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How to avoid becoming a workaholic

Sarah Kauss, founder and CEO of S'wellSarah Kauss, founder and CEO of S'well
Sarah Kauss, founder and CEO of S'well

40 under 40 Insider Network is one of several online communities where the most thoughtful and influential people in business under 40 answer timely career and leadership questions. This week, we ask: How do you avoid becoming a workaholic? The following is an answer by Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.

Although I have an amazing team that has grown from six to 23 people in the past year, I still work in the business while also leading our rapidly growing enterprise. As one can imagine, every day is a re-balancing act of top priorities and rescheduling of lesser obligations. In between my myriad of daily meetings and conference calls, I am an ‘open door’ leader and have a nearly constant stream of S’well staffers stopping by to seek my input.

This accessibility is a company value I want to hold onto as we grow, but this leaves me very little time for getting real work done during the day. In the past, I would be prone to staying at my office until all hours of the night to get work done and working on the weekends. This chaotic schedule worked until about a year ago, when I found myself exhausted and missing time with my dearest friends. Here are a few ways I try to prevent myself from over-working:

Plan spontaneous fun
A change I have made this past year is to plan “spontaneous fun.” I have learned as a CEO that work will always be a top priority. But I found blocking out time for something I eagerly anticipate allows me to work faster and smarter. During the past few months, I have blocked out time for sailing in the Chesapeake Bay, hosting dinner parties in the Hamptons, a relaxing spa weekend in Arizona, and attending a Broadway show just blocks from my home. By planning this time and keeping it sacred in my calendar, I have become more disciplined at leaving my work at the office.

Make your friends accomplices
I have a great group of friends who know too well about my hard working ways. They have become my best accomplices in my grand scheme to achieve balance and have even staged office interventions. My friends are known to stop by my office, planned or unplanned, bring take out and a bottle of wine and spend some quality time with me while I’m still at work. By encouraging an open door policy with my friends, I know they will come looking for me when they think I have fallen into a black hole of work.

Take time for personal reflection
For the past decade I have kept a journal, where I record my thoughts for each particular date on the same page. I try to write a few sentences every day of the milestones and roadblocks achieved on this day in previous years. I also try to record a few tidbits about whatever I am doing personally. In recent years, I have found myself reflecting back on my former self and oftentimes thinking, “Who was that person who used to have time for yoga and stand up paddle boarding on the same day?!” When I see this happen too many times in a row I try to build back the hobbies into my life that I used to love that my current work life may have pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. It takes time, but this personal reflection helps me recognize when I am slipping back into workaholic mode and to remember that I started S’well with the goal of being healthy, helpful and happy.

Have some advice you would like to share on how you have found balance? I’d love to hear from you – I am always looking for ideas!