Are You Addicted to Academic Life?

In this podcast I go through 12 questions that might indicate you’re addicted to academic work, and it’s time to change your habits.

Academics tend to portray themselves as working all of the time and in all places. However, that’s not sustainable IMHO. In a recent group coaching session we discussed both approaches. Both seemed successful for those in the group. However, I don’t believe both will be useful long term. Making academic life the centre of your life, might be fine for short bursts or distinct periods in your life. But, at what point does that become an addiction? Maybe it is time to ask yourself – Am I addicted to academic work?


Good day, bakers, writers, and rock stars! Dr. Richard Huysmans here. Talking all about your addiction perhaps to academic life. What do I mean by that? Well, I guess for a lot of us, academic life can become the center of our entire universe. It can be the reason we get up in the morning. It can be the reason we lay awake at night worrying about stuff, and some of that’s reasonable. Some of that is to be expected. Particularly, given the precarious nature of academic work. But I reckon there are some people out there who are perhaps working harder than they should. Not necessarily harder than they or not working harder I should say. I mean more. They’re putting in more hours than they should.

This topic kind of came up in a recent group coaching meeting where I had. Where everyone was talking about their recent successes, and how they got them. There seemed to be 2 camps. One camp was I strictly follow a schedule if you like where I do, and I don’t work on certain days and at certain times. Essentially, there was a group that said, “I limit my academic work to 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Then there was another group that said, “Oh! I’m quite flexible. I let academic work happen as and when it needs to.” I guess both groups have their merit. Both groups where you know, by most measures were quite successful. But I guess, I think that the group that is flexible that can lead into being too flexible, and then ultimately being addicted or perhaps even overworked. So, I thought I’d run through a bit of a checklist of the things that might be a trigger or might indicate to you that you’re addicted to work. Now this isn’t looking at anything around the research into addiction and what people who are workaholics. What they do and how they do it? This is just me thinking what some of the things are that might indicate to yourself or if those around you notice these things suggest you’re working too hard or working too much. So, all of these things I would look at in the last month and see how things go, because I acknowledge that there are times and places when working harder or working longer might be necessary or appropriate. But there are definitely other times when you need to, and most of the time you need to have a relatively stable work life. That can ensure that you have a much more rounded life. A much more balanced life. Ultimately, if you want to talk about things like resilience and happiness, we need to disassociate ourselves from us the researcher. So, that when we have research rejections, we don’t take those as rejections of us the person.

So, in the last month, these are the checklist. In the last month, have you worked more than 200 hours? So, basically are you working on average in the last month more than 40 hours a week? Then that might be an indication that you’re addicted. There isn’t a clear pattern of work time, and non-work time. So, work can happen any time. There isn’t a pattern of work location. So, again work can happen anywhere. Whether that be at home or at work, and not withstanding COVID. If you’re working at home, does work take place just in the study or in the dedicated study space? Or does work happen everywhere you know before you go to bed? When you wake up? So, that’s in the bedroom. Then while you’re having breakfast, so that’s in the kitchen. While you’re watching Netflix, so that’s in the family room or in the TV room as well as at work. So, the location as well as the timing. You haven’t had 2 consecutive days off in the last month. You justify long work hours as necessary for success. You’re deferring other commitments. So, whether that’s catching up with friends or family, attending sport or music practice. Those things are being impacted by work. Grant rejections feel like personal rejections. Peer review reports feel like personal criticisms. You normally email before 8 am and after 6 pm. You get annoyed when others don’t respond to your email within hours or minutes. You’ve started to write another grant paper or experiment without finishing the one that you’re currently working on. So, there are roughly 12 ideas or questions you might like to answer for yourself to work out if you’re addicted to work. If the answer comes back to you, so this is not a checkbox thing where you say, you’ve ticked half of them you’re addicted or less than half you’re not addicted. It’s just raising your awareness about the potential for you to be addicted to work.

If you’ve got challenges that you want to address as part of in response to that, feel free to reach out., and I’ll see if I can help. Take care, and I’ll see you next time!