blog are thankfull for all the knowledge you share in your blog.

  • Hang in there buddy. I feel for you and I can relate to most of what you are going through.

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