Don't Delay

Understanding procrastination and how to achieve our goals

The Personality of the Workaholic and the Issue of "Self"

A study published this month explored the personality of workaholics. Of interest was the relation of narcissism and workaholism.  Read More

why not be both a workaholic and procrastinator

I would be curious to understand how those workaholism personalities also correlate with the personalities that are procrastinators.

As at least in me, i see them to be 1 in the same personalities.

Ive been in settings where I am by all right - a total workaholic, totally the polychronic multitasker and always doing something... having a reocruing thought go through my head - "if not me, then who, if not now, then when?" with no definitive answer other than I'll have to do it my self and just jump in and get it done, or to create it.

but at the same time - in a different setting i tend to struggle with procrastination as well.

To me it seems to be similair personalty traits would be responsible, but in different settings they can manifest themselves in quite differnt ways. ( also the nature of the task i believe is important, as i think wheather it engadges a persons strengths ( those things that energize them) or not could be meerly what is the deciding factor about wheather they become workaholics or procrastinators..or a weird combination of both)

Workaholism: A lot of underlying possibilities

I agree with your argument that a "third underlying variable - a weak sense of self" may be at work in workaholics, overcompensating for a low self-esteem. Which makes me wonder how often workaholics are dx'd w/depression and/or GAD. Could workaholism be a "good cover" for depression and/or a tool to relieve anxiety? Do some people w/MDD and/or GAD turn to (over)work, while others may turn to different addictions, such as drugs or alcohol?

It seems that workaholism could manifest from a number of underlying variables.

Loud noise, stress and

Loud noise, stress and anxiety,narcissism, and workaholism.

how do you deal with stress that relates to this topic?

oops - "Each is harmful to us."

and to others: co-workers, partners, families, business associates, waiters and waitresses (ask me, I once waited on high-maintenance business people), hotel clerks, airline reservation agents. If we define community as the web of connections we weave as we move through our lives, narcissist/perfectionists tear that fragile structure.
Thanks for this powerful and insightful piece.

It's only a problem if it's a problem!

Interesting! Much comment here is about 'someone else'. This makes it 'assuming' and 'judgmental'. The only thing that matters is whether the person in question feels that 'how they are' is useful or not! Things may be affecting their relationships - but it's only perfectionism or workaholism if 'they' think it so! If I love my work - might I be engaged, consumed, interested, in flow and focused? We should not label people as one thing or another unless 'they' concur - get their perspective first!

Is it a problem if 'they' don't think it is?

I think we could get caught in the, "it's all relative" trap if we say it's up to the person to judge whether they're a workaholic. They're inside their workaholic bubble so of course it seems ok. But we could also say it's up to the individual to decide whether they're an alcoholic. Certainly the individual has to make the final decision that they're going to actually do something about the problem, but a lot of relationships can get trampled on until the individual does see that they have a problem. Many behavioral issues don't seem obvious to the person who has them, it's only when their relationship to the outside world is taken into account, that it becomes more obvious there's a problem.

A workaholic could also conclude that they only care about their work and not the relationships they participate in (naturally because they don't gleen any self-image satisfaction from their personal relationships). To that I would assert that it's the other people in the relationship who have to make their own decision i.e., my partner/friend's work is more important than our relationship.

Let's face it, in general humans are not very objective when it comes to an awareness of their own behavior. People inclined to exhibit roadrage probably think they have a good reason for it. In a vacuum, workaholics like any other behavior issue, have it all figured out, unfortunately, they don't actually 'live' in the vacuum.

Good article Dr. Pychyl.

" The only thing that matters

" The only thing that matters is whether the person in question feels that 'how they are' is useful or not!" - one of the commentators said. SORRY! I left my workaholic/narcissistic husband 2 years ago - and, sweetheart, MY feelings as a spouse count plenty! What you said is SO typical of a narcissist - "the only thing that matters is - ME!"
When a person marries, then they can't think only of themselves- they must think of the needs of their spouse as well. If not - then that person should stay single. As with most addictions, workaholics get even more wrapped up in their work over time - and ignore their spouse. I never felt as alone as I did in my marriage. My husband is a professor, and I used to tell him "I just can't compete with a pile of books". So true. To them, a marriage is simply two separate people who share a house, etc. He never used the word "we". Every possession was "mine", he said. I suggested compromising re: our issues, and he looked at me like I was mentally ill. I have a million stories I could tell, but the upshot is that since I left, I have never felt better.
Unfortunately, workaholism is the only addiction for which a person gets praise. So the addict keeps going after that carrot, because there is always some prize to win, some journal article to get published, etc. I mean, what could my husband get for wanting to share loving time with me? In his mind - nothing.

Workaholic, but a millionaire...

I have a friend who works 14 hours a day and two hours on his farm every single day. He seems to have no time for me or sends up to three texts a day or a week sometimes if he has a signal. He has no time for me anymore yet used to text all day everyday until this job came along. I am finding I have to drift away before it makes me ill. We have had a long distance friendship/relationship for over 30 years. Yep, no commitment. It came close once. I have raised it very calmly and clearly time and time again, but it's taken as me telling him off so he goes silent on me and tells me I'm telling him off. He says I have told you before "I work ........" It's put back on me and I feel guilty, but my gut tells me I'm not in the wrong at all. I haven't done anything but give love, texts, gifts unconditionally. I get the silent treatment for up to a month, then it's all sweet again. Usually if I make the contact first. It's like nothing ever happened. Til he does it again and it is him. He's a taker, not a giver. I have given many gifts, some expensive, emails, enough texts to sink a ship sending me broke, not him. He's a $2 millionaire. He says it's for his kids which is lovely. Not doing it for us and I have told him that. I'm not after his money, no one is getting it, but his kids. Maybe what he's doing is a good head sense for business????? But we only live once - he's losing so much in life, including this friend who adores him unconditionally. I am the only one who has stood by him. I make time for him and I'm broke. I'm so giving to everyone. He's making millions and fits me in with the odd text. Some may say "he's not that into you", but he is. He has had so many opportunities to walk and always comes back. We're stuck like glue. Nothing seems to end this 30 year friendship, no matter how heated it gets. He is so self absorbed in his work there is no time for me. But he does make time for others when there's something on and because of that, again I'm on the back burner. He has to now deal with that function or that friend or visitors to the house. What about me?! I just don't get it. I have tried being patient, sitting back, distancing myself (absence makes the heart grow fonder), but it's not working. I'm not listening to my gut. Two weeks ago I got two texts - one saying how hot the weather was and the other to say "home now good night". He couldn't spare me three minutes of text chat before bed???? Work is over, surely you could chat a bit or say "sorry I'm so tired, I'll catch you tomorrow". I replied "You clearly can't make time for me so just forget it, I won't be treated like this anymore". I heard nothing for two weeks. I texted on the weekend feeling I had lost him (dah, I gave in) and he replied "you said forget it, so I did". So you just walk away? No fight to keep our precious 30 year friendship? I'm devastated, he knows it and still nothing. He texted a few times, but no empathy. He's out their working working 16-18 hours a day and sleeping with not a care in the world. I'm a basketcase and can't stop crying. I took up part time work to see more of him which didn't eventuate. I've seen him three times for coffee in four years for about two hours max. Through all this meanness from him, I can hardly work or sleep. How does HE do it, how does he get on with life? Has he no compassion or empathy at all? I did wonder if it was narcissm, but someone said that is a love of oneself. Long winded, but I hope this helps researchers or confirms to me he's a workaholic that has deep internal issues going on.



Hi there! I read this and

Hi there!

I read this and pretty much cried because what you described is very similar to a relationship that I've had except that it was eight years and not 30 and I'm a man talking about a woman. I wanted to let you know that, if it's any consolation, you helped me to understand that it wasn't me, it was her. It was more an online based thing and I never got the chance to actually meet her in person despite both of us occasionally talking about it. I just got a lot of mixed signals from her over the time that I knew here. She gave me her email address...only to pretty much insist that I will have to go for weeks and maybe months without hearing from her. She gave me her phone number...only to tell me, for all intents and purposes, never to call or text lest I get her at the wrong time. I tried to ask her when would be an appropriate time to text or call her then. She construed that to mean that I was making an unreasonable demand on her time so the wrong time was pretty much all the time unless she said it's okay.

I thought it might have been me. I tried taking extended breaks from her and even outright telling her that I accepted that she had to work in the hopes of showing her that I _didn't_ in fact want to make any unreasonable demands on her time. It would be later on that I would find out that not only did she have other men in her life but she was talking about me with one of them. Not badmouthing me or anything. According to her, she only spoke good of me much to the envy and jealously of her boyfriend.

One day, she asked me how my job search was going and, to summarize, I told her that I wanted to take a short break from job searching because I felt frustrated by it. I just graduated from college almost a year ago (2011) and naturally in this economy that's a challenge. What I told her was I didn't want to just get a job I hated just for the sake of a paycheck which, I think, is quite reasonable. Why take something if it'll make you miserable, right? She did a total 180 on me. She went from seemingly loving and supporting to outright cold and indifferent. Apparently, because the workplace was the only place that showed her unconditional love (ha!) then she put a tremendous amount of importance into it. She gave me the whole spiel about how having a respectable work ethic is directly tied to character and then flat out told me that she didn't think the relationship we had was meant to talk about grownup or real world things. I naturally erupted at her and told her I never wanted to talk to her again. Her response was basically "oh well, I'm sorry you feel that way. You will be missed". That pretty much lead to a very counterproductive email exchange where she portrayed herself as someone who was just trying to help with her sagely advice (self-aggrandizement) and that I was having a bad attitude or I lashed out at her (everyone else is the problem). In her mind, she knew "the facts" and told me that despite my disabilities, everyone has challenges (lack of empathy).

Try not to feel too badly about it. It's certainly heartbreaking and I feel for you but do remember that a workaholic like our respective workaholics as you have stated, will do those sorts of things to anyone. It's all about them and how important they want to feel. Everything and everyone else will be cast aside if they don't get any kind of narcissistic supply from them. It is always about them. Nowadays, I understand her nasty comment about not being able to talk about "reality" with me as really meaning that reality is how SHE and she alone perceives it. Therefore, my non-adherence to "reality" (e.g. having a mind of my own) could not be tolerated. Narcissist do not like anything or anyone they can't control.

$exyArabMan is money ;)

Hi guys,
As you may be able to tell from my modest username I myself am prone to delusions of grandeur and superiory.

I've always known I've this tendency ever since I was a young boy. I always dreamt of becoming a superstar dj, or doing a career that made me feel better than everyone else.

I feel this tendency isn't necessarily a bad thing though and would like to know why the author thinks that to "value and pursue power and self-importance to support our grandiose self-conceptions (narcissism)" is a bad thing?

Does anyone care to help with this issue?

I'm self-aware enough to realise that these delusions do stem from a place of inferiority but I believe they help me to achieve success.

So why is pursuing power and self-importance a bad thing?

I'm not even sure it's these delusions are my primary driver, I think it's more wanting freedom and using the inferiority and narcissism to motivate me.

Please help!?

Ambition Can Be Good or Bad

It all depends on how you treat the people around you. Being ambitious is not a bad thing per se, but looking down on and using others as stepping stones toward your rise to fame is. There are many people for whom the most important goal of their lives is "making it" in their chosen profession, or perhaps just making obscene amounts of money. Fine. The real problem is that you will be competing with many others to accomplish this goal and it is much easier to accomplish if you are willing to lie, cheat and steal to get there. It's easier if you socialize with people because of how much money they have or the people they know rather than because you like them.

If this is the road you choose then you deserve all the scorn that will come your way. The real problem with naked ambition is that it tends to be shallow, cruel and obsessed with externality. And what if you never achieve your goal? Will you be o.k. with being just ordinary, obscure, poor or middle class? If not, you may be a narcissist, a mental condition which reflects a deep-seated dissatisfaction with yourself and tends to be acted out through hurting others. This is definitely NOT o.k.

This Sounds Like Narcissism To Me

What you've described here sounds like the epitome of clinical narcissism. This is a person who enjoys the narcissistic supply of devotion and support from you and gives you nothing in return. Yes, he has no empathy or compassion. Narcissists use up every bit of compassion and empathy they posses on themselves. He keeps you at arms length where he is most comfortable having his admirers, but will never actually let you in. When you call a narcissist on their behavior they immediately go into black and white thinking mode and take you from their mental friend list and place you on the enemy list. I would wager that if you never contacted him again he would not contact you either.

I don't say this to be cruel, but to hopefully spare you from future suffering. I grew up with highly narcissistic parents and I think it has always pushed me toward striving for relationships with narcissistic men. They are the ones who you feel an immediate click with. You share inside jokes and confidences, you are there for them in every crisis just as they are there for you...until they think they have you wrapped completely around their finger. Then suddenly, everything you do, say or believe is not quite good enough. There is a problem with how you look, how you dress, the decisions you make. You begin to second guess your choices and become insecure. It can do a real number on your self-esteem and self-efficacy if you don't set very clear boundaries and tell them you will not make yourself available to a person who is not willing to reciprocate. If you say you want a real relationship with him right now, not one at a distance, or nothing, you will know exactly. Where he stands. Don't ruin your life waiting for a narcissist. They wouldn't do it for you.

"Workaholism" is often the OPPOSITE of narcissism

No need to pathologize it as a disease like alcoholism or a personality disorder like narcissism. Hard worker or even heroic is more often accurate, I believe.

And balance is not always to be striven for. Society's greatest contributors--especially in such fields as medicine--worked nearly every waking moment through their life, not because it fed their ego, not because they wanted money, but because they felt it was wiser use of hours 40-80 in their week to be working than hanging out with family, watching TV, playing or watching sports, etc. Indeed hard workers should be deified rather than denigrated.

I spend hours 40-70 of each work week doing activities such as writing daily on and policy essays twice a week on Do you really think I'd be wiser to spend them on the aforementioned recreations? Yes, I'd be more "balanced," yes, I'd have more fun, but would have done less good for others--In such cases, hard work is the opposite of narcissism.

I've worked with 4,500 career counseling clients, hosted a radio program in which callers call in for free career help for 25 years, have taught graduate students for years including currently medical students at UCSF, and had 7 books and 2500 articles well published. Should I be pathologized as workaholic or narcissistic?

Of course, the other canard fired at hard workers is that we'll burn out. I'll be 65 soon, have as much drive as ever and just had my annual physical--I'm in excellent health. Illness doesn't come from hard work. It's more likely to come from feeling useless or doing work you're bad at. Being highly productive makes one feel alive.


Not all hard workers are workaholics.much of it depends on why a person works so hard and spends a huge amount of time working. If they are doing it, for example, so they don't confront feelings, and or they refuse to get close to people due to fear, they very well may be a workaholic. My ex was, and even refused to take a vacation with me, saying he had 'too much work'. Someone like him should never be thought of as a hero. He should instead be told his family needs him and to be a good husband.

Could that reflect a difference in values

Some people choose to prioritize work over family, let alone vacations, because they believe that, let alone processing of feelings, ultimately is of greater value to the life well-led. And even if it represented an unwillingness or inability to "confront feelings," why is that more to be pathologized as "workaholic" as a stay-at-home parent being unwilling to work outside the home, even when there are no children involved?

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Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where he specializes in the study of procrastination.


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