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.
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.
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.